Author Rambles: Woah, look at brave little me, taking a dander into the world of GOW fanfics. I've recently fallen in love with the games and to prove it I'm writing this instead of working of my Supernatural/CSI: Miami stuff that is slowly piling up. :D

This is just a little one-shot to get the gears in my head working. (I make myself laugh.) Then I'll clog up the archive with my rambles. :D It will (hopefully) be the first of many for my dear Sardonic Request. Blame her for getting me totally obsessed. :L

Set after the book, Jacinto's Remnant, and slightly AU. (I can't wait for Anvil Gate, while we're on the topic.)

Warning: Contains swearing – blame Baird.
Disclaimer: Sadly, I don't own Gears of War. Not even a little Lancer or a tiny grenade. It's sad, but what can you do.


Caged
In which Marcus Fenix realises, after a late-night conversation, that there is still hope.


It's freezing.

Obviously something to be expected, seeing as winter has recently arrived and already is revealing its icy claws. But it's freezing now, prompting concerns and fears about what conditions will be like next month. Or even next week, for that matter. A thought no one wants to voice.

[Everyone knows dark times are looming; there is no need to actually say it out loud]

He is sitting outside the hastily erected barracks after completing his turn of patrol for the night. Dom's taken himself off for rest at last, something that he approves of. Marcus worries about his best friend and almost brother a lot. Dom is not fine, as he constantly claims to be. Marcus sighs at the thought, slowly shaking his head. After shooting your long-lost wife; the woman you love once you've discovered that she was practically brain-dead, you're hardly deemed 'fine'. Dom has uttered that word so often in these past few weeks that it's almost akin to a mantra. A desperate, heartbroken one.

But what can he do for his friend? Marcus glances out into the snowy wilderness. It is past midnight now and most of the civilians are huddled away in their quarters; only a few remain outside, wandering around. They're probably feeling lost, or alone. Quite possibly both, Marcus thinks with a frown. After all, during the flooding of Jacinto and the mass evacuation that followed lives had been lost. Everyone has lost someone now. Some, like Dom, have suffered more than most.

Marcus had been there when Dom has lost his children on E-Day, all those years ago; had been there when Maria had went missing and had helped look for her during the desperate search. When she had been found, and when Dom had shot her, Marcus had been there for his friend. But how could he help Dom, who was now slowly becoming more and more withdrawn as days went by?

He sighs again. It doesn't help matters to consider just how royally screwed humanity is right now. They have shelter and supplies – but for how long? And when winter really sets in, how would they cope?

He watches as eventually the few wanderers head back towards their accommodation. It's quiet, now that there is no one around. Everyone wants to be out of the cold that reminds them all too clearly of their dire situation and of what they've lost. It's too quiet though, for his liking. During all these years of service and even when he was in the Slab there had been noise. Guns firing, screams, fires burning, deathly moans… Really, he reasons, as he adjusts himself into a more comfortable sitting position, he should enjoy the calm. He can't, however.

[There's always calm before the storm]

He picks up his Lancer, studying it intently. His constant companion. A life-saver. When will he use it again?

A bitterly chilling wind howls across the settlement, but Marcus doesn't even flinch as its icy kiss teases his face.

"What was that?"

"It's just the wind."

"Yeah, right. When's the last time the wind said 'hostiles' to you?"

A brief chuckle, before his face clouds over. The Locust may be gone, but humanity still has major issues to get to grips with. And if the Locust were ever to re-appear, they would have the advantage. The COG had lost a hell of a lot of soldiers – good men. Landown had been a disaster, Marcus thinks bitterly. Too many lives had been lost in that particular plan.

Again he glances across the snow.

"It had better've been worth it." He mutters darkly. Straightens his huge, muscular shoulders. Blue eyes narrow at a memory being replayed.

"Sarge? Tell my brothers…My ma…Tell 'em I love'em..." Gurgled and gasping.

"Damnit, Carmine." He growls. The rook had been good – or at least made a good attempt. But when you've fallen out of a Raven into a giant worm, and end up being attacked by Nemacytes, there really is only so much you can do. Considering he had been as green as grass when he had been assigned to Delta, he had given it all he had. But now Benjamin Carmine was dead, and his mother was going to have to be informed that she had lost another son. And her youngest, at that. A shake of the head.

"It had better've been worth it." Resolute this time.

He's about to pick himself up and head on in when there's a glimpse of movement to his right, then a thud, followed by a loud session of swearing. Marcus relaxes and sets his Lancer down on his knees. Footsteps get closer to the barracks, and soon Marcus sees an all-too familiar scowling face.

"Fucking hell, Fenix! Don't sit in dark corners like that!" The blonde-haired man mutters furiously. He pauses in front of him, and Marcus can see that Baird's covered in oil and grime, as usual. The goggles are present, perched on top of Baird's head. A smirk forms slowly on his scarred face.

"Did I scare you?" He asks dryly, and his smirk grows more pronounced as he watches the blonde roll his eyes in exasperation.

"Oh, sure." Sarcasm drips from the younger man's mouth. "You're the bloody Bogeyman." Baird retorts, looking at Marcus with questioning blue eyes. "What're you doing out here? Thought you'd be sleeping by now, dreaming of your girlfriend or something."

Marcus rolls his eyes. No matter what happens in the World, Baird will always have a mouth on him. Seeing as they all had to cram into a tiny room allocated for Delta Squad, he had gotten used to the blonde's comments and taunts. Dom labelled him as patient as a Saint; Marcus believes that even a Saint would have trouble dealing with the mechanic.

"You think about my love life too much, Baird." He says, looking at the younger man with his own steely gaze. He'd decided to ignore the girlfriend comment. "You feelin' lonely or something?"

Baird snorts, dragging a hand through his hair. Marcus can see that dark rings under the blonde's eyes. He misses nothing, and frowns slightly.

"Fenix, your love life – rather, your lack of one – isn't my main concern, funnily enough." He yawns, before throwing another questioning look Marcus' way.

"What are you doing out here? In case you haven't noticed, it's cold. And snowy. And cold." He mutters, wrapping his arms around himself.

Marcus' smile returns. Baird's always such a whiny bastard. "At least you noticed the snow." He remarks pointedly. "When you fell in it."

"Screw you, Fenix." Comes the eloquent reply. There's a tiny minutes of silence, broken only by their breathing. Baird stifles a yawn. Marcus – who had allowed his gaze to wander in front of him – glances at the blonde to his right.

"Why aren't you sleeping?" He asks bluntly, wondering if he'll even get a reply other than sarcasm.

"Sorry, mom. Didn't know it was past my bedtime."

The chances had always been slim, Marcus thinks wearily.

"Navy guys called me out." Baird's apparently decided to answer properly. "Seems they want me to work my magic at their bloody beck and call now." The blonde snorts again, this time in frustration but he sounds too tired to be angry. Anyway, he probably loves the attention he gets for being the only man the Navy wants when it comes to fixing their junk, Marcus thinks. To Baird, being called at all hours must be worth it. He looks the other man up and down, frowning.

"You look like shit."

A shrug. "Who doesn't, O Majestic One. Seen yourself in a mirror recently?" Another yawn covered up wearily.

The wind blows through the settlement once more. Marcus wonders how low the temperature is right now. It feels colder than what it did before.

"What a great idea this was. Prescott really is a genius. Remind me to tell him that." Baird mutters sarcastically, shivering slightly.

After working on a ship for a while, the cold feels worse, Marcus realises when he sees. And the moron didn't throw on enough layers, either, he notices. For all his intelligence, the mechanic sure could be thick at times.

As well as whiny. And sarcastic.

"If we had waited any longer, the Locust would've decimated Jacinto. We had no choice." He puts in as an answer to Baird's complaints. He and the rest of the guys have heard it many times before from the blonde. Marcus' eyes narrow. "What would you've preferred, Baird?"

There is silence. Baird knows that Marcus is right – always has, damn him – but he will never tell the older man that. He has his pride to consider, after all. He yawns again, not even bothering to disguise it this time.

"How long do you think this," A gesture around them, "will last, Marcus?" The blonde asks suddenly, eyes fixed ahead on the mess of hovels that house the last of mankind. God, he feels exhausted. Totally drained now.

The question is so out of the blue Marcus doesn't answer right away. He shrugs instead, setting his Lancer down carefully. He doesn't know what to say because it sounds as if the younger man actually needs reassurance.

"Winter will be tough." He rumbles, choosing his words. Not with care, he always says what he thinks – but choosing words that sound realistic and yet a tad optimistic, too. "If we pass that, we're good. Life will go on, we'll flourish, and all that crap." He stretches, suddenly feeling tired.

The blonde laughs at his words, but it sounds forced. He turns to face him. There's something in his eyes that Marcus can't quite describe. Not too sure if he wants to know, either. The circles under those blue orbs look even darker now.

"Do you…Do you really think that will actually happen?"

The question hovers in the air. Marcus looks at Baird, whose question makes him sound so… So damn young and eerily familiar to another.

"Sarge…" Hesitant with a touch of desperation.

"Yeah, Rook?"

"Do you…Do you really think we'll see the surface again?"

A pause as he thinks.

"Yeah. Yeah kid, I do."

He's painfully aware of what is expected of him, and realises – not for the first time – the full extend of his responsibilities as a Squad leader.

Baird looks at him, waiting for an answer. He doesn't know about what Marcus told – no, promised – Ben Carmine, all that time ago.

[How words comes back to haunt you]

He doesn't know how often Marcus thinks about that moment, and about what he said.

The wind howls again, determined not to be forgotten. Marcus finds himself nodding slowly, a spark of his own determination flaring up in his icy blue eyes.

"Yeah, Baird. Yeah, I do." He says, glancing at the younger man. Who nods himself, looking ahead once more at the deep reams of snow.

He doesn't want Marcus to know how hopeless this whole mess feels to him.

There's another pause; both men think their own thoughts in private. They've both just realised how much they rely on each other; on the whole Squad.

The silence is lifted when Baird yawns again and stomps his feet in an attempt to get blood circulating; trying to warm up. Marcus notices how cold he looks.

"I'm heading in. You coming?"

A shake of the head; the scars on his neck glint in the sparse moonlight.

"No. I'm gonna stay out here for a while longer."

Baird snorts, a mix of amusement and exasperation. "You're not Superman, Marcus. You'll freeze." He comments, rolling his eyes. Marcus feels himself laugh slightly, albeit quietly.

"Thanks for the concern, Lois. Now get some shut eye, Baird. I don't wanna hear shit from you tomorrow." Marcus orders, stretching his neck and shoulders. He waits for a reply.

"Screw you, Fenix." Baird mutters, apparently too tired to think of a better comeback. He stomps inside. Marcus smiles tightly – he got his reply.

"Don't fall on your ass again." He can't resist remarking. Baird doesn't reply, but Marcus can hear a stream of curses from where he is sitting. He shakes his head, looking in front of him at the wilderness.

Some things will never change, even though it may feel that everything already has.

After a few minutes, he picks himself up. He better catch some sleep himself – he has to meet up with Hoffman in the morning. And maybe he'll see Anya there, too.

He sighs, rubbing a hand over his face. He feels too tired to even contemplate what to do about that. But… Even though humanity may not pull through, even though he may have just lied about that, there was still a little spark of something called Hope. He could hope about the future, and maybe even about Anya as well.

Hope had brought them all this far. Hope could surely carry them onwards too.

fin


And now I'm going to hope that you liked! :D