Title: This is For the Better Days

Fandom: Metal Gear Solid

Characters/Pairing: Ocelot/Big Boss/Eva, minor Snake/Otacon

Setting: During the Philanthropy years, before the Tanker Mission. Spoilers up to MGS4.

Rating: barely M

Note: Written at the request of darkfenixrising, as part of the annual MGS Secret Santa exchange.

Ocelot would have known that Solid Snake was coming by the way that he evaded the surveillance cameras. Another, stupider agent would have tried to splice a looped display feed in to replace live coverage, blanketed the area in chaff grenades, or short the cameras out one-by-one as he went. Solid Snake knew better. He'd rather spend whole afternoons crouched under tables, until the sun was positioned ijust-so/i, and there was no chance of his shadow betraying him when he rolled into the corner beneath the lens.

It was almost a pity that Ocelot had had ordered this facility upgraded nearly a year ago. Solid Snake could handle obvious equipment, but he had no way of knowing about the pin-sized transceivers embedded within every third support beam. Watching his contortions in high-definition infra-red made them seem cheap.

Ocelot sat back and nursed his coffee, resting his heels on the expansive control panel. Watching Solid Snake shepherd his pet engineer around was a waste of his time, but Solidus was nervous enough about pulling off the tanker raid that he wanted Ocelot to gather updated psychological information on the duo.

What Solidus wanted, Solidus got. For now, at least.

"- to tell you the truth, I don't really mind when the newspapers call me your sidekick. Or the websites, or the news, shows, or, uh, you know."

On-screen, the grainy figure of Hal Emmerich fiddled with a dummy console, downloading useless half-truths into a portable hard-drive. Solid Snake alternated between hovering over the engineer like an overprotective mastiff, and sliding hurriedly out of the man's personal space once he realized what he was doing.

Right now the soldier was leaning into the glow of the computer display.

"You don't really mind?"

"Nah. If anyone has to be in the spotlight, it's better that it's you. Philanthropy isn't about billing."

"We're equal partners in this, Otacon."

"Yeah, but do you really want to be one of those couples?"

Snake made a gruff sort of choking noise and fled to lean manfully against the north wall. Ocelot was forced to roll his eyes.

Oh, for fuck's sake.

Hanoi had very little to recommend itself. The power constantly shorted out, the bars were stocked with the cheapest rice whiskey possible, the prostitutes wouldn't take no for an answer, and the streets were full of puffed-up amateurs playing at war. Adamska was fed up with this stupid American conflict and its joke of a draft. Burnouts and potheads never held up long on the table.

It didn't help that she was here to fan the flames of his discontent.

The dive they'd all decided to hole up in was empty, except for the three of them. It smelled of stale sweat and spoiled liquor. Sunlight leaked through gaps in the shanty walls. If it weren't for the distinctly Vietnamese signage, Adamska might have been able to imagine it as one of the saloons from his movies.

The three of them spoke German, in order to foil any casual eavesdroppers, but Adamska didn't think the precaution was necessary. No one with half a brain had to understand Eva's words in order to divine her intent. It was in the studied flirtatiousness of her voice, and the way she pressed herself up against John's back while he lounged on a tattered bar stool.

"Are we toasting our reunion? Since Adam's run off our bartender with his little gun tricks, someone's going to need to pour the drinks."

"I don't think that's a job for you, Eva," John said.

"I know."

The way she quietly acquiesced to John's wariness made Adamska spin his revolver faster. It was fine if they were fucking. He didn't care. But it wasn't fair that she'd long accepted how little John needed her, when Adamska still plotted coups and charged half-way around the globe on the off-chance that he might find it impressive.

The spinning came to a stop with one final twirl, and Adamska speculatively pointed his revolver at Eva's head.

"You should remember that you're only here because of John. The Patriots don't need an aging honey-pot."

"Adam-" John made as if to stand.

"Oh, for fuck's sake. It's been seven years." Eva, being completely insensible to subtlety, fished a cigarillo out from her jacket pocket and lit it by pressing the tip against John's still-smoldering cigar. "You two are cute and all, but /ireallyi, Adam, don't you think think it's long past time you cut the bullshit and sucked him off already?"

"Sucked me off already?"

John sat heavily back down. His brow furrowed with confusion.

"Yes, John," Eva said patiently, petting the nape of John's neck with her free hand. "Sometimes, when a man finds another man v~ery sexy, they do naughty things to each other. And sometimes, I watch."

At that point, she had the audacity to wink at him over John's shoulder.

Oh, that bitch. That unbearable, incessant bitch, smirking like the cat who ate two canaries. This was her revenge for tormenting poor little Tanya so many years ago, trying to snap her composure and break her cover. Him and John, John and him, finally, but with Eva and her curves smoothing out all those wonderfully cutting edges. There would be no loss of control this first time, hard and rough and kissed with bruises. He wouldn't feel the whole weight of all that intellect and predatory aggression.

Adamska was sorely tempted to shoot them both and stalk off to a safe-house where he could borrow some spare dignity.

But there was John to consider. John, who hadn't run away, and who was casting him a dark-eyed, speculative look, while puffing leisurely on his cigar. He was all old scars and caged violence; as breathtaking as he'd been the day they met.

Adamska knew that an opportunity like this might not present itself again. He understood the obstacles posed by his own well-earned pride.

So he stalked up to John, grabbed him by the collar of his shirt, and pressed him roughly against the edge of the bar. Eva giggled and pushed herself up onto the countertop.

"Do not. Say. Anything."

Then he sank to his knees.

John looked like he'd just won the lottery, or maybe like he expected to wake up in a ditch with no passport and a few organs missing. The latter expression turned Adamska on more, so he kept it in mind while he jabbed his gun into John's hip, and undid the buttons of his fly with his teeth.

Ocelot could change this; calculate the ricochet, and put in the fix. It would hardly take any effort at all. Men like this were looking for an excuse to act as they pleased. All they needed was a kidnapping, or a particularly brutal near-death experience.

"Those couples?"

"I mean- um, not a couple-couple! Obviously! Since we're not a couple-couple, not that there's anything wrong with that."


"All I meant was, if they mentioned us in the same breath all the time, we'd be SnakeAndOtacon. As though we're a single person instead of two people with vastly different life experiences. One of ithose/i couples. Like a hydra."


For an infinitesimal fraction of a second, Ocelot allowed himself to consider it. Motion ruined everything, since it betrayed a hundred different bodily idiosyncrasies, but in still-frame, Solid Snake could almost have been Big Boss.

Shalashaska wore two six-shooters and a bandolier to the funeral, while Cynthia paired her antique China Type 17 pistol with a sealskin holster and a sleek mink coat. They were the only ones besides Zero who'd understood Big Boss well enough to come armed.

The youngsters in their skinny ties gawked at the two Cold War relics that Zero had dug out of storage, while Anderson and Clark chose to ignore them in favor of appearing modern. To techs like them, always racing to keep up with the latest progress, a pair of old spies must appear obsolete. The Old West paraphernalia was a clear sign that Shalashaska had lost himself in nostalgia, and Cynthia was little better, flashing her withering cleavage around the cemetery.

They met by the coffin, underneath the wide oak tree.

"Shalashaska," Cynthia greeted him.

Shalashaska nodded in acknowledgment.

"Cindy, is it, this year?"

"Cynthia. As if you didn't know."

"I'm going back to Ocelot."

"Is that so?" Cynthia's eyes were puffy beneath the makeup. Her hair was tangled and windblown. "I'm thinking of Matka. It has a nice sound."

The hole that had been dug for John's grave yawned before them, empty and lifeless. Zero had made sure that the thing was perfectly square. It wasn't a trench fit for a battlefield. It was the end of everything. The spirit of war had died with the heir of The Boss.

The pair stood for a long while, listening to the birds chirp and the guests chatter. Naturally, Cynthia broke the silence first. Withholding discussion until the other party became uncomfortable was a very basic interrogation tactic.

"I know you're going to get what you want out of me, one way or another," she said. "So you might as well tell me what you're after straight up. I'm- I'm tired, Adam."

Adamska had once thought that he would never tire. He would burn through the years with the man who'd challenged him unlike any other, and at the end of it all, they'd go out together in a blaze that would rival the greatest in history. Now he was old. His back ached on cold nights, and he injected steroids into his arthritic hands.

The torturer glanced neutrally around the cemetery grounds. It might have been hard to keep his emotions in check, if he hadn't spent the last week painting his rage and sorrow into the walls of the northern cell-block at Camp Delta.

"Zero's handling this too well. I'm after the truth."

"And then?"

"Then a great many people will be made to suffer exquisitely before they die."

Adamska's left hand strayed towards the handle of his revolver, caressing the reassuring weight at his hip. Eva ripped her gaze away from John's grave in order to look him in the eyes.

"Yes. That's absolutely right," she agreed, forcing a wry smile out of her bag of tricks. "And here I thought a guy like you wouldn't know how to comfort a lady at a funeral."

It was then that Adamska realized her eyes were too bright, and her mascara was running. She must have been crying since they moment they greeted one another. He was- he normally paid attention to these things. He was distracted.

Oh, God. Oh, fucking hell, John.

Tomorrow, they would stage a very public fight. The old guard would all sagely agree that John had been the only thing keeping them from sinking their claws into one another. Eva would run, and no one would follow, because a used-up old charm agent posed no tangible threat to the powers that were.

The wheels would begin to turn.

But Eva wouldn't be of any use to Adamska if she broke into pieces across John's coffin. Here and now, he could be Charles Bronson, and offer her his arm.

Zero's ceremony was starting.

"Say, Snake, did you know that the Hydra-Centaurus supercluster of galaxies is right next to the Virgo supercluster? And that they'll never touch? And that real hydras reproduce asexually, even though they can technically have intercourse? I thought that was pretty funny. It was on the National Geographic Channel last night."

"... Right."

Ocelot could do many things.

Yet it wasn't his place, and this wasn't his time.

He set down his coffee and flipped his sat-phone open.

"I'm done here. Let them take the information and go."