Snake was starting to wish he'd never joined the CIA. He'd been warned it would be boring, and that hadn't bothered him - a bit of boredom after Outer Heaven would have been a blessing - but he could think of more worthy uses of his time than being sent to support some MI6 man he'd never met.

When he went to the intended meeting point, he was three minutes and twenty-two seconds late, thanks to mission control squawking over his transceiver to remind him to go. If he wasn't so used to being talked to forever by now, he would have added it to his slowly extending laundry list of things he hated about the CIA. As he worked his way down the shimmering white corridors of the fortress, he saw that his partner, a tall blond woman with a tiny miniskirt whose name he hadn't been interested in learning, was talking busily to a man with a red carnation in his lapel - the contact.

They turned as he approached. Snake attempted to place the man's face, and thought of too many characters he'd seen; Dr Lawrence Angelo, Prince Barin, Sebastian Oldsmith, Ryker, Mr. X, and, sickeningly, Big Boss. His partner remained completely oblivious to the agent's eyes probing down her top.

"Oh, there you are," she smirked. "This is Mr. Bond."

Snake exhaled his mouthful of smoke in a long white glow.

"Kept you waiting, huh?" he joked, extending a hand to shake it. "I'm the one you were supposed to come for; your Solid Snake."

"I'm glad you noticed," the agent purred, and then seemed to realise what he'd said. He drew an embroidered handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped his mouth self-consciously. Snake watched him, carefully.

"Wait," he said, and pointed to Snake's partner. "I thought you were the one named - "

"No," she bounced, "my codename's Anna Welleck."

"You're sure you're not So - "

"I'm not," she said, "that's him."

The MI6 agent muttered the woman's name over and over again with stresses in various places. Snake frowned.

"Something about the name?"

"No," the Brit said. "That's what's odd."

Snake shrugged, pulling the cigarette from his lips in a flow of white silk. The agent's lips tugged into a little smile.

"You have an unusual codename for someone of your..." he paused, tactfully, "persuasion. But I think I can work with it."

The hallways of philanthropist and media mogul Leister Gauld's home – lair – were painfully uniform in their sparkling whiteness. On one exploration, Snake, waiting for Bond to finish attending his eighth cocktail party that week, discovered an inner courtyard filled almost entirely with a large pool teeming with what looked like sea snakes. He doubted strongly that it was ornamental.

He used to be able to endure suits, knowing that as impractical as they were that he was the type of man who looked good in them, but with Bond around he found it more and more difficult to keep his clothes pristine. He had no idea what it was or why, but he found his tie drooping, his shirt unbuttoning, and he frequently had to rearrange himself. He hadn't had to shave in three days, which was very odd. He supposed it was the stress.

Waiting in his room, drinking a glass of the wine Gauld had flowing everywhere like Outer Heaven blood, wondering what he'd put in his CIA resignation letter, he hadn't noticed Bond coming in, and that was even odder.

"Just dropping in to say hello," Bond smugged at him, raising his cigarette. Snake rolled his eyes and knocked back the rest of his glass. He wondered how many he'd been drinking since he got here. Gauld probably liked his guests to remain in a semi-drunken fug.

"What do you want?" Snake responded.

"I want to know more about you, for a start," Bond said, coming closer and closer until Snake could taste the mixture of Turkish and Balkan tobacco in his second-hand smoke. "Particularly, what happened to Felix?"

"Leiter isn't working this one," Snake grunted. "Accident."

"Recovering well?"

"Seems stable, but I never talked to him all that much."

"Hmm," Bond said. He felt the surprisingly well-kept hand land on his shoulder, and felt an inexplicable wish it would stay there. He noticed his top three buttons had come undone again. "You're very much the quiet type, aren't you?"

Snake thought, smug upper-class British bastard. He thought of the word unctuous which wasn't a word he'd ever thought of since he'd learned it. A smaller, worrying part of his brain came up with the word ideal.

"They picked me because I'm a good listener," Snake said. "People tend to talk a lot to me, and I remember it all."

"I'd better watch myself around you, then. Say the wrong thing and you'll remind me of it forever."

Bond's hand was working its way up his neck. He shuddered.

"It – has to be you," Bond said, as if he was rationalising it out to himself. "I knew as soon as you gave me your code, that it would be you. I wasn't sure at first, and I was certainly surprised, but – for Queen and country – and I'm not opposed to it if it's with you."

I've always been alone since Outer Heaven, since Fox left, since I killed my Boss, since I quit FOX-HOUND. I've been alone so long I've forgotten how it feels to have anyone this close. I'm so - Can he smell it on me? Like his cologne?

"I like you," Bond continued. "You're not like the others. You've got a fighting spirit about you, Solid Snake."

Then all of a sudden Bond was kissing him and his reflexes made him lurch away, but he found himself leaning back in for more for a reason he didn't know, didn't understand. His name? How did his name cut him out for this? A small part of his mind screamed and screamed at him that this shouldn't be happening, but James had stood him up and was massaging his fingers into the back of Snake's head.

"Funny how you're called Solid Snake," James panted into Snake's flushed chest, offering Snake his turn on the shared cigarette, "when really, your best feature is - "

He squeezed with both hands on both halves of what he presumably thought was Snake's best feature.

Snake grunted, and accepted the cigarette gratefully, running the expensive smoke into his mouth and chasing away the bitter salty taste that was in there.

"What just happened?" Snake asked, finally.

Call Campbell. He'll tell you about psychic suggestion. He'll tell you about the MI6 agent who seems to change the world around him, makes people fit into predefined roles. Go on. Ask him. Not like you're any different, Mr. Ouroboros, but it'd put your mind at rest, wouldn't it?

James was already getting redressed. Snake rolled onto his face and had a long thought about whether he resented life or not. He eventually came up with 'not enough'.

Snake had given up trying to keep his shirt buttoned up by the time he was watching Gauld lower Bond into the snake pit, his hand with the knife fingertips glinting in the bright sun as he explained about his plan to feed radioactive material to every world leader by taking over the catering industry. Snake listened to every word and repeated the last few ones where appropriate, and cheered when Bond freed himself, scrabbled up the rope, and punched Gauld into the snake pit.

Bond and Snake stood next to each other, watching Gauld die of irony.

"I think he lacked bite," Bond said.

Snake stared at him and understood that, underneath the flushed patches and the fingernail marks hidden under Bond's collar, what Bond was thinking. He understood the line didn't mean Bond loved killing. He knew, because he'd often said the same kinds of things himself.

The sun set over the saved world.

"Pity about your partner," Bond sniffed at Snake, who had written out half of his resignation form on the train table and wondering why he wasn't changing his controller port so he'd never have to think about being the token 'girl' to this smug Brit again. "That girl. Anna Welleck. Beautiful."

"Yeah," Snake agreed. "She seems happy now that she's quit the CIA, though, so don't feel too sorry for her."

He looked up at Bond, guiltily.

"She told me her real name," he said. "She was Miss Diver. Muffy Diver."

Bond immediately slammed his face into his palms and refused to talk to Snake for the rest of the trip.