Title: Ask Me
Summary: MW2-era. Gary Sanderson is might touchy about his nickname and 141 want to know why. Pre-Cliffhanger.
Author: Sakura123 (weber_dubois22)
Characters: Gary "Roach" Sanderson; John "Soap" MacTavish; Riley "Ghost" Simon; Task Force 141
Word Count: 2,901
Disclaimer: Call of Duty/Modern Warfare and all things related are property of Infinity Ward and Activision. Original characters are property of me, the author.
Author's Note (circa 2010): I was in the middle of watching a walkthrough for "Call of Duty: Black Ops" (which is awesome so far. Frank Woods and Jason Hudson are my favorite characters out of the crew) and the idea for this story hit me as one to pursue. This tale takes, at least a week before the "Cliffhanger" mission with MacTavish seeing as their pretty busy every other time. Also, for whatever reason, I always thought MacTavish (given his tone when says "Break's over, Roach. Let's go.") was never particularly peachy with Sanderson as his backup, but warmed up to him over the course of their missions. Dunno why, 'tis a strange head canon thought. Apologies in advance for any inaccuracies or errors in regards to Military functions or injuries; if you have any insight, feel free to educate me and necessary changes will be made.
In his short career as a soldier for the US military, there were only three certainties in his life that Gary Sanderson could count on. The first would be that, his girlfriend, Amelia "Milla" Bearsby, would always be waiting for him to come home to Pennsylvania; the second was that he could be killed at any moment, no matter how hard he prayed to God to keep him safe (the big guy upstairs didn't play favorites with his own, apparently); and the third?
Well, the third was actually three things: Someone would always ask about the scar across his abdomen, where he earned the nickname "Roach" from and whether or not he had a sweetheart waiting for him stateside. His response was always, often jokingly, "Wouldn't you like to know and yes, I've got a girl."
The guys he'd come to know in his old unit, stopped asking after the first half-a-dozen times, then would only ask just to see how he reacted. But since he'd been transferred from the 75TH Ranger Regiment to special operations group, Taskforce 141, under executive orders from Lieutenant General Shepherd, the question was asked at least eight times every other day.
What's worse, he hardly knew any of them and he couldn't get them to shut up about the two significant questions he refused to answer. Ghost, his field leader's second-in-command, was the most persistent questioneer out the multinational group of soldiers and if it weren't for the fact that he outranked him, Roach would be inclined to show him how serious he was about their not asking, because he wasn't telling.
He knew better than to complain to MacTavish (or anyone, for that matter), complaints weren't looked kindly upon unless they merited serious emergency action on the part of the superiors, so he avoided eating a dining hours and kept to himself. It wouldn't last for very long, he knew, but it gave him a chance to recall his self-control.
Like clockwork, Roach was called out of his reclusive state and asked for an explanation for his less than friendly behavior by none other than MacTavish himself. "Ghost tells me you haven't been gettin' along with the squad. Wanna tell me why that is, exactly?"
"Some questions were asked and I chose not to answer them, sir," Gary replied.
"What kind of questions?" MacTavish inquired.
"Erm, the kind most like to brag about, sir. They asked how I got my nickname and this scar-" He pulled his shirt up to reveal the old scar traveling across his abdomen and stopping at the left side of his chest. "It's dumb, I know, but, I'd rather not say, is all."
MacTavish regarded the young man with a look that would've made his father proud. He seemed torn between berating him for causing such a ruckus over what appeared to be inconsequential and respecting his wishes in regards to not wanting to explain the origin of the scar and nickname. However, his curiosity got the better of him and even he asked, "Where did you get them, exactly? I'd like to know myself." MacTavish's tone was conversational, on the edge of poking fun at his serious expression.
"Sir, I'd rather not say at the moment."
"Is this scar connected with any ailment you failed to mention in your physical?"
"No! Not at all, sir, I just rather not recall how I got it."
"And the nickname, Sanderson?"
"The two events kinda coincide with each other, so I'd rather not say."
"Is that right?"
The look on his captain's face gave him the impression that the matter was hardly settled, but MacTavish chose not to press the issue. When the questioning was over, he was sent back into population; most greeted him as if he'd never vanished, others were a little harder to get back into good graces with. Understandable, he supposed, but if things continued on like they were, he wondered if he they'd leave him for the wolves during a mission.
On the following day, he realized, though they weren't asking, they were still waiting, with teasing and baited breath, to ask the answer that went avoided in their interrogation and it would seem he would have no choice but to answer. The look MacTavish was giving him from the corner of the mess hall didn't inspire one to keep quiet, it was downright creepy. So much for understanding superiors, Gary thought wearily. Sitting down on the far end of the table with his plate of spaghetti and his soda, Roach pretended not to notice the inquiring looks he was getting from Archer, Ghost, Rocket and Royce for as long as he could.
It was easy the first five minutes, but the awkward silence that continued on as he played with his pasta luncheon had him wanting to run for the exit. Placing the fork on the side of the plate, he turned on the bench in time to catch them pretending to study their food with great fascination, others right up and laughed. "This is ridiculous," Gary grumbled.
"I agree," Riley quipped, leaning back on the bench, arms folded. "Whoever thought it was a good idea to make spaghetti on a Tuesday?"
"Is it that- wait, what?" Roach doubled back on the comment, realizing what had been said did not pertain to his frustrations in the least. Ghost, when he wasn't griping about being hit by friendly fire or gunfire in general, had a tendency to say the oddest things just to trip his friends up; this time was no exception. "What are you talking about?"
"Nothin', but you should see the look on your face," Ghost grinned. "Pure comedy, that is."
A moment of silence passed between them, Gary took a moment to break eye contact and focused his attentions on the table on the furthest end of the left, MacTavish was still looking at him in a manner to meant he'd spill the beans now or suffer some awful consequence later (Gary prayed it wasn't scrubbing the floors with a tiny toothbrush). Swallowing his pride, Gary cleared his throat and said, "Are you all really that interested in knowing about this scar?"
"Well, I can't speak for everyone here, mate, but I sure would," Riley answered.
"I wouldn't mind knowing myself," Bearcat said. "If only to stop asking." There were other vocal agreements that clamored together into one harmonious tune geared on by nodding heads and looks of amusement. Exhaling again, he swallowed the knot forming in his throat one more time and decided to proceed. "It was a, uh, helicopter crash in Afghanistan," He said after a moment. "We'd occupied this town smuggling weapons to a group of rebels lead by a man who went by the name "Voorhees"-" He laughed. "I swear, the guy knew exactly what he was doing using that name. A bunch of the Rooks on our squad expected Jason come running into town with a machete."
"Hey, I think I remember hearing about this," Royce interjected. "The Voorhees incident. It happened in 2012 didn't it?"
Gary nodded, an uneasy expression flashing across his features. "Yeah, I was twenty-two at the time," He replied. "Intelligence told us one of his base of operations was located in the mountains a ways off from the town. Our captain and two others were preparing for recon, the rest of the squad would remain behind to maintain the perimeter or the women (depended on who you asked). They waited until night to move out; I was on guard duty at the south east entrance. I, uh, don't know when it happened exactly, but my friend, Ryland, he tells me the attack commenced around six or seven hundred hours exactly."
"How could not know?" MacTavish's graveled voice traveled from the end of the room over to his group, attracting their attention like eager school children. Gary looked down at his palms, guilt and embarrassment contorted his features. "Someone threw a pebble at me. I turned around and saw a girl standing right across from me with a smile on her face. She wanted to play, if you know what I mean-" There were a few grins following his statement before he continued. "I was so busy getting ready to chew her out for coming out of her house that I didn't hear - didn't see - the hostile coming up from behind until I turned around. Guy hit me across the face with the end of his automatic. I didn't wake up until a good twenty or minutes into the fight.
"The town was on fire, people were running everywhere and my head was so fucked up I couldn't tell my ups from my downs," Gary sighed. "Anytime I saw someone running at me with a gun and shouting a foreign language, I just shot them, it was the best I could do under the circumstances."
"So where's the helicopter come into play?" MacTavish inquired.
"The helicopter was an enemy aircraft. We never made our arrival a secret, but Voorhees clearly caught onto the gist of our presence and wanted us dead, even if it meant giving away his presumed location. I had no idea where the others were and given that I was the only target in the middle of town for that thing to shoot at, I decided right then and there that the pistol was mightier than the helicopter and unloaded a clip on the bird.
"It blew up, but no thanks to any of my efforts. A couple of the surviving Rooks on the squad set up a premier for mortar fire and knocked it out of the sky. It was going to crash right on top of me, but I couldn't move fast enough. And for the most part, I don't remember much beyond screeching metal and tasting the dirt in my mouth. I woke up in a hospital, good and bandaged. Ryan tells me he saved my neck, snatched me out of the way of the burning heap of metal and ducked inside of a building. The worst I got out of the confrontation was a concussion and shrapnel laceration, right across my chest as you all saw. The girl turned out to be one of their moles, which is the only way they could've found about why we were there…" He trailed off, eyes shifting over to MacTavish then over the crowd of faces before him.
"What happened to the reconnaissance group?" Riley asked.
"Uh, Captain Macaulay, Lt. Mere and Corp. Willett are dead, killed by Voorhees, most likely," The tone in which he replied, short, bordering on uneven. Riley shared a brief look with a curious Archer who sat across from him as he continued to listen to the story. "Their last known location was someplace in the center of the mountains when the attack occurred. Back then, I couldn't have told you what happened to them, I was flown out of the area as soon as they were able to get air support. I was a clueless as everyone else until recently. Its only been a month since Shepherd told me. He believes they were killed in the explosion when they entered the cave. It was stuffed to the brim with explosives, there wasn't a lot of salvageable information, man or machine, when the Rangers excavated the place. Everyone that was possibly inside was automatically presumed dead.
It took awhile, a good while, for me to recover from the injuries sustained. The scar, it hurts when it gets cold, itches when I think something bad might happen. I swear, I must've been cursed by the departed soul of my Captain because one bad thing after another kept happening to me. I tell ya, if wasn't an near miss with explosives, my two left feet were tripping me up. It was like an awful running joke, and odd thing of it was that I couldn't fathom why my bad luck was so amusing to my comrades. But it was and when Ryland started calling me a Roach, it caught on like a wildfire. Sergeant Sanderson no longer existed. It was just "Roach", always has been for the past four years now." He paused, scratching the back of his head in apparent discomfort from the stares he was receiving. "All things considered, the fact that I got distracted by one of the locals when I should've been paying attention to my job made me pretty unpopular with some of the guys back home. They use Roach in an entirely different connotation than Ryland tends to."
As expected, no one said anything, they simply sat in quiet contemplation or pretended to be doing something else entirely. Rising from his spot on the bench, Gary nodded to those in his immediate vicinity before proceeding out of the mess hall.
"MacTavish, this is Shepherd. I've got a mission for you."
"One of our Satellites went down over the Tian Shan Mountain Range in Kazakhstan. Intel says the Russians have retrieved the satellite, but haven't compromised the ACS module yet. I need you and one other to go and retrieve the module from the Russian airbase before they get the chance to crack the encryption. This is a covert operation, so try to maintain a low profile until you at least reach the rendezvous point."
"Yes, sir. Understood, sir."
"You don't understand yet, soldier. Your back up for this mission is Gary Sanderson."
"Sanderson?" He paused, eyes wandering over to the stack of personnel files on his desk. "You don't mean Gary "Roach" Sanderson, do you, General?"
"They're still calling him that?"
"Nevermind, MacTavish. Sanderson is who I meant."
"No offense, but I think I know someone better suited for the job."
"Sanderson's one of my own, one of the Rangers and adept in the area of covert and retrieval operations. He's the best at what he does, which is why I'm saddling him with you."
"From what I heard he was responsible for the deaths of a dozen civilians and several soldiers on his squad, sir. Doesn't sound like anyone I want watching my back." It was a low blow, to be sure, and while he had as much information on the tale as the rest of his teammates to judge (improperly), some part of him questioned Sanderson's professionalism. Especially after what happened a few weeks ago with his bloody nickname.
"You heard wrong, MacTavish. Circumstances surrounding the Voorhees incident were out of his control; Sanderson's no more to blame than the rest of his team. Your suspicion is uncalled for."
"With all due respect, General-"
"With all due respect, Captain, you don't have much of a choice in the matter. Sanderson is your backup, learn to deal with it or you find yourself court-martialed for insubordination."
"That's wee much for a disagreement, don't ya think?"
"Whatever it takes, MacTavish. I'll want a debriefing as soon as you return. Happy trails."
The transmission ended, plunging Soap back into the depths of the silence of his office. He was not happy with this decision. "Ghost!"
Riley appeared at the door, lips poised on the edge of his soda bottle. "Yeah, what is it, Captain?"
"You know your friend, Roach?"
"Yeah, wouldn't be much of a friend if I didn't, would he?"
MacTavish rolled his eyes, resisting the urge to smooth his Mohawk down further onto his head. "Bring 'm in here would you? It's important."
"Yeah, sure," Ghost turned to leave then stopped, one hand raised in question. "Is it a mission?"
"Aye. Straight from the horse's mouth."
"Right, then. I'll see if I can pull 'im off the phone." Ghost readjusted the sunglasses atop his head and proceeded out of the office. MacTavish slouched in his chair, one hand reaching for the cigar that rested idle on the ashtray on his desk. He took one despondent drag from the stub and exhaled the next instant. He didn't have to wait long for Gary's arrival, the young man was walking alongside Ghost, his casual demeanor as he spoke with his second-in-command told him he was completely unaware of the nature of his requested presence.
This was going to be an interesting few weeks, he thought to himself.