Title: Surrogate Motherhood

Author: The Scientist Wrangler

Disclaimer: I do not own this beautiful universe, Epic Games does. Everything Gears is belonging to them.

Series: Gears of War (Novels)

Pairing: Hinted Marcus/Anya and Bernie/Hoffman. Nothing obvious.

Warnings: Crude language, violence, graphic suggestions. Naw… nothing that bad. Though there will be swearing in this.

Author Note: This is only my second Gears fic, the first was a Marcus/Anya. So I can only pray that I'm doing this series justice. Critique is begged for! I would like to know how I do with the characters. That way if I do anything poorly, I can learn how to better next time! Let me know, meanwhile… please ENJOY!

"The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof."

Richard Bach

No one exactly knew when it had happened, one moment she was a ghost returning to the battlefield for one final round. The next second, she had become a replacement mother figure for a bunch of grown ass men. Bernadette Mataki wasn't complaining though, because at some point those hardened soldiers had become the closest thing to kids for her.

Hell, she had thought she'd outgrown those stupid maternal instincts that afflicted most of her sex. After being treated like one of the guys for so long, she'd basically lost all those psychological female tendencies. Apparently, she still had it in her to look after the boys. Even in their early to mid-thirties, they were still young enough for her to call them 'boys' instead of 'men'.

She knew full well that they weren't boys by any definition of the word. Not anymore at least. All one had to do was look in Dominic Santiago's eyes, and you'd know... He had long since lost any, even lingering, remnant of the young boy he'd once been. One too many painfully bitter losses were a good way to destroy any rose-colored glasses the youth were born wearing.

Each and every single last one of those Gears knew that there was nothing good about being a soldier. She could remember back when the government used to advertise joining the C.O.G. Like it was some sort of ticket to paradise. A beautiful lie to deceive the youthful fools. Now, it was all you could do to stay alive, for the most part.

None of the stranded survived long, with the Locust out to massacre all of mankind to extinction. Any life they liked to 'claim' they had, wasn't really a life. Scrounging around for some sort of sustenance, be it vermin or moldy food. They were more like vultures or rats than humans. Eventually the semi-intelligent ones realized that the only way they raised their chances of survival, was to cooperate with the C.O.G.

So what choice was there in the long run? It was fight or die. Obviously she had chosen to fight, like she always did. Eventually Bernie had gotten accustomed to the fella's on Delta squad always watching her back. She wasn't in her prime anymore, but that didn't mean she couldn't stand with the best of them. They knew that, her boys understood that they couldn't keep her from working the battlefield right along side them.

Still, Bernie wasn't certain as to when she started being the mother of Delta Squad. Cole was an all around nice guy, so at first he interacted with her like he would anyone. She liked to joke that it was the cat skinning that had gotten his respect. Not a lot of people were willing to kill a semi-domesticated animal, god forbid it had been someone's pet. Odds were rather high that who ever owned the damn furball was dead and gone.

He was a massive, sturdy constant that somehow put her at ease. Knowing that he had her back was a comfort. She didn't know a lot of guys she'd be willing to let catch her from falling off a high tree branch. Damn leg cramp. Still, Cole was a good boy, and she didn't hesitate to say as much when she got the chance. He deserved the acknowledgement, why the bloody hell shouldn't she give him it?

If one were to talk about the Cole train… there was always another fellow that seemed to be included. Damon Baird was the complete opposite of the former thrash-ball player. Where Cole was warm and friendly, Baird was cynical and almost callous. It was almost a wonder that the two even got along. Except, Cole got along with everyone, so it was little wonder that the blonde gravitated towards the big fellow.

At first she'd hated Baird's guts, thought he was the biggest pain in the ass to ever exist. Then he had to go and impress her with his genius skills involving anything that had moving parts, be it technology or biology. Blondie knew what he was doing and she had to give him that at the very least. Finally, Bernie had figured that if Cole was 'best friends', and she used the term loosely, with the man... he couldn't be so bad.

Soon enough she had discovered that that theory was correct. Baird was a complete and utter asshole that liked to piss people off with the things he said, but he was a relatively decent guy. Made her respect Marcus all the more, for having the patience to put up with the constant bitching. If it were her in charge, she'd have made Baird a friggen muzzle!

Though, as grating as she'd found him…the blonde had grown on her. Not unlike a festering wound at first. Now, she'd started to look at the youngest of the group as if he were the unruly, back talking son, the one that always caused trouble just to be noticed. He wasn't such a horrible kid, his way of handling stress was to say sharp sarcastic barbs. Little by little they'd learned through experience, how to banter without pushing the limits too far. Even as a complete pain in the arse, Baird still gave respect to those that earned it in his eyes.

It was amusing as well as endearing, to watch him try to hide the fact that he worried about her. Just like Cole, Marcus, and Dom…always fretting about her health. Acting like she'd break like a twig just because of a ridiculous explosion. While Cole would be open and forward about her state of wellbeing, his white counterpart tended to be more underhanded and subtle about it. Like the boy that would pick on the girl he'd like, because he didn't want her to know that he cared.

Cole, on the other hand, had a nasty habit of making her feel like she wasn't quite as old as she really was…and all while being a bit of a mother hen. Whether it was just her, or anyone he held dear, it was still done so in a warm and boisterous fashion. So you couldn't help but appreciate him keeping an eye out for you. After all, he'd never let you down, disappointment was not something that Cole was capable of. Anya would have said that 'He wasn't wired that way'.

Anya…now there was one hell of an impressive young woman. Slowly she was seeing more of the girls mother in her. Stroud would have been proud of her daughter, handling things in stride. While Marcus silently fretted, Bernie could tell by the way he always looked for the blonde Lieutenant first when ever he entered a busy room, she knew that Anya would be one hell of a great soldier. Besides, who was she to stop the girl from fighting on the frontlines. Sitting in front of a computer all the time had to get boring as all bloody friggen hell!

It was cute that she was sweet on Marcus. A lot like Cole and Baird, but in a different way obviously. Two opposites, where Anya was open and relatively easy to read, Marcus was closed off and barricaded. Yet they were so oddly suited for one another, and now it was only a long ass wait until they consummated the damned relationship. Still, at least someone deserved to be happy in their little group.

Marcus Fenix, now if anyone were the eldest son in her book, it would be him. Quiet, but firm, he always knows what the right move to make is, and how to do so in a was that will piss the smallest amount of people off. He was the only one that wouldn't give her a hard time because of her age, but would still let her know when he thought she was seriously pushing it. As pissed as Bernie would've been if it had been anyone else… she wasn't with him. Blunt sometimes seemed like the only way he knew how to function with those he cared about.

She took a swig of the whiskey she'd been nursing for the past half hour. So that was odd little family known as Delta Squad…Marcus the stoic responsible eldest son, Cole the dependent warm second son, Dom the kind-hearted empathetic middle son, Baird the crass rebellious youngest son, and Anya the intelligent firecracker soon-to-be daughter-in-law. Bernie couldn't help but smirk sardonically at that little thought. If she was the mum, then who the hell would be the father figure in this little situation? A single face came to her mind and she couldn't help but chuckle.

Good ole Hoffman, just what would he think about this whole idea? She had always figured he'd been the authoritarian type of parent type. Unless he had a girl, then she'd be his princess in a way that would still be extremely Hoffman-like. The way he took care of Anya…might as well be her dad. The COG was just one big weird family at the end of the day. That's all there was to it. At the end of the day, they had each other and that's all that really matter. She could hear Coles' booming laughter from clear across the mess hall. A smile lifted her lips as she lifted the glass to her lips one more time.

Bernie didn't even have to wave them over, they knew exactly where she was. They always did. Such good kids, returning home to their mum. Her smile lifted a bit more, the images that brought to mind were terrible, and it honestly made her want to laugh. Once the group had finally reached the table that she was parked at, she wasn't surprised when Baird was the first to speak up.

"Do we wanna know why you're sitting here alone, grinning like you're about to make a set of matching kitty-cat lined gloves to go with your boots?" A single brow went up in response, and as she paused to take the last swig of her whiskey Bernie answered smoothly.

"Don't ask if you don't want to know blondie. Now, be a good boy and refill your old mum's glass with some more Whiskey."


Please let me know what you all think! Ignore typos and such… I have yet to discover A Beta reader for myself.