WARNING : SEVERE AoT:40th Day spoilers! Super spoilers! Seriously!


info ;; Hello and welcome to another AoT fanfiction. This one is... a little darker. I wrote it a while ago and totally forgot to put it up, and I think its a great addition to the collection already here. I hope you enjoy. If you enjoy, please review. I'd love to hear from you.

summary ;; Three years after Shanghai, and everything is falling back into place. Salem and Rios have normal jobs, the press is off their backs, and they've gotten jobs at a local club. But the pain of losing Alice and the responsibility of the destruction of Shanghai has taken their toll on the world-weary ex-mercenaries. Their simple existance can only last so long until their past comes barking at their heels.

a thing ;; I dont own AoT. Sadly.


Three years after Shanghai. Three years after losing Alice. Three years after the inquisitions, the accusations, the prison time. Three years after the blood of seven million people splashed across their company, and it fell into the graves of all the warmongering establishments before it. Alice was gone, and without her, the company had no leads, no contracts, and no public image. Instead, they were left with the public seeing monstrous mercenaries, killers without cause. The Army of Two fended off hoards of gore-hungry reporters, moved time and time again, until the media moved on to another tragedy in another place far, far away. It was a welcome breather, giving the pair time to regroup, rethink the situation.

Three years. Time enough to assimilate in the real world, get a real job, share a run-down apartment. Time to forget Shanghai.

But they can never forget watching Alice die.

Tossing the last of the pots onto the counter, Salem kicks the pantry door shut, cursing under his breath as dust showers down. He turns to see Rios standing in the doorway, a large cooking pot held between his arms, concern etched on his scarred face. Unable to bring his eyes to the other's, Salem grunts and reaches over the sink to pull the window shut. The noise shatters the silence in the room, startling Salem from his deep, dark thoughts. He hears Rios drop the pot on the floor, and he turns around to look at the larger man.

"Salem-"

"No, bro, it's fine," he says, brushing it off. "People say shit, they get over it. Shit happens. Happens every day, bro."

Rios grins, punching Salem in the shoulder lightly. "Don't do that. Makes me think I did something wrong."

Salem pauses, thinking about the woman at the door. Slightly shorter than himself, brunette, spunky. She'd been underage, and Rios, always the law-abiding citizen, denied her access to this particular club. Of course, Salem had been upset to deny such a pretty face. That was then, this was now. He won't - can't - keep a grudge against his partner of nearly half his life. "It's in the past," he says. "Let's move on with the present."

"Getting the hell out of here, for starters," Rios agrees.

"I locked up," Salem says, swiping keys from the counter near the pots. "We're free to leave."

"Nowhere in my job description do I remember reading dishwasher," Rios grumbles as he follows Salem out the back door.

"Someone's gotta do it, bro."

"Its always us."

Salem turns the key, locking the door behind them as they leave. He checks his watch, and realizes it's been two hours since the club has closed. He sighs heavily, leaning his back against the door. "It's four in the morning. Lets just go home."

"Shit, already? I wanted a beer," Rios rumbles, laughing as the pair begins the short walk home. They know it by heart now, and can walk it with their eyes closed if they needed to. Taking back alleys and short cuts saves time and reduces the chance of being mistaken for thugs by local police. With their particular appearance, it was hard to fault such boyscouts for that particular misidentification.

They travel in silence, through the familiar turns, their minds traveling the same path. So many years have set the two in tune to each other more than they care to admit. They stop at the same time, standing at the mouth of an alley, feeling the slight breeze down the street. They both take in a deep breath, but it is Rios who speaks, and Salem who balks at the topic at hand.

"It's been three years, now."

Salem looks down, nodding bleakly.

"Feels like a lifetime, doesn't it?" Rios asks, reaching his hand to his face, tracing his scar with a calloused finger. A habit he picked up after Shanghai, during the questioning, the tearing down of his company. "You still think we did the right thing?"

After all the press, Salem doesn't honestly know. He can say they did the right thing, but in the end, he is as clueless as the rest of them. He shrugs his shoulders, patting Rios on the back. "As far as I see it, there were no other options."

"There were seven million people, Salem."

Scrunching his face up, Salem scoffs and shakes Rios' thick shoulder. "You've had my back for life. No way I could hurt you, bro. Not for all the money in the world."

Rios sighs, seeming to deflate. The same answer, every time. "You made the decision when I couldn't."

"You've got an authority complex. Black and white, only this was a big gray mess," Salem says, pressing a smile across his face. "Don't think about it. Home and a cold beer are just around the corner."

Rios picks himself up, nodding and smiling. His guilt stays with him, but Salem's support never crumbles. They cross the street into the final stretch home, glad to be so close to a warm bed after a long night's work. Everything falls into place after their disaster in Shanghai, their lives begin to make sense again. Nothing is the same, it never will be, but together, they've made their own path through the turmoil that both are satisfied with. The world keeps spinning. The news keeps broadcasting. Life goes on.

"H... Help!"

Salem spins around, Rios following suit. The cry is desperate, pleading, and chokes off in a gargle at the end. Neither of them need to speak, they both know what will happen. Salem breaks into a sprint, knowing Rios wont be far behind. As he bursts around a corner, he spots a woman laying face down against a trash can, two men crowding around her and a third acting as lookout. Skidding to a halt, he takes in the situation. Years of military training haven't left him yet, as he assessed the threat of the three men. One smaller than the rest. Catching sight of him, the smaller of the group steps forward.

"You want somethin', tough guy?" the man sneers.

"Yeah, why don't you fuck with someone your own size?"

Barring his teeth in a feral grin, the smaller man laughs. "You're not our type, pretty boy. Why don't you run along before we hurt you?"

Rios steps around the corner, cracking his knuckles against his palm. "Who's gonna hurt who?" he asks, a smirk tugging the corners of his lips.

"Aw, fuck, just leave, guy. We ain't harmin' nobody," the smallest protests, taking a step back warily, eyes never leaving the immense size of Rios.

Taking the opportunity Rios left open, Salem charges forward. He lowers his shoulder to catch the small man in the chest and send him flying to the ground. Catching his footing, Salem sends a back roundhouse kick to the second man, who dodges and counters with a move poorly designed to catch an ex-mercenary off guard. Salem easily avoids the attack, grinning in the chaos.

Rios jumps into the fray, cracking the smaller man's head against the pavement before moving on to the final man. Salem holds his own ground, playing with the enemy, no doubt deriving a great enjoyment out of the action. He jumps back, dodging the man's blow, and feels something grasp around his leg. Unable to catch his balance, he flails for support, and the man grabs his shoulder, sending a gut-wrenching punch to his stomach.

Salem doubles over, gasping for air. Rios shouts out, slamming his opponent's head into the ground as he pushes himself towards the final fighting pair. Salem hitches, and the man pulls his bloodied hand away. One look at Rios, and the man splits, running as fast as he can out of the alley, but its not fast enough. Rios grabs the collar of his shirt, pulls him back roughly. Gripping the man's head between his palms, Rios twists until he hears a crack, then tosses the body aside in disdain. He stands breathing heavily for a moment before a strangled moan reaches his ears through the ringing pulse.

"Oh, fuck, bro, shit," Salem groans, clutching his stomach on his knees. Blood pours between his fingers, his face is deathly pale. A six inch serrated knife slick with blood lay to the side.

Rios has forgotten the girl they tried to help in the first place. His entire world crashes down on his head as he drops to his knees beside his partner. "You're gonna be fine," he says mechanically, absently attempting to pull a medic kit from his gear. His hands grasp on nothing, and Salem's eyes close, he sways on his knees, then catches himself as his brown eyes flutter back open. Rios bites back his anger, his hand clenching Salem's shoulder. "Hang tight, buddy," he grunts, fumbling through his pants pockets for a cell phone.

Salem slumps forward, breathing heavily. "I miss Alice, bro," he confides, breath coming in ragged gasps. "Shit was never this complicated..."

"Shut the hell up," Rios growls angrily, fingers wrapping around his old cell phone. "I'm callin' an ambulance." The phone on the other end rings, and he knows what he needs to say, exactly to the point. When the operator asks him his emergency, he balks. Saying something makes it real, and he desperately didn't want this to be real. After giving their location, he finally chokes out the emergency. On the other end, the operator asks if he needs her to stay on the phone. He desperately wants to say yes, she sounds so much like Alice. So in control, collected in the most severe situations. But he tells her to hurry the fuck up with the ambulance, and hangs up.

Laying Salem on his back, Rios slumps to his ass, leaning against the brick wall. "Shit, El, what's wrong with us?"

"Seems like we're... just a pair of... bad eggs," Salem breaths.

"The ambulance will be here soon."

"Never... been in one."

"You've never had the chance. What kind of exciting shit have you done on American soil?"

"Mi-"

"Not including Miami!" Rios reminds sternly. He has fleeting doubts, of what will happen. They pass in thoughts unbidden to his mind. Salem dying is the same as himself dying, and his mind can't wrap around it, so it passes it every time it comes up. Pushing himself away from the building, he pulls Salem into his lap. "Just shut up," he warns. "We have to keep you awake somehow."

"I... always knew you had a soft spot for me, Tyse," he says with a grin. It turns to a wince of pain, and he coughs violently, covering his mouth with his blood-free hand. As he tries to wipe his hand on his shirt, he notices the deep red blood on his palm. Panic rushes through him, and he wipes it on his shirt, hoping Rios hadn't seen. He doesn't say anything, and Salem looks up at him. The older man's chest rises and falls beneath his head, Rios' muscular arm wrapped around his chest gingerly. "You know, Tyse, for a man who... spent most his life killing... you're pretty gentle," Salem says.

"Knock it off," Rios growls.

"No, bro, I love you. You know that, right?"

Rios glares down at him, a mix of emotions across his face. "Shut up, El. The ambulance is on its way right now."

Salem closes his eyes, seeing Rios in his mind. "Yeah," he says quietly.

Rios shakes him. "Don't you dare close your eyes," he warns.

Salem sighs heavily, but is interrupted by a coughing fit. The dark blood splashes between his fingers, sliding down his hand. He hears Rios' disappointed, angry growl. Moving his hand, he grabs his companion's tightly. "I love you, bro," he gasps hoarsely.

Rios rests his forehead against the back of Salem's skull. "I love you too, man."

Distant, too far away, the ambulance sirens wail into the emptier night.