AN: Hey Lovelies. As promised a brand, spanking, new Van/Raven story for you all. Starts a little lazy but let me assure you by Chapter 5 (trust me on this) you're going to wish I was slowing down. Will be updating weekly until the University exam period stirs me up again and then weekly updates resume once that's over.

Warnings: yaoi, dark themes, terrible jokes and characters who swear like sailors when the mood strikes them. If that doesn't sound like your cup of tea feel free to jump ship now but it was lovely having you.

Chapter 1: We All Fall Down.

Anyone who's ever had anything to do with teamwork knows that some people are better partners than others. Generally there's not much of a difference when the roster gets switched up at least not after all the dust of 'oh look something new!' settles. Thomas and Raven weren't monumentally different travel companions, sure, but one of them was definitely more hazardous to Van's health. Thomas for one thing would never decide that suffocation was a great cure for Van's snoring. Thomas would never shove a bundled pair of socks into his mouth while he was sleeping and leave him to die or wake coughing and spluttering. Raven would, Raven definitely would, and Raven would laugh his ass off about it in the morning.

So Van lurched, hacking up what remained of his lungs, when the in a deep inhale the socks lodged themselves down his throat. He'd been gaged before, it wasn't pleasant, and once he could breathe without pounding his chest he sagged forward into his knees. He worried his face with the heel off his palm and spluttered up the last of his peaceful night. Wonderful, if this happened two more times he was going to start insisting Raven take the second watch from now on.

He was scratching at the back of his scalp (was that dandruff or did he just need a shower?) kicking Zeke's slumping body back with his bare feet before he got a good look over the camp. The fire was still going which at least saved him the obligation of hopping around for more tinder in the cold. Shadow was curled round the darker side of the clearing, head up, optics flashing looking like a mounted snake head as he keep his sensors keen.

"Fucking creepy," Van yawned which inspired a twitch in the tightly wound muzzle, "where's you hero murdering master eh?"

Shadow growled that low unhappy sound, breathy, heave swivelling round the clearing off towards the far side of the Gustav loaded up with their equipment from the last mission. Logic dictated that Raven was taking a piss, Van intuition argued otherwise and Van won out. So forcing himself up onto his feet he hobbled barefoot and stiff over the undergrowth round the far side of the trailer.

Raven was sitting on the edge of the second trailer leaning into the foot lock of the Geno Breaker, one ankle under the opposing knee, the second leg swinging, half dressed and partially lit from the glow of his cellphone.

"What you doing up?" Van didn't bother to announce himself hooking his arm on the edge of the trailer and leaning heavily into it. "Another nightmare?"

Raven grunted distantly in response, thumb pattering over the keypad, index and forefinger rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He yawned after a moment slipping the little device shut like a girl's compact as Van rose his hackled in a cold breeze.

"Texting Reese," Raven murmured, "couldn't sleep."

"Do you ever sleep?" Van joked easily resting his chin across his forearms.

"Something's bothering me about the map."

"From the mission?" The hero gave a little jerk of his chin. "Think someone's feeding us bad Intel?"

"No," Raven whispered heavily, "just doesn't look right. It's too artificial. You're sure no one's got a facility out here?"

"Oh?" Van murmured twisting on the spot to lean his back into the Gustav and regard the horizon Raven was scrutinizing through a gap in the trees they'd made in their lumbering.

"That ridge just…" Raven's pinkie finger traced along the line of it trying to demonstrate more eloquently what he couldn't vocalise. "It's too straight, too square, it doesn't fall right."

Van frowned. He didn't ever try to blow anyone off. He'd learnt a long time ago that he had some talented friends with some talented instincts and it paid in this business to pay attention. He followed the curve of Raven's fingers to the best of his ability and tilting his head slowly he caught the gist of it. Raven was right. There was something unnatural in the slope of the landscape flowing out around them. Maybe it was just because Van had spent enough time squatting in the wild to know but, sure enough, the shapes were too well cut to be solely the product of erosion and time. There seemed to be structure hidden underneath the roots and the overgrown trees that might have consumed something over decades or centuries.

"You're right," he whispered lowly, "ruin maybe?"

"Facility even," Raven suggested mildly, "you got a plan?"

"Almost dawn," he appraised, pleasantly surprised to be deferred to. When they were this quiet in the darkness he almost felt like they were a pair of hunters following game or trails. There was this sort of primal mysticism to the atmosphere that Van was usually loud enough to dispel. "Good a time as any to take a look. I'm going to get my boots."

"Grab mine?" Raven requested pivoting over his shoulder to dig in the bag propped behind him.

"Sure," Van found himself moving slowly, quieter than was strictly necessary but when Raven got a scent like this he often found himself tense. Last time it had been an unexpected storehouse of sleepers. It was probably why Karl had put Raven with him for the clean-up, ignoring the fact Van was one of a handful who would consent to work with him, Raven had a good sense for hidden things like the kind Hiltz and Prozen had left scattered over the planet. The facilities they'd yet to find and disarm were dangerous dump heaps stuffed with arms, chemicals and pollutants. It'd probably take another ten years of scouring to flush them all out.

Van handed Raven his boots, shifting his bare feet into the comfortable grove worked into his own, his dad's knife cold against the small of his back after sitting by him all night and his badge felt heavy in his thin pants. Raven was zipping a thin black jacket from the back pack up tight under his chin, balancing a flashlight in his fingers, a gun ready to his side.

"Zeke up?" Raven gauged as he slipped into his boots dragging them up over his sleeping pants.

"Yeah, Shadow too," Van muttered rolling his shoulders to try and limber up from the stiffness of sleeping on the cold ground. Things like this usually ended in them running like lunatics. "Take the Zoids?"

"It'll make more noise than it's worth."

Van grunted in consent gauging the crunch of the Organoids as they rustled round the fire packing earth onto it with their tails. They'd follow behind given it usually worked better for the element of surprise if the enemy didn't know you had two seven foot monsters tailing you. Better to keep the cards close to the chest as Irvine would say.

Raven took a swig from the canteen, slow but deep, and offered it to Van. He tipped it back taking the rest of the water. Was worth being a little hydrated, after all they might be fifteen minutes or they might be six hours (both of which had happened in the last six months working alongside). Raven slipped down off the Gustav, legs board straight, arms taunt along the forearm as he shifted the weight from his elbows to his feet. Imaginations were running a little wild it was true but it didn't hurt to be quiet and suspicious at the best of times.

It was a vulnerable feeling to manuver down the slope with the Organoids out of sight, the dawn creeping in, the crickets dying off and the breeze picking up. Van slipped towards the end of the drop hands digging into the frosty grass, nails in the dirt, and Raven caught his elbow tight in thin fingers to keep him from making an uncomfortably loud cracking sound that would've stirred the birds overhead just starting to twitter. Raven made a gesture along the gully either way and Van gave a shrug hooking his thumb in the general direction of Raven's wrong ridge. He was content enough to follow for now, encourage those instincts in his short time partner, long-time rival, that often held water.

'You're good to go along with him,' Reese had assured Van recently, 'he doesn't trust himself lately.'

Raven shimmed deftly up the opposing slope to follow his ridge and Van watched him move for a moment or three before he took pursuit. Watching Raven clamour up the slope gave him a good gauge of where would take his stocky build best and where they were heading. They were most of the way up, Raven trying to heave himself over the ledge which was far too close to a ninety degree angle to be hand carved by mother nature, when Van hugged the side and pushed his shoulder up under Raven's straining foot. The Imperial glanced down at him curiously and Van nodded the all clear. So digging the tip of his boot into the grove of Van's shoulder Raven pushed off him up over the top. Raven returned the favour a moment later when he helped drag Van up with both hands.

Van took a deep breath through his nose, almost sweating, and Raven's boot ground into the surface under them. Definitely stone, he tilted his chin to Van and rubbing his fingers under the leaf litter Van felt how smooth it was. He flashed Raven a grin and they were back up on their feet fingering the wall of the new ledge for grooves, passage ways, unnatural nooks…

Van found a strange curve under a vine and pushed his hand down the smooth, wet, tunnel in the mountain side. His arm disappeared up to the elbow, ear against the stone of what had to be another submerged wall, and his fingers caught something at the bottom. Van twisted one way, Raven coming close to his side, then tried the other. There was a groaning click to their right, like a door unbolting and Van exhaled.

"No snakes," he laughed softly pulling his hand free, "you heard that?"

"Over here," Raven followed the wall, looking for new cracks they eventually worked wide.

After a good ten minutes of heaving and panting they had a channel exposed, a passage way down into the mountain side that from the initial sweep of the flashlight was clean, smooth and dark. It seemed to slope down a good hundred feet because the passage didn't turn within the reach of the flashlight's beam.

"You good to go?"

"Yeah," Van whispered, "you're not claustrophobic are you? Cause this is your last chance to warn me."


"You want to take the lead or guard the rear then?"

"Lead," there was no surprise there in Raven's preference but it was nice on some level to know he trusted Van to cover their backs.

It was surprisingly humid the further down they got. Van was used to chilly ruins and stagnant laboratories but the heat as they moved deeper and deeper through the channels was surreal. Before too long Raven was tying his jacket round his waist and Van batting the sweat off his forehead;

"This shit goes forever." Van hissed.

"If we run out of batteries we're fucked." Raven warned. "Ever been lost in the catacombs under Guylos?"

"Once or twice. Rather not do it again. Turn round?"

"Give it another ten? We find nothing we ditch and report it back to HQ."

"Deal," Van relented, raising his flashlight higher as they fell back into silence. He could hear Zeke and Shadow following them well behind but there was something whooshing almost under the slapping sound of their feet. "You hear that?"

Raven paused, barely breathing and scanned the darkness.

"Sounds like pumps." He breathed. "Like water."

"It's not far off."

"Let's keep going."

Van's fingers scrapped the wall and eventually he could feel the space widen. Raven's pace slowed till Van was almost hugging his back, when the sound of rushing water and mechanical cycling started to pound around them and when soft blue light began emerging from round the next corner the flashlights were switched off. It was very sudden when they found themselves on the gangway over the tanks glowing up at them and Van whistled low despite himself.

"Holy shit," he sighed, "Zoid tanks."

Raven's head did a soft swivel.

"Six," he decided, "You could fit the Breaker in these."

"Hiltz' handiwork work," Van supposed as he raised his flashlight once again and flicked the light over the nearest wall, "or Zoidian maybe?"

Raven came close to his shoulder examining the raised hieroglyphs and delicate mosaic paint work of the walls that stretched over their head to a domed ceiling.

"Zoidian I'd guess. Hiltz wouldn't bother with interior decorating."

"Think the gangway can take us?" Van clicked off the flashlight lazily glancing along the long stretch further into the ruin.

"If it's Zoidian definitely, if it's Hiltz' probably," Raven snorted, "come on."

It became fairly obvious fairly fast that they were alone. The place, even though it was still working turning over amniotic fluid in the tanks, was as dead as the grave. Zeke and Shadow caught up quickly enough and with the Organoids mingling Van felt more guarded. Dr D would've had a heart attack if he could have seen how inquisitive the four of them got. Raven and Van were into and on top of everything. They had the good sense to be delicate with what seemed to warrant it but less so with everything else. When they found what had to be an office of some description overlooking a massive tank Van had the good fortune to come across a set of scrolls.

"Definitely Zoidian," he decided, "no way would Hiltz leave these behind."

"The more we look around the more I think it's a production plant." Raven murmured running his flashlight over the far wall. "Submersion tanks to grow new frames, electronic vessels for mutating and forming cores, masses of steel for armour production and those," he gestured with the bud of his flashlight, "look like blueprints."

"Blueprints?" Van pivoted to take up the spot beside Raven and follow the patterns himself. The pair of them stepped back and raised their beams trying to get as much of the picture under the light as possible. Then structures became more apparent.

"See that?" Raven shot the beam to highlight a particular section of wall. "Looks kind of like a charged particle converter. See the fan unit?"

"Hey…" He sighed straining, "you're right! And that's a triple canon unit!"

"Spear launchers," Raven recounted his flashlight straying, "chest unit, charged particle head mount, and that looks like the hip pivots they use to keep tripod Zoids upright…"

"Check this out," Van called, "claws, big ones, you think?"

"Aren't many Zoids with these specs." The other rued darkly.

"Blueprints for the Death Surer huh? You think they made it here?"

"An early one," Raven supposed, "this one's got a cockpit."

"I don't like the sound of that."

Raven fell asleep in the cockpit of the Gustav, canopy open, boots on the dash while Van sat back with his hands behind his head waiting for Dr D to show up with a crew. Herman had a lot on his plate these days after taking over for Kruger and looking at his Mom's seat in the not too distant future but Van and Raven probably didn't help calling in every other day with some new variable to fuck up his paperwork. Van grinned up at the obscured sun through the trees and took in the deep satisfaction of making bureaucracy hellish. This was why he didn't put himself up to be a four star general. Making a living as a loose cannon trailing a wild card Imperial was way more fun.

Irvine would be so pissed they'd found something exciting while he and Thomas were dragging rubble at New New Helics. Van suspected if he gave Irvine another two months he'd become a raging alcoholic. Thomas was a nice guy, brilliant, but Irvine had trouble working with the finicky sort who made you tighten your boot straps. That sort was usually good incentive to keep Van focused whereas Irvine needed a little shaking up to stop himself from becoming to dried up and stoic.

"Hey Raven," he didn't nudge the Imperial with the canteen perched in his hand, he liked his hand after all and he didn't want to lose it. "How about a hotel tonight? Proper bed for ya."

"Hnn," was the grumble he got, which was code for"I could care less."

"Hot shower, home cooked meal, a beer." Van tempted.

"Make it a bath."

"You got yourself a deal." It might cost them a mint but such were the sacrifices Van made for a decent meal. Most desert places charged by the litres of water you used, had special meters and everything, Van and the crew used to have to shower together every other day to keep to Moonbay's budget but hopefully in this region they'd be slacker on their usage fees.

The first hint they caught of the approaching unit was Specula's hissing down the track which raised the heads of the two Organoids lulled stubbornly on the open canopy. Zeke decided to promptly dodge out of view under the leg of the Liger while Shadow bounced down off to meet the blue Zoid rushing round the bend. Van snorted and Raven half dragged himself up in his seat wiping at his eyes in a lazy attempt to freshen himself up. If Van were a lesser man he might've felt jealous that Raven made no effort to look proper when they were alone, like Thomas did, but actually he found it quite flattering that neither of them had the energy or that invisible separation which prompted people to act with special effort for each other. That and he found it kind of cute when Raven straightened up for Reese in the same way Raven shoved Van for tightening his belt round Fiona and putting on what the Imperial begrudgingly declared the 'big brother' voice.

"Morning sunshine!" Van called jovially from his slouch.

Reese gave a little gesture in his general direction, still a good three meters off, and he couldn't quite tell if she was flashing him the bird or waving. Raven was already stiff backed, raising his hand, and Van took the chance to watch how cat like the pair of them got around each other from the corner of his cheeky chocolate eyes.

"So how much did you touch?" Reese condemned hopping unceremoniously onto the front snout of the Gustav.

"As much as him," Van scoffed with a jerk of his thumb to his partner.

"So the whole bloody place is compromised." She declared flippantly but Raven gave one of his tiny smirks that provided Van with confirmation that this was his cue to chuckle. Van always went off his cues round these two because frankly he was still worried one of them was going to cut his head off with a butter knife. Reese didn't mind his laughing this time, a good sign, and turned her attention to Raven, sniffing. "You look dreadful."

"So do you." He shot tightly.

"You been fucking the dog all night or something?" For a petite girl Reese was crass. She was one of only two women Van knew who could make Irvine whistle in amazed defeat. Then Van realized Reese meant him and gave a little shout.

"Oi!" He screeched.

"You're just pissed because you and Fiona didn't get a chance to braid your hair and paint your nails this morning." Raven retorted to the woman hands folded over his lap smugly.

Van could never quite tell when they were play fighting or actually fighting. Half the time Reese or Raven threw up their hands and stomped off and the other half of the time they broke into knowing little smirks. He put it down to bad guy brain damage.

"No Dr D on this one?" Raven supposed a moment later.

"Too busy around Eveopolis, besides," Reese gave an elegant little gesture over herself unhappily, "Death Zoids are my speciality right?"

"Better you than Dr D's grimy hands in the pie." The Imperial consoled. "I hope you didn't bring any greedy techies it's a horror house in there, very creepy, Death Surer stink everywhere."

"Oh joy," she scoffed, "little evil mastermind's first play set?"

"Something like that," Raven decided and Van gave a hardy nod in agreement. "You want us to stick around?"

"Nah, clear out," the gesture she made now was very dismissive, "you've been on shift for what two weeks? Go take a break, report to Herman, shower-"Van held up his hands in surrender under the pointed stare,-stop hugging each other for three minutes and take a piss by yourselves."

"We're not that bad." Van declared.

"Pfft," Reese hissed, "Herman puts you together and I had money down that eyes would be clawed out. Then you bugger off together and no one else gets a word in between you two workaholics since. Your bloody inseparable friendly thoughts are making me faint. Go sleep with girls."

"Should get a few pointers off you first," Raven teased reaching up to tug at the hem of her tunic, "don't work your grunts too hard Bitch."

Reese flashed him the bird with both hands, smiling tightly, and Van let them bicker. It was their favourite joke since Reese moved to Ancient Ruins and Raven back to active duty on the GF that they were too gooey with their respective rivals. Apparently they found homosexuality hilarious fodder. Personally, while Van was a loose kind of guy on that thing and definitely not one to toss round judgements, he thought the old saying 'a lot of truth is said in jest' might've applied just a little. Certainly to Reese from what he'd seen of her recent, rather stumped, dealings with Fiona. The Zoidian didn't seem to know what to do when someone was sweet with her and Fiona was nothing if not sweet. Raven insisted once or twice to Van that Fiona downed all that salt to balance out all the sugary sweetness in her system.

"Yeah princess," she snorted kicking out at Raven's hand weakly, "where are you two off to then?"

"Report to Herman and hit a hotel," Van answered to her sweeping glance, "I'm fucking starving."

"You enjoy that double bed." Reese cackled leaping from the dash as Raven lunged out at her. "Don't be too rough with our delicate little flower Flyheight!"

"Withered cantankerous old bitch!" Raven called brazenly after her as she clicked her fingers to summon Specula and waved them off.

"Call us if you find something good!" Van demanded prepping the ignition while the pair of them shot nasties at each other across the glade like screeching alley cats on opposing fences.

Raven was still half out of the cockpit, calling things in Zoidian Van didn't want to know the translations for, when Van lowered the canopy and got them moving sluggishly down the road. Why he'd agreed to take a damn Gustav he didn't know. The things were so damn slow. Maybe it was nostalgia?

"We're ditching this when we get to resupply, right?" Raven prodded, apparently on the same wavelength, reclining back beside him.

"Maybe," Van shrugged, "it's not so bad. I mean there's more space for supplies, means we can take shifts sleeping and driving, pretty comfy…"

"You're attached," he groaned, "fine! Then wake me in an hour when you're done loving your new pal."

"Beautiful romance me and this Gustav." Van shot proudly voice delightfully straight. "She's growing on me, flourishing into an amazing bond it is, I'm going to call her Lulu and ride off into the sunset with her."

"You do that."

Van felt a bit much like a cowboy. Moonbay always said there were times when you had to reign in the whole thing and sleep barefoot rather than booted or girls just thought you were scruffy. The hotel wasn't as expensive as he had feared at least and Raven was good at covering tips with that dangerously massive inheritance he'd pocketed after Rudolf had ripped up Prozen's estate. So he forfeited the bath to Raven, ate well, watched the news, sent a few emails and crashed in one of the double beds.

He would've slept the whole night through if Raven wasn't sneaking around. There was no other word for it. Raven pulled himself up halfway through the night, cradling his phone into the lounge, and had pulled the sliding door almost all the way while he thought he'd left Van sleeping. Van rolled onto his back, breathing steady, and stared dumbly at the ceiling. There was the mashing of buttons, Raven twisting on his feet, then low whispers.

"You might as well talk," Raven hissed softly, "if you're going to keep insisting it you better have the goods to prove it. So talk. I don't like being pushed around."

Silence, Van had no chance of making out the other end of the phone call but Raven's breathing hitched audibly even so far away. Another moment passed, Raven made half attempts to speak cut off progressively before finally fighting through.

"Then why should I trust you?" He was still feverish. "Who says you're not still infected?"

Woah! Van cringed. His immediate immature thought pattern was 'Reese STDs' but he moved beyond that because it didn't sound that minor given the octave of Raven's voice. Still, infected? What did he mean by that?

"Yeah you were right about the ruin," Raven conceded uneasily and Van almost sat up, frowning hard at the pale blue ceiling. "Still doesn't prove this crap though… then show me… fine, but if you're fucking with me I swear he was silenced again. His little informant was pushy obviously and there was a long moment of silence before Raven spoke very tightly"Yeah, whatever…bye."

Van had to twist fast, make himself limp, when Raven threw himself back into the bedroom tossing himself down and leaving the phone rattling across the floor, discarded, scarping the woodwork. Van kept his eyes tight, tossed a little this way, let the quiet settle and tried to work it through his head. Raven tugged at the blankets harshly across the room and Van was very aware how sensitive the pair of them were to signals. He did not want to get caught eavesdropping when the Imperial was this…upset? Frustrated? He couldn't read it. Not good. Van breathed into his limbs and made them uncoil while Raven twitched awkwardly in the other bed.

Eventually Raven gave up and Van caught a stolen glimpse of him glaring at the ceiling before the Imperial tossed back the blankets and delicately placed himself on the edge of Van's mattress. He waited and, sure enough, Raven pressed himself down onto Van's bed like he wanted to crush his face in the opposing pillow and stay there. Van let him, he would've given him a brotherly word or two if he wasn't trying so hard to play dead, but the Imperial shuffled his body marginally closer atop the blankets, while Van lay under them, and started to slowly and angrily lull off.

Definitely wasn't Reese Van decided but he'd have to tread lightly if Raven was really up to something sinister. He doubted it but given Raven usually shoved his thoughts under your nose, very loudly, having him sneaking around was out of character. Did Reese know what was going on? No…but Van was guessing that if Reese knew anything important she would've stolen Raven away when they met up that morning which wasn't to say they didn't have other ways of conversing Van didn't know about…

"See," Van whispered teasingly down into Raven's sleeping, twitching, face early the next morning, "this is who I know you're Imperial: you can never sleep in your own territory."

Raven mumbled dragging the pillow over his head and as Van discarded the blankets off himself he threw them over Raven. By the time he was out of the shower and wrestling with the toothpaste the Imperial was up. Where Van looked like road kill in the morning Raven looked like he hadn't even lain down to nap. Van used it as evidence to accuse Raven of a lack of soul because no natural human being looked unruffled after eight hours passed out in a blanket cocoon.

"Herman sent us new orders," Raven called kicking open the bathroom door, screen in hand as he leant into the frame. Privacy was apparently not a two way street as far as he was concerned so Van sighed and pressed his navel against the sink to guard his towel from falling while he brushed. "He wants us to go meet up with Rosso and Viola about prep for the Guylos Grand Prix."

"That time of year again already?" Van mused spitting with bumpkin aim down the sink. He'd seen enough old men shoot tobacco to really know how to pull back that bitch and make a show of it. Raven cringed. "Shit, this time last year you were trying to give me lobotomies!"

"How time flies when you're having fun," he snorted before adding curtly, "I'm not going."

"Ya gotta go. Orders." Van mumbled through the brush.

"It's just an excuse to parade us in front of the cameras and calm the Vox Populi." His contempt at the idea was so palpable Van glanced covertly to check Raven still wasn't a small Persian cat because sometimes he acted like it.

"Easy job," he countered, "we get to see some of the guys, we don't have to pay admission, all we've got to do is make the people happy, sit back, and eat Cheetos."

Raven stuck his tongue out in a gaging motion.

"You go then. Take Thomas."

"Yeah, and leave you and Irvine to work a job? I don't think so. The 'shoot first and ask questions later'approach only works if you leave survivors."

"I'm not in the mood to socialize." Raven snapped.

"Are you ever?" Van blinked in faux amazement holding the plastic in his mouth with taunt lips. "I ought to call the press! This is a revelation!"

Raven's hands came up, groaning, as he glided from view in exhausted submission.

"I could win the Noble Peace Price for this!" Van hollered after him, leaning into his heels to keep Raven in his vision for as long as possible, loud enough to wake the neighbours but, really, why shouldn't they know too?

Raven didn't respond but then he didn't need to. Van spat, rinsed, lay his towel over the edge of the bath with the door still flung wide open and shimmed his sweat infused jeans up his hips. There was something very easy about the pace of their missions currently, excitement abounded sure, but it was stop-start rather than that heady building pace he usually associated with the intensity of his long campaigns against Hiltz and Prozen. He sometimes missed the euphoria that came with living through total disaster and getting to shake it off like a dog out of the rain but he supposed it was just asking for trouble to want to see more adventure after all he'd just survived by the skin of his teeth.

He had the belt through the loop, hair up, beads of moisture still clinging to his navel-


Van lurched. It was a heavy, full bodied sound, and everything after was much too quiet.

"Raven?" He called testing, spine unfurling to push him straight up, shooting hard glances out the open door. In that second he called out he saw dropped kettles or boots or other morning paraphernalia in his mind's eye.


"Raven?" He called again, louder, already drifting out of the bathroom with his feet picking up pace every time they hit the ground in procession. "Raven?"

Van was nearly sliding off the wood work when from the bedroom he came into the lounge. He scanned up, then down, not consciously but in a natural progression as he moved.

"Shit Rae!" Van skid onto his knees where the ugly tartan rug hit the wood, his mind buzzed but his hands fumbled steadily like they should've after years of combat training.

When Van's heart pounded that fast everything seemed to come to him in fractures. Raven out cold on the floor, unresponsive, not bleeding but burning hot. Then Van in the hallway, screaming orders, the sirens of the ambulance, Zeke and Shadow roused and tense on the hood of the Gustav…

AN: Takes places after CC/GF in the canon continuity. No connection to anything else on this account, entirely AU and about to get cruel. Hope you enjoyed guys, love hearing from you and I'll see you in seven days.