Notes: The characters aren't mine (except Scotch), and the story is! I apologize to those waiting for the next chapter of Evil Never Dies. A plot bunny attacked me and I had to take time to write this. As for the title, well, it's the name of another Breaking Benjamin song, and it worked too well.
Vodka stumbled through the snow almost blankly and mechanically after all the time that had passed by now. Many things were a jumble in his mind. He did not remember exactly where he was or why he was there. At the moment he was not even certain if anyone had been with him, though vaguely he thought he remembered that someone had been. Right now his greatest desire was simply to lay down somewhere and sleep, just like that person up ahead who had apparently collapsed into the snow. . . .
Seeing a flash of long blonde hair, something pierced through to his consciousness and startled him back to a more clear awareness. Gin. . . . Nearly tripping over the remaining snowdrifts, Vodka finally reached him and fell to his knees, surveying his partner's prone form. Gin was still, his flesh by and large devoid of color. His hands were ice-cold when Vodka touched them, searching for a pulse. But before he could actually check, Gin came to life, shoving him back. Vodka watched him with a mixture of confusion and alarm, not certain if he was delirious, as he had been once before during a nightmarish experience when he had been poisoned. But then Gin's green eyes focused and his tense breathing slowed back to normal as he recognized the other. Vodka relaxed.
"You didn't find him, did you?" the blonde demanded after a moment during which they had simply studied each other.
Vodka blinked at him, bewildered. "Who?" he asked. For the life of him, he could not recall that they were supposed to be searching for anyone! He thought that they had simply become lost in the blizzard.
Gin gave him a Look. "The one who's led us on this wild goose chase," he growled. "The one we're trying to kill." As far as he could tell, there was not any easy way out of this canyon, except the way they had come, and who knew where that was by now. Their target had to have some sort of hideout nearby, or else a secret escape. And Vodka's lapse of memory did not make their situation any less difficult. Gin had the bad suspicion that his comrade was starting to suffer from hypothermia. Memory loss, to varying degrees, was one of the symptoms of it. And the last thing Gin needed to worry about right now was trying to handle Vodka in that condition.
Vodka felt frustrated that he did not remember. But then he wondered if Gin could be the one not remembering correctly. If they had come here searching for a target, surely he would not forget that. And he had found Gin laying in the snow, after all. It would make sense if the blonde was having delusions. There was not any telling how long Gin had been there like that. "Who is this target, bro?" he asked finally, deciding to play along. Also, it would help keep Gin focused and awake, which Vodka remembered was important in situations like this.
Gin got up carefully, trying not to lose his balance. "Scotch," he grumbled, studying Vodka as he tried to determine if his ally truly did not recall their mission at all. "He betrayed us after getting us up here." He reached into his coat, pulling out his gun and making certain that it was loaded. "Don't you remember?" he snapped now.
Vodka wanted to say that he did not, as that was the truth, but he wondered if he should. Before he could make up his mind, Gin pushed past him, determined to carry out the assignment.
"Nevermind," he muttered. "Just come with me. We shouldn't split up again." The first time they had, Gin had not thought that they would not only lose Scotch, but each other. Obviously that had just wrecked havoc, since they had been lost for ages and now Vodka was in a daze. And Gin had to admit, he did not feel all that great himself after his plunge into the snow. He was cold, and his hands were starting to go numb. If they could not find Scotch soon, and the way back down, they would probably both end up dying. But Gin did not intend to let the snow get the better of him.
Vodka plodded after him, trying to keep his vision clear. But it was difficult. The snow had started to blow sideways again, the flakes swirling around them as if in an attacking dance. Vodka stumbled several times, nearly knocking himself and Gin over at one point. There was endless white, all around them, and as they wandered on, it seemed to take on a life of its own. Instead of snowflakes, they were spectres, apparitions, sirens---dancing, twirling, whipping, mocking them. One lashed out at Vodka with sharp claws of ice and he responded impulsively by shooting it with his gun. It crumbled back into lifeless snow, but others took its place, wanting revenge.
Gin whirled to look at him. "What do you think you're doing?" he demanded, following Vodka's gaze into the white drifts. He reached down, picking up the small metal that had been discharged from the gun.
Vodka looked at him, suddenly annoyed by his lack of comprehension. "I was killing the thing that was following us," he retorted. "You weren't paying attention."
Gin was dumbfounded. "I wasn't . . ." After mulling this over, he reached for the other's gun. "Give me that," he ordered. "There's nothing around us but snow. You're starting to hallucinate, and I don't want you to end up shooting me. Besides, we can't be wasting rounds to shoot at tricks of the mind."
Glaring at him, Vodka backed up. "You're the one who's seeing things, bro," he retorted defensively, "or not seeing them. I know what I saw! It was there, and it was going to hurt us both!" Shakily he raised his gun to point at Gin. He did not want to hurt him, but if Gin was so very far gone that he could not see a threat, then it would be very dangerous for him to have both guns. Vodka would not hand his over, not without a fight.
Gin's eyes narrowed. He had not expected this. Vodka was worse off than he had thought. "You won't shoot me," he said in a low voice, clutching his own weapon and being ready to bring it up to meet his comrade's at a given moment. If there was the chance that Vodka would shoot, Gin had to be ready to retaliate.
Vodka watched him, seeing how tightly he held the gun. "You're going to try to shoot me first!" he exclaimed then. "You're not well!"
"You've got that backwards," Gin replied darkly. "You've been suffering from confusion ever since you found me, and you've only gotten worse. And if you try to shoot me, you're right, I'll shoot you first." They were both wearing bullet-proof vests, so delivering a fatal shot would not be easy unless aiming for the head. But Gin wanted to avoid that if at all possible. He did not want to kill Vodka, but only to stop him from shooting.
Panicking, Vodka fired his gun without warning and caught Gin in the right shoulder. Hissing in pain, Gin resisted the urge to grip at the injury. Instead he fired as well, aiming to shoot the pistol out of Vodka's hand. He succeeded in this, and then fired off two rounds at Vodka's feet before he could dive after the weapon. "Leave it alone," he growled. "You know I have the advantage right now, and I can kill you in an instant, if you make it so it has to be that way."
Vodka swallowed hard, watching his ally. Gin was right; there was little more Vodka could do at this point. But would the blonde shoot? By now Vodka was in too much of a frenzied state of mind to really understand that Gin had shot his gun, but not Vodka himself. He wondered if he dared try to lunge for the fallen pistol anyway. Or maybe he should try to get Gin's away from him. Gin's eyes were cold and hard. He would not hesitate to kill, just as he had said.
Vodka did not debate for very long before he suddenly ran forward, tackling Gin and bringing him into the snow. They struggled desperately, wrestling for control of the gun, and at last Vodka pressed firmly against the shoulder wound, not thinking of anything but getting the upper hand. Gin growled, obviously in agony as he did this, and suddenly kneed him in the stomach, forcing him back slightly. Then Gin punched him and lunged, dragging him down and pointing the gun at his head.
"I'm not playing games," he said coldly. "You know I can kill you. That was an idiotic stunt you just pulled, but I don't think you would have done that if it wasn't for the cold. You're not responsible for your actions right now, and that what makes keeping you alive dangerous. There's no telling what you'll try to do." He fired into the snow, dangerously close to Vodka's head. The other man tensed, hearing it go off and seeing the flakes fly up in response, and Gin was certain that if Vodka's eyes were visible, they would be wild.
Shakily Vodka grabbed at Gin's wrists. "Bro . . . don't do it," he pleaded. If Gin could worry him when he was in his right mind, it was far more of a concern when Vodka did not have control of his senses.
Gin looked down at him, his expression never wavering. But he knew that he would not kill Vodka . . . not yet. It would be much safer for two to try to survive in the weather than for one to attempt it---as long as Vodka did not try to get the gun again, which was what Gin worried about. And for some other reason as well, which Gin did not understand, he did not want to see his companion dead. Perhaps it was because it would not seem to be a fitting end for one who had been with him for so many years and who had generally been useful to him. In any case, he did not want to think about it.
Slowly he put his gun back into its shoulder holster and straightened up, looking down at Vodka with that same icy expression. "Get up," he ordered, now clapping a hand over the wound he had sustained as it started to throb again. The bullet seemed to have gone all the way through, which was one good thing, he supposed. They would not have to worry about digging it out of his flesh.
After a moment he reached down and picked up Vodka's gun as well. He would carry it. It would be pointless to just leave it in the snow, where even Scotch might get hold of it.
Hesitantly Vodka sat up, then stood, all while observing the tall blonde worriedly. Suddenly he could not remember why the other was hurt. It was all so vague in his mind, and when he thought more about it, he was not even certain that he knew who the green-eyed man was or why they were travelling together. Something about finding scotch. . . . No, that did not make sense.
"Can you tell me something?" he asked presently after they had started off through the snow again.
Gin grunted. "What is it," he snapped, searching through his pockets until he found a clean cloth to press against the wounds.
"Who are you, anyway?"
The blonde froze, looking back at Vodka in disbelief. His green eyes revealed his immense shock, though he did not quite realize it. Vodka did not remember him. The hypothermia was getting worse. And, Gin realized then, he himself did not feel especially cold. He had gone past the point of feeling it. And he began to seriously wonder if they were both going to die.
"I feel like I'm supposed to know you," Vodka continued, stumbling over a snowdrift as he tried to catch up with the other. The snow was so thick by now that they could barely see anything in front of them, and they were staying as close as possible in order not to get separated. Especially now, in the worsening blizzard, that would be the death of them. They had to stay together.
Gin growled in irritation. "I'm your . . . business partner," he said after a short hesitation. He did not want to spend a long time making explanations. That would have to do.
Vodka was silent as he processed this. "Oh," he said at last, grabbing onto Gin as a wave of dizziness passed over him. The blonde tensed when he did, but Vodka let go as soon as he felt capable of keeping his balance again.
It was not long, however, before weariness overcame him and he sank into the snow. Frustrated, Gin stopped once more and stood over him, glaring down with flashing green eyes. "Get up!" he ordered for the second time, but this time Vodka did not obey.
"There's not any use in going on," he replied, his voice having grown more slurred. "This place is just endless. We'll never get out." He looked around blankly at the deep white everywhere. For all they knew, they had been going in circles. They were not getting anywhere, and in Vodka's current state of mind he found it absolutely hopeless. He wanted to just lay down and rest.
Cursing, Gin reached down and grabbed Vodka's wrists to drag him up. Vodka resisted, and while Gin was struggling with him, he suddenly heard a gun click behind him. Immediately he let go of the other and went to reach for his own weapon.
Before he could, cold metal pressed against his temple. "I have you now," Scotch's voice hissed, and Gin could sense that the traitor was smirking. "You were so busy trying to get your pathetic friend up that you didn't hear me coming."
Gin's eyes narrowed. "I didn't think you'd be stupid enough to stay here tracking us," he said darkly. "You should have been escaping. But then, your reason for being up here in the first place was to kill us, wasn't it. You led us here so that if you couldn't do the job, the cold would." He heard the gun click, and without waiting for Scotch to answer, he kicked backward. His foot connected, and his enemy staggered back with a curse as Gin drew his weapon and fired.
Struck in the shoulder, Scotch winced in pain. But then he pulled the trigger of his own gun, nicking Gin in the wrist. That was enough to cause the blonde to drop his gun into the snow.
Vodka watched as it fell, accompanied by Gin's blood. For a brief moment the confusion cleared and he snatched the weapon, aiming and shooting before he could be stopped. Wounded in the leg, Scotch fell backwards into the white drifts.
Immediately Gin brought out Vodka's weapon, which he had confiscated earlier. Ignoring the pain in his wrist, he delivered the killing blow to Scotch's head at the same moment that his opponent fired again.
A harsh pain tore into Gin's leg and it flew out from under him, sending him onto his stomach in the snow next to Vodka. Cursing to himself, and not having the strength to get up, Gin simply lay there in the swirling white blanket, glassily watching his blood trickle from his wounds and turn the snow a deep crimson. It looked beautiful, in an eerie way, as long as he did not think about the fact that this was most likely going to be his deathbed. He and Vodka were in the middle of nowhere, and he doubted that they would be found before dark oblivion washed over them both. Vodka was so far gone, and he himself was already half-asleep just from laying in the snow for as short of a time as he had been. He was worse off than he had wanted to acknowledge. This was not the demise that he would have picked, but then again, who was allowed to choose his own death? He smirked weakly in a wry sort of way.
Then he felt a hand on his back, between his shoulder blades, shaking him. "Bro? . . ." Apparently Vodka thought he had already fallen into the sleep of death.
He did not look up. "So . . . you remember me again?" he mumbled, struggling to keep his eyes open. It was a fruitless effort, but he fought for consciousness anyway. He would not simply give in and admit defeat.
"Yeah. . . ." Vodka blinked, having the same problem that Gin was. As the flakes whirled and danced around him, he grew more exhausted than before. He slumped back against the snowbank that he just now realized that they were in, gazing out blankly at the whiteness. "I guess . . . we're going to die here. . . ."
"Looks that way. . . ." Gin tried to push himself back up, but he fell into the powder again. Sleep was beckoning so strongly. . . .
"Do you think . . . it's worth it?" Vodka wondered. "Dying . . . for this?" He indicated Scotch's body several yards away.
Gin shrugged weakly. "People like us . . . don't matter to anyone," he answered, reminded of when he had long ago said something similar to Sherry. "We're not indispensible, whether we like it or not. That's the life we were given, and we've survived as long as we could . . . knowing that we'd probably die young." He paused, mulling it all over in his muddled mind. "But I can't tell you if it's worth it," he mumbled then. "Whether it was or not, what other choice did we have?"
Vodka thought about that for a moment. When he again spoke, it was on a different subject. "Bro . . . why do you think Scotch was still around? There's nothing here . . . no cabins, or snowmobiles. . . . He would've had to have been following us somehow, unless he just met us by accident. . . ."
"He knows these canyons better than we do," Gin replied, his voice weaker, "but even he couldn't find his way around in a storm like this. He must have decided that the only way to not die in vain was to complete what he'd been sent to do---kill us." He gripped a handful of snow, but he did not feel it. After a moment his grip relaxed and he stared off into the distance without really seeing. "But he failed. . . ."
Vodka watched Gin, knowing somewhere in his mind that the blonde was not going to be able to hang on much longer. "Yeah . . . but did we win?" he asked finally.
Again Gin shrugged. "Well . . . we completed our mission," he answered, and then fell silent.
Barely awake at this point, Vodka registered Gin's silence in his mind. He called out to the other, but did not receive a response. He reached out with a trembling hand, again laying it on Gin's back and shaking him. The blonde did not move or acknowledge him.
Not willing to accept that he was now alone, Vodka turned Gin to face him, being careful of the shoulder wound that he now remembered inflicting. The other's green eyes had closed and his skin was a frightening grayish-white, in addition to being near-frozen to the touch. Snowflakes had fallen in his hair and on his lashes, and he did not stir or try to brush them away. Vodka had the feeling that he was not going to, either. Gin was still breathing, very faintly, but his comrade doubted that would last long.
Feeling overwhelmingly exhausted, Vodka finally lay down in the snow next to Gin, wanting whatever warmth the other could possibly provide. The snow continued to swirl around them, and even as Vodka tried to stay awake, he was unwillingly pulled under by Sleep, which was very demanding. He doubted that it would allow him or Gin to awaken again.
It was strange, to feel consciousness returning. It came slowly, and at first he tried to ignore it and return to sleeping. He was still so tired. . . . He felt as if he could easily sleep for several more hours. But he found himself rousing anyway, especially when it dawned on him that someone there was smoking.
Finally he managed to get his eyes open. As he focused on where he was, he realized that it was a large bedroom with a high ceiling. It had a certain rustic, yet homey feel, as if it was some sort of cabin. He could hear the sound of a fire going, and he was in a soft bed with several thick quilts, but he still felt cold after his experience.
"I wondered when you'd wake up."
He looked over, seeing Gin sitting on the edge of the other bed in the room. His long blonde hair fell around his shoulders, and the bangs concealed his eyes, as usual. He was wearing a blue robe, and as he reached up to remove the cigarette from his mouth, Vodka caught sight of the bandage around his left wrist. It seemed to only be a minor annoyance to him, though he did act as though his right shoulder was stiff. He seemed to want to move his right arm as little as possible.
As everything came back to him, Vodka sat up straight in bed, stunned to see Gin alive. Actually, when he thought about it, he had assumed that they would both die out in that blizzard. He might be inclined to say that they were dead now, if he could not see that his ally was injured. The departed did not wear bandages. "Bro . . . how are we alive?" he exclaimed finally.
Gin grunted. "Vermouth and Korn found us," he replied. "Turns out she was up here at her villa, and she knew that we were somewhere here in the canyons tracking Scotch, so she had Chianti and Korn come up here to help look for us once she knew there was going to be a blizzard." He took another draw on his cigarette. He had been awake for an indeterminable amount of time, perhaps close to a half hour. He was not sure, and he did not care. But when he had came to, Vermouth had been in the room, tending to both him and Vodka, and he had talked with her for a short time, which was how he had learned what had happened after he and Vodka had both fallen unconscious.
Vodka blinked in confusion. "Why did she do that?" he wondered.
Gin looked as though he was about to shrug, but then thought better of it when he considered his shoulder. "I don't know," he answered flatly. "You know how she is."
Vodka nodded slowly. "She was talking in riddles?"
"Why did we rescue the two of you?" Vermouth said when Gin asked her that question. She was leaning on the door, and now she started to shut it as she moved to walk away.
"I know, 'a secret is what makes a woman beautiful,'" Gin muttered in annoyance, sick of her strange phrases and her insistance on keeping almost everything to herself.
"You learn fast." But she paused before the door was completely closed. "Maybe," she mused then, "maybe your lives do matter to someone." Giving him a wink, she shut the door and he could hear her walking back up the hall.
Gin eased himself off the bed, limping across the room to look out the window. Snow was still coming down. They were going to be stranded there for a while, once again, just as they had been a couple of months previous to this. Muttering to himself, he threw the cigarette butt into the fire before coming back to the bed.
Vodka watched him, seeing how he moved painstakingly. He wondered how badly Gin's leg had been hurt, but he knew that if he asked, he was not likely to get a straight answer. If it was anyone else he might assume that they had not been injured too seriously, because otherwise they would not be able to walk. But Gin was always pushing himself. He would do the seemingly impossible many a time, and then suffer for it later, whether he would acknowledge it or not.
When Vodka stopped to think about it, he realized that he did not have any recollection of what had happened to Gin's shoulder. He remembered Scotch shooting him in the wrist and in the leg, but not anywhere else. Actually, he remembered very little other than that. After debating over it for a moment, he finally asked. "Bro, what happened to your shoulder?"
Gin looked over at him, raising an eyebrow. It was clear that Vodka did not remember. And Gin did not intend to figuratively beat around the bush. "You shot me," he said in a matter-of-fact tone, reaching for another cigarette.
Vodka stared at him in disbelief. He would be inclined to say that it was not true, that Gin was joking. But he knew that the blonde would not do that. "What?" he exclaimed finally. "When did I do that?"
Gin flipped open the lighter and applied the flame to his cigarette. "When you were out of your mind," he replied. "You were delusional from the cold." He did not plan to explain further unless Vodka asked. For him, that was enough of an explanation.
Vodka slumped back against the pillows, still trying to digest this information. He had shot Gin? And Gin had not killed him for it? Suddenly he felt tense to be in the same room with his partner. Gin seemed perfectly calm, but Vodka doubted that meant much. Gin had been very calm when he had held a gun on Vodka in the past. Though, Vodka still half-thought that Gin had only meant to scare him that time. "Why didn't you kill me?" he spoke at last, wondering if he dared.
Gin grunted. "If you'd been like Scotch, I promise you I would have," he answered darkly. He did not have any patience or tolerance for traitors, and to personally betray him was to incur his wrath---as Sherry had learned. "I let you live because you didn't know what you were doing." And because I just felt like it, he added silently to himself. I don't know why.
Vodka nodded slowly. That made sense, he supposed. Gin was kind enough to the other agents, or at least, tolerant of them---as long as they were loyal.
Now Gin eased himself into a horizontal position on the bed, reaching to switch off the light. The fire still kept things fairly bright, and after he put out his cigarette in the nearby ashtray, he laid down on his left side, apparently intending to go back to sleep. He did not speak further, which Vodka had expected. Gin did not like to explain his actions, especially when they were obvious.
After a few moments, Vodka was certain that the blonde had fallen senseless. He had a faint memory of seeing Gin laying lifeless from the effects of the cold, and as he settled down in the other bed, he was relieved that this time it was a natural sleep. I hope we never have to go through anything like that again, he thought before drifting into slumber himself.