A/N: This is an AU set during the Cold War times kind of as a what-if spin-off of what may have happened had a nuclear war been started. All will be explained in later chapters, don't worry. The first chapter was originally going to be sixteen or so pages long, but I shortened it to six because really, who wants to read that much at once? Just kidding, I'm sure people do but this is more for me than you. Short chapters will keep me writing and updating this story. Speaking of, chapters up until chapter 6 have been written. So when I get to that chapter expect more spaced updates, if you actually decide to follow this story pff.

It's not meant to be a funny story but I'll try to throw in some humor from time to time. Just not in the first few chapters. And yes. There will be romance. Somewhere in here.

Enjoy! And sorry if it sucks, this is really my first time stepping away from the humor/romance category since The 24th Hour.

Freedom Fighters

Chapter One: Time is Not on Our Side

Partners: Vash Zwingli and Gilbert Beilshcmidt

Current Assignment: Kill the three guards on patrol at the front gates to allow a smooth escape for the three agents inside.

Progress: …

Condition: Freezing

He breathed in and out to calm his nerves.

And there stupid, arrogant Gilbert was, unhelpfully smirking at him.

He tried to block the idiot and focus so he could complete the difficult task at hand.

Well, not exactly difficult, at least not for someone as skilled as Vash. But the pressure was on this time.

Gilbert had challenged Vash, saying he knew Vash wouldn't be able to get a headshot off on the first shot, and although Vash didn't enjoy the idea of getting yelled at by America for playing games during an important mission, Gilbert had inadvertently insulted his expert marksmanship (and pride as a professional sniper). Vash wouldn't stand for that. So Vash told him he could and would, and the stakes were high.

If Gilbert won, Vash had to treat him to as many beers as one could possibly consume in a bar of the German's choosing, but if Vash won, Gilbert had to dance around home base in a tutu singing the Russian national anthem all day long.

Vash knew he couldn't stand to lose, lord knows how many beers that man could guzzle down in one night, and Vash had been saving his money for something important (he didn't really know what, but it was still important to save). "Spending foolishly always comes back to bite you in the ass," one of Vash's many monetary philosophies.

He had to do this right, in any case, since money and pride weren't the only two things on the line, seeing as four other agents were still inside the base, last he heard. Probably more important to do this correctly for their sake... but Gilbert could guzzle a helluva lot of beers...

He looked at the men patrolling the perimeter of the huge, prison-like base down below and briefly wondered what their names were. Then he was seeing them through the Mil-dot reticle in his scope (laser rangefinders were far too expensive, and Vash liked this way better anyway as it was how he was trained) and figured that it didn't really matter. He watched and waited, switching from one guard to the next. Only three. Mid-afternoon and there were only three guards on patrol.

One turned the right corner and disappeared from sight.

He turned his scope on the other two.

"Come on..." Vash whispered, finger lightly stroking the trigger. He could practically feel Gilbert's skeptical eyes scrutinizing his back, and tried harder to ignore him.

One of the two remaining guards nodded to the other stiffly, strode to the left side, and turned the corner.

Vash turned the scope on the last guard and started calculating.

'About 2.1 yards in height times 1,000 is 2,100. Approximately 14.6 Mils. 2100 divided by 14.6 is roughly 144 yards. Range is 144 yards. Angle is about 45 degrees, 144 times the cosine of 45 is.. 75.6. Shooting 12.4 degrees upwards and 4 degrees to the left to compensate for gravity and windage.'

Vash sucked in a breath.

The target is stationary.

He pulled the trigger, the bullet piercing straight through the forehead of the unsuspecting guard moments later. A small fountain of blood spouted on impact and cascaded with the now dead guard to the cold ground below. Vash restrained himself from letting out a 'whoop!' of victory, because one of the other guards may have heard the gunshot and could report it to the base before Vash or Gilbert could do anything about it. They both held their breath in the frigid air, but after a few moments with no alarm raised, they relaxed. No alarms set off meant Vash had done the job and done it right.


Vash let out a soft sigh and leaned back on the trunk of the tree, mentally preparing himself for kill number two and saving his triumphant smirk for later, as he needed to focus now.

"What was that?" he heard Gilbert question as Vash lifted his sniper rifle again. Gilbert was aghast, jaw slack in awe as his eyes flickered over to the Swiss man who was now reloading his sniper rifle with the speed of a trained professional (which he was).

Unable to restrain himself, Vash smirked and sat up straight. He rested the recoil pad on his thigh and looked Gilbert straight in the eye as he said, "that, my friend, is precision- a thing that you clearly lack. It takes years of mental and physical training, and you've only been trained for what... two months? You're an amateur at best."

Gilbert's mouth snapped closed as he glared heatedly at his supposed 'partner.' Vash mentally giggled at the expression and his victory over his new partner, then nearly outwardly frowned at the fact that his mental self just giggled.

"Pff," Gilbert snorted, obviously trying to recover from the blow to his ego. Vash rolled his eyes at the pathetic attempt (in a vain attempt to recover from his own mental blow to the ego). "Screw you! I'm twice as accurate as you and three times as good-looking! What took you years to learn only took me two months!"Gilbert took up his own sniper rifle and aimed carefully before Vash could process what was going on. "Watch and learn, smart ass!"

Gilbert fired as Vash hissed a rushed, "you fucking imbecile!"

Vash's head snapped back to the base just in time to see a guard that had just rounded the corner to the front side again crumple to the ground. Vash briefly had hope.

But the bullet merely clipped the targeted guard in the shoulder, undoubtedly shattering a part of the shoulder blade, but he could still move and breathe and talk and 'if we don't do something we're screwed.' The other guard, hearing his comrade's calls for help, rushed around the building and to his aide moments later, chatting with his partner urgently as Gilbert bit his lip and Vash started cursing angrily under his breath, quickly bringing the scope up to eye level again. He zoned in on the two guards.

"Shit fuck dammit," muttered the Swiss, then angrily whipped his head around to look at a completely frozen Gilbert, "what the fuck are you doing? RELOAD AND SHOOT!"

Vash twisted his head back around and took aim, holding his breath as Gilbert clumsily reloaded behind him, fingers shaking in his rush to get a new bullet in the barrel. They were running out of time.

Vash knew this, and the pressure mounted. He bit his lip so hard it bled. In his scope, he saw the uninjured man removing a walkie-talkie from a calico vest pocket, he heard the idiot behind him still fumbling with his own sniper rifle, he tasted the blood on his lips, and he felt the cold metal of the trigger even through his glove and numbed fingers. There was no time to make calculations.

'Roughly 2.2 yards, 2200, 13.7 Mils-'

Now or never.

He sucked in a breath and pulled the trigger.

The bullet whizzed past the guard's face, almost causing him to drop his walkie-talkie. Then it hit Vash like a punch to the gut.

He hadn't accounted for the windage.

"SHIT SHIT SHIT!" Vash screeched, as he started reloading again, hands shaking uncontrollably as he knew his mistake could cost them the mission. No use lying to comfort himself.

Gilbert had reloaded by then, taking careful aim at the man who was talking furiously into the walkie-talkie. Vash tried to ignore the fact that he, the one with years of experience, was now falling apart and Gilbert was the one looking perfectly calm and in control. When had their roles been reversed?

Vash heard him breathe in sharply.

Both Vash and Gilbert watched tensely as the bullet hit the mark, both shattering the guard's hand and the walkie-talkie alike.

'Lucky shot,' Vash thought ruefully.

But it was far too late.

The cursing started again before Vash could stop himself.

The alarm went up moments later, nearly blocking out the continuous stream of curses emanating from the Swiss man, which grew in volume when the sirens started blaring.

Vash took up his sniper rifle once more after finally reloading, aiming at the two guards for the last time; however, his and Gilbert's position had been revealed, and both Russians had guns raised and pointed in their direction despite the injuries Gilbert had given them.

Vash's eyes widened.

'What are these Russians made of?'

And so commenced the hail of bullets.

"FUCK! Gilbert, MOVE!"

The German jolted and made a motion to jump off the tree in a way that wouldn't hurt, since they were so far up, and 'oh boo hoo hoo, WE DON'T HAVE TIME FOR THIS.'

Vash gritted his teeth as he watched the idiot search for a good place to land.

"TOO SLOW!" He kicked Gilbert roughly off the branch and would have laughed at the unmanly shriek had he not been grazed by a bullet in the upper part of his thigh after pushing the dumbass. Searing heat shot through his body like lightning and he retracted his outstretched leg with a hiss. He looked at the freshly bleeding wound, passing it off as minor, which merely meant no arteries had been severed, the worst case scenario, then he spun around on the branch, careful not to scrape his injured leg on anything while doing so. Holding his gun to his chest, he leapt out of their sniping spot and onto the pure snow below, his crimson blood spattering all over it upon his clumsy landing. He staggered, the immense pain from his leg forcing him to his knees. He closed his watering eyes and dropped his gun in favor of pressing both hands to the crimson-stained area of his pants, biting his lip to keep from crying out in pain.

"Fucking ouch, Vash, you didn't have to go and- whoa," the German had run around from the opposite side of the tree rubbing the back of his head (which he sorely bruised from the fall, he'll have you know) before he spotted the blood that coated the snow. He jogged over hurriedly with wide eyes as Vash pushed himself onto his feet with great pains, the bullets still ricocheting off the tree trunk behind them. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine for now," Vash replied honestly, pulling part of his green undershirt out from underneath his layers of clothing and yanking a Swiss army knife out from a vest pocket to hack some of his shirt off for a make-shift bandage. The German watched with a disapproving frown as the blonde managed to cut off the last string attaching his new band-aid to his undershirt. Gilbert opened his mouth, about to offer to help with the bandaging when the walkie-talkie Vash carried in a different vest pocket crinkled to life, cutting Gilbert off before he had even begun talking.

The voice came across raspy and labored and extremely furious.

"What the fuck did you idiots, and by idiots I mean Prussia, do, over?"

Gilbert and Vash gulped simultaneously and locked eyes, Vash's silently begging him to talk in his stead.

The German started whistling and looked up, pretending he hadn't even made eye contact with the distressed Swiss, who was now scowling vehemently at him. The blonde used his unoccupied hand to maneuver and remove the walkie-talkie from his pocket. He stared at it like it was going to bite him before he licked his still bloodied lips and brought it up to his mouth.

"Roger, this is Switzerland. We ran into a bit of-"

Suddenly, the roar of engines erupted from the other side of the hill. His eyes widened as he heard the snow-mobiles Gilbert had pointed out earlier while they were climbing the tree, which he barely considered a threat at the time, barreling up the slope from the base and toward them.

"Switzerland, over?" crackled a voice over the line.

Gilbert took the walkie-talkie from Vash's slack fingers before he had a chance to come up with an intelligible response, and said gruffly into it, "we're going to have to call you back... over." The German shoved the device into one of his own pockets and then snatched the scrap of green shirt from Vash's hands. The engines grew louder by the second as Gilbert quickly tied the cloth around the other man's thigh. "Time to go!" He shouted over the engines, as he grabbed the blonde's wrist and began running away from the base.

Vash's head was reeling, letting the German take control over the situation as the pain in his leg dulled his critical thinking. He had grabbed his gun out of the snow when Gilbert dragged him past it, and was barely keeping up with the albino, his gunshot wound putting him at a major disadvantage.

He stumbled behind Gilbert, vision blurring with every step which caused the pain to surge up his leg anew. He knew both their lives depended on a quick and flawless escape, the trees would give them more time, but just barely. The Russians knew this mountain, and their knowledge of it was limited, based off old maps and small cam-bots employed by Japan before the mission. He couldn't stand to delay them any more than was necessary, he didn't want to drag Gilbert down with him.

Although Vash knew well enough how laborious his breathing was getting, even when he tried to breathe through his nose.

As he feared, Gilbert heard.

The albino glanced over his shoulder hurriedly and his eyes flashed in comprehension before he started slowing down to let Vash catch his breath a bit.

The shouting voices and the whirring of snow-mobiles behind them were soon accompanied by furious barking, and though the Russians were gaining fast, Vash couldn't find the strength in his legs to keep himself moving. He collapsed to his knees, then fell face-down into the snow, jerking Gilbert to a stop right before they entered the empty field that could spell death if they continued stalling here. They'd be open targets for the Russians if they caught up to the two before they were to the safety of the opposite lining of forestry, and Vash had enough sense left in his agony-addled mind to contrive that much.

He shook his hand free from Gilbert's grasp, letting it drop into the chilling snow that surrounded him. The icy snow felt heavenly to his aching bones, cooling his face and numbing his wound. He could hear Gilbert panting above him, and wondered vaguely what the albino was thinking about him right now. Probably that he was weak, that he didn't deserve a spot on this team. Maybe he'd abandon him like he'd abandoned his last teammate. Then Vash figured he didn't really want to know what Gilbert was thinking and turned his head to the side, resting an ear to the snow. He could hear it crunching and melting a little from his body heat, but paid no mind, letting his eyes wander around the beautiful scenery. Untouched snow, white trees, a winter wonderland.

He felt he could die here peacefully.

"Gilbert," Vash hated how breathy and forced his voice sounded, "you need to move. Leave me. You can't wait up around here or you'll die."

The German turned to him, almost angrily. Vash couldn't see his face, but he knew Gilbert well enough to be able to tell that he was mulling it over. Usually, the idiot just impulsively voiced his thoughts, when things were serious, however, he actually put a lot of thought into a decision.

Which, Vash felt himself thinking bitterly, may have lead to Gilbert's previous partner's early demise.

The Swiss pushed the thought forcefully from his mind and closed his eyes, wanting to think that Gilbert comprehended the situation and would hasten out of there and live to continue their bigger mission without him. ...Maybe that previous partner had made the same decision for Gilbert, asking him to leave him and continue living.

Then Vash regretted never prying Gilbert about the real story of the other partner, even though it was none of his business.


He had a lot of those.

And just like that, Vash realized he was about to die.

He wondered if it would hurt. He wondered if there was a heaven and a Hell, and if there was, which one he'd end up in. He wondered who would miss him. He wondered what Lili would do when she found out he had died.


A strong wave of guilt washed over Vash like a bucket of freezing water.

He regretted never teaching her about sex (since now someone else would have to do it), never telling her about the horrors and joys of being in a relationship. He regretted not being there when she would grow up, get married, have kids. He regretted not being there to protect her from all the evils, and he regretted not being able to love her more than anybody else through her hopefully long life. He regretted that he'd be leaving her alone in a cold, harsh world to fend for herself.

That, he knew, would be his biggest regret.

Gilbert's cheerful voice interrupted his dark thoughts.

"If I get us out of this alive, the bet earlier is null and void, got it?"

Vash's eyes shot open.


Gilbert flipped Vash onto his back in the snow, and the Swiss had about a millisecond to process the prominent smirk on the albino's face before he was scooped up like a princess in the German's annoyingly huge arms. Vash opened his mouth to protest and demand to be put down immediately, but one thought stopped him.


Lili was his lifeline, his reason for living. She was beautiful and innocent and had so much to learn about the world, and he had to be there to teach her it because he didn't really trust anyone else with her. He loved his little sister, and she loved him. Although, he did find it annoying when, after being babysat by the brunette nurse a few times (never again), she started insinuating he had "relationships" with other males in the agency. Including, but not limited to, Gilbert. He didn't even want to think about how she would react if she could see him now. He'd rather die than have her imagining horrible things like... like Gilbert and him kissing or something disturbing like that. He found himself wondering if Gilbert was a good kisser, did he use tongue? was he demanding? dominant? He surely pictured Gilbert as the dominant partne-

"Oi, Swissy, don't go to sleep on me now!" he heard Gilbert call over the ringing in his ears.

Vash wondered what exactly and why exactly he had been thinking what he'd been thinking, but he passed it off as delirium from his wound. He shook his head to clear it and bring himself back to a full state of consciousness and glanced about him, noticing finally that Gilbert, who had been making his way arduously through the snow with the extra baggage, was only a quarter way through the field.

Then he craned his neck to see over the albino's shoulder.

His breath hitched uncomfortably in the cold air, and he choked on the frail oxygen, making his eyes water and the scene he'd just taken in go blurry with tears.

"You okay, Vash?" queried Gilbert in rare, genuine concern, tilting his chin down a little to get a better look at his companion. He had obviously not yet noticed the eerie quiet that had descended upon the frozen woods like an almost suffocating blanket.

Vash found it hard to answer. His throat was constricting and burning as hot as the wound on his leg, making it difficult to breathe, let alone speak. Gilbert adjusted him to make him more comfortable but in the process gave Vash no access point to see over his shoulder or behind him.

Not that Vash needed to, the image was still burned in his head as clear as day.

He had killed them both.

Vash heard with keen ears the cocking of guns, the loading of weapons, the deep growling of hungry dogs...

"Gil," Vash whispered raspily, "run!"

In his mind's eye, Vash could still see the line of Russians and guard dogs, all weapons aimed at Gilbert's vulnerable, retreating back.

And the thought of seeing Lili again was wiped clean from his thoughts.

Partners: Vash Zwingli and Gilbert Beilshcmidt

Current Assignment: Kill the three guards on patrol at the front gates to allow a smooth escape for the three agents inside.

Progress: FAILED

Condition: CRITICAL

A/N: Some more notes! I've read and reread and proofread and edited and added and deleted and cried out in frustration MANY A TIME over this chapter. Seriously. You lovely people have no idea how many times I've changed things in this chapter. It has been sitting in my harddrive since August of last year, pff. Joey has been helping me along with this somewhat and made it a little more bearable to OCD over when she told me that it was, in fact, good, which I had my doubts on.

The Mil Dot reticle is a sniping method that I only researched for a little while, sorry if the facts aren't straight. And yes, I actually did do those maths based on actual equations.

I used to have random German in their dialogue but then I figured, what's the point? They're speaking to each other in German anyway, and Vash's thoughts would be in German, too, so yeah. Random German would have been weird.

This is the longest chapter so far, and looking at it on this site makes it look a lot shorter than it is on Word but no matter!

FINALLY, any questions, comments, or concerns just drop a review or PM me. I'll respond. Maybe. Thanks for reading!

Next Chapter: No Time for Hesitation; Arthur & Alfred