"We're pinned down taking heavy fire on the west side of the building!" Soap urgently said into his comms. "We could use some help but be careful on approach, they've got guns everywhere."
"Roger that, Soap," Price replied. "Hold tight and we'll get you two out of there."
Soap went back to exchanging gunfire with the guards of the drug lord they'd been sent to capture. He carefully shot around the corner of the window making sure he didn't expose himself as a target.
"I've got an idea, Sergeant."
Soap cast a quick glance at Jack. He kneeled on the floor beneath a window on the other side of the room and had taken a grenade from his tac vest. Whatever Jack was planning was too risky. They had too many guns on them for him to be able to throw the grenade with any kind of accuracy.
"Stay down, Jack! That's an order!"
His order came too late. Jack had already pulled the pin and stood to throw the grenade at the enemy. Soap saw the young solider about to hunker back down when a bullet sliced through the open window and struck him on the throat.
The sound Jack made was quiet and low. And then he was falling backward with red spilling down his neck.
"Jack!" Soap yelled, voice drowned out by the deafening boom of the grenade exploding. Crouching down, he ran over to where Jack had fallen to the ground. He lay on his back, blood coming from a severe bullet wound on his neck. Soap got back on the comms. "I need a medic! Jack's been hit!" He barely heard the response as he quickly started digging through Jack's vest for his first aid kit.
"Jack, what the hell was that?" Soap asked while desperately trying to staunch the bleeding with a thick pad of gauze. But it was no use. The bullet had hit a major artery and the continuing blood loss was massive.
"Just doing what I thought you would do, Sergeant," Jack said weakly.
He coughed, forcing more blood out of the gushing wound.
Soap knew it was too late for reprimands. He decided to focus on making sure that Jack passed on to the next feeling good about himself. "It was good shit. Boldest move I've ever seen."
"Yeah. You took out those bastards so our boys have a clear path in."
Jack smiled. "Good. Don't want any of those losers getting hurt."
"Proud of you for defending your team."
"Thanks, Sergeant MacTavish."
Soap nodded. "Rest, Jack. The medics will be here soon."
"Just going to close my eyes for a few minutes."
"Go ahead. A couple of winks will have you right again."
Jack sighed and closed his eyes. Soap held onto his hand until his chest stopped moving and the blood ceased to flow from his neck.
He didn't know how much time passed before he heard the beat of multiple pairs of boots running down the hall. Still at Jack's side, he readied his weapon. But thankfully, he heard a familiar voice call out.
It was Price. Soap lowered his weapon as the captain, Gaz, and Ghost came around the corner into the room where he was holed up.
Ghost approached him while Gaz kept lookout.
"Is he gone?" Ghost asked.
"Let me take him."
Ghost started to kneel down to pick up Jack, but Soap shook his head.
"No, I've got him."
Shifting off his knees, Soap moved into a squat. He grabbed Jack, heaving his body over his shoulders before he rose to his feet. His eyes burned with unshed tears as he looked at his teammates.
"Let's get out of this hell hole."
* * *
After leaving the ready room, Ghost crossed the hall and took up a post in a shadowed alcove. He waited, silently and patiently. It wasn't long before Soap trudged by, head hanging low. To Ghost, it didn't matter that their personal relationship had changed. Soap was still his sergeant and it was his job to look out for him in whatever way the situation called for. And right now, the situation called for emotional support.
"Johnny," he called out.
Soap stopped and looked round at Ghost. He didn't seem surprised to see him standing there.
"Come here for a moment."
Soap changed course and trudged over to meet Ghost where he stood. He raised his head. His eyes were dull and his mouth was turned down in a frown of grief. Ghost knew that not only was Soap upset at Jack's death, but he was blaming himself for it as well.
"I know you're upset about what happened out there. And I know you don't want to hear it. But that wasn't your fault. None of us are guaranteed to come back vertical. You know that."
"I know," Soap said hoarsely. "It's just... Jack was so young. A silly kid. Just a couple of months ago, we were all laughing at his ass catching on fire. Now, he's dead."
Ghost gripped Soap's shoulder, squeezing once in sympathy. And then, because he couldn't stand to see Johnny hurting, he cupped the back of his head and drew him into a hug. He held Soap against his chest, feeling the tension and trembling in his body.
"Let it out, Johnny," he whispered. "There's no shame in crying over a fallen comrade."
Soap stood there for several seconds, resisting the emotions that wanted to break free. Then, he melted against Ghost, his body shuddering with silent sobs. Tears began to wet Ghost's shirt, but he didn't care.
"That's it." He soothed Johnny as he cried for his friend, rubbing a palm up and down his back. Without planning to, he began to gently rock Soap side to side within his embrace. He kept up the movement until the silent sobs ebbed and the tears ceased to flow.
Eventually, Soap straightened and pulled out of Ghost's hold. He looked up, his face swollen and splotchy from crying.
"Thanks, L.T. I appreciate that." His eyes were red but a hint of a smile broke through the pain that lingered on his face. "I ruined your shirt. Of course, you probably have a hundred black T-shirts so it's no great loss."
"A hundred and one. But this one was my favorite," Ghost teased.
"In that case, I'll buy you a new one the next time I'm down at the shops."
It made Ghost happy that they so easily fell into their usual banter. "Don't worry about it. I'll find a way to live with only a hundred black T-shirts."
"Good. I hate shopping." Soap relaxed even more. "Thank you, Simon," he said again. "I needed to let that out but I might have kept it bottled up if you hadn't called me over here."
"I'm always here for you, Johnny. You know that."
Soap smiled again. "I do."
Silence fell between them. As they stared at each other, a new emotion began to shine in Johnny's blue eyes. Ghost didn't want to acknowledge what that emotion was, but he'd be a fool not to recognize it. Love. Love for him shone in Johnny's eyes and on his face. Ghost was glad he wore his mask, needing it to hide the blaze of emotion that was surely on his own face as he looked down at his sergeant.
Across the hall, the ready room door opened, startling them out of their eye contact. But they didn't move away from each other. Bakshi and Gaz strolled out side by side. Bakshi started to approach them, but Gaz, whose eyes were also suspiciously red, tugged on his shirt and led him the other way.
Soap cleared his throat. "We're going down to the pub to have a few pints in Jack's name. Join us?"
Ghost nodded. "I'll be there."
* * *
Rage burned in his chest as he watched from the shadows while Ghost hugged Soap. How fucking dare Ghost emotionally jerk Sergeant MacTavish around like that? Using a soldier's death as an excuse to tease him with a crumb of his lousy, ugly affection while Soap was trying to heal. He could see on Soap's face that he wasn't over the lieutenant yet. His love for Ghost glowed in his expression as he stared up at the bigger man. But he knew, that behind that ridiculous mask, the same expression wasn't on Ghost's face. That fool probably didn't even know what love was. But it didn't matter. Ghost wouldn't be able to hurt Soap anymore after this. He had everything ready at their special place. Tonight was the night.
* * *
Everyone geared down, had their injuries patched up, and washed away the blood and grit under the spray of a hot shower. Then, they piled into vehicles and headed off base to their favorite local pub. They were here to celebrate Jack's life while turning a blind eye to their own mortality.
Ghost watched as Soap, Gaz, Bakshi, and the rest of the team stomped about on the packed dance floor, loudly yelling the lyrics to the song currently playing on the pub's sound system. A smile quirked his lips at their antics. This is how they kept going. How they paid their respect to their fallen - by continuing on. Because they had to. There was no other option.
His gaze shifted to the side as Price approached him.
The older man grabbed the chair next to Ghost, spinning it around on one leg so that he could sit with his folded arms resting over the chair back. He said nothing for several moments, simply sitting there with cigar smoke curling in the air around his head.
"They're having a good time," he finally said.
"They need it after that shit show."
"Yeah, they do." Price went silent long enough to take a drink from the heavy glass tumbler in his hand. "He won't be single forever," Price said once he lowered the glass.
"Soap has a light within him," Price continued on. "He wants to share it with someone. I thought that someone would be you."
"I'm his superior officer. It's against the rules."
Price scoffed. "And the 141 are known for always following the rules."
"I'm not good for him, Price. That light he has? It'd burn out with me."
"I don't believe that. You're a good man, Simon."
They watched as Soap and Gaz attempted some fancier dance moves, laughing as they clumsily fell off balance and crashed into each other. Hands reached out and caught Soap around the waist, pulling him upright again. The hands belonged to Sergeant Clarke, one of the bold ones.
Ghost's chest ached as he watched, wondering if the tall, dark-haired Clarke would be the one Soap shared his light with. He decided that if he was, he didn't want to be there to witness the beginning of their relationship.
"I'm out," he said as he rose from his chair. "See you at debriefing tomorrow morning."
"Here, take my keys. I'll be too pissed to drive back so I'll ride with Gaz and the others." He tossed his key ring to Ghost.
Ghost caught the keys one-handed. "Thanks."
He headed out of the pub, his feet taking him on a path that would have him passing close to Soap on his way out. It was foolish, but he couldn't resist the pull he felt to the sergeant. Even though he was tossing back shots and dancing, Soap noticed him leaving. They made eye contact and Ghost gave him a nod goodbye. He forced himself to leave, heading out into the cool, windy night to make the trip back to base alone.
* * *
It was tradition to go out and celebrate after they lost one of their members. They drank and danced and told stories of their fallen soldier. Soap needed this night - Jack's death had hit him hard. He threw his head back to sing and dance in the middle of a mad crush of bodies as he forced Jack's final moments from his mind. One of the technology team members appeared in the center of the group, holding a tray full of shot glasses. The sandy haired soldier started passing them out to everyone from their unit.
"This round is on me, lads," he said cheerfully.
"Dalton. You're pretty handy with that thing."
"I waited tables in secondary school." Dalton plucked up a shot glass brimming with amber liquid from the center of the tray. "This one's for you, Sergeant."
"Free shot! Thanks." Soap accepted the shot glass. "To Jack!" he yelled out. The toast was fiercely shouted by his squad mates, momentarily drowning out the music. Soap knocked back the liquor, shaking his head as it burned his chest on the way down to his gullet. "Woo!"
He put the empty shot glass back on the tray. Dalton grinned at him before he disappeared into the crowd. Soap went back to dancing his grief away. As he bounced to the final beats of the bass heavy rock song playing, he noticed Ghost cutting his way through the pub. Their eyes met for a brief moment before Ghost looked away and continued on to the front door.
By the time the next song started, Soap's head was spinning and he was unsteady on his feet.
Gaz cupped the back of his neck, peering at him with concern.
"You alright, mate?"
"Yeah. Barkeep must be making 'em strong tonight." Gaz's hand was cool on his skin. It felt good, grounding him for a moment. That's what he needed - to cool off. "Back in a minute."
He left his group and went to the back of the pub where the bathrooms were located. The hallway for the bathrooms was dim, lit by a single red bulb at the far end. Inside the men's room, he went over to the sink and splashed some cold water on his face. If that didn't help, he'd call it a night and have someone take him home. Maybe he could catch Ghost and ride back with him.
No. He wasn't going to ride back with Ghost. The last thing he needed was to be alone in a car with him while his tongue was loose from alcohol. He'd probably end up confessing all of his lovesick feelings that so far, hadn't abated in the slightest.
He waited a minute, hands clutching the sides of the sink. But the room continued to spin and the edges of his vision were blurry.
"Fuck. How many did I have?"
Soap scrubbed his hands up and down his face before staggering over to the bathroom door. It was time to find Gaz and Bakshi, their designated driver, and head back to base. He pulled open the door and stepped out into the dimly lit hallway. Someone was standing there, half hidden in the shadows.
"Hey there, Sergeant MacTavish. You good?"
Soap squinted, trying to make out who it was. It was Dalton, the soldier who'd brought everyone the round of shots. He'd put on a black cap, pulled down low over his face. "Think I'm done for the night. Going to find Gaz and head home."
"Actually, Gaz is waiting for you outside. He told me to bring you to him."
That was a relief. He didn't feel up to navigating his way through the packed bar in order to retrieve his friends. "Alright." He tried to take a step forward, but ended up listing to the side like he was on the deck of a storm-tossed ship. He threw his arms out in front to right himself. "Woah."
"Here, let me help you."
Dalton wrapped an arm around his back.
"I've got you, Sergeant MacTavish," Dalton said softly. He held him steady as they passed beneath the red light to go out the rear door.
Soap's feet dragged as he walked, his head drooping heavily on his neck. Something was wrong. He shouldn't be this drunk - even if the bartender had mixed heavy handed. And now that he thought about it, he'd only had a few beers and a single shot. There was nothing for the bartender to mix. He struggled to lift his head, looking around the parking lot for Gaz, Bakshi, and the truck they'd arrived in. He didn't see any of them. Dalton was leading him to a dark sedan with tinted windows.
Too tired to hold it up, he let his head hang low again. "Where's Gaz?" he slurred, tongue feeling too big and slow in his mouth.
"Gaz is still inside the pub."
Soap raised his drooping head once more to look at Dalton with bleary eyes. Something in the man's expression caused a shiver of apprehension to run down Soap's spine, the feeling as cold and unpleasant as if someone had trickled ice water down his back.
The shot. Something had been in that shot that Dalton gave him. His instincts, dulled by whatever he'd been dosed with, woke up and screamed Danger. Soap tried to shove Dalton away from him and run, but his movements were sloppy and uncoordinated. He ended up stumbling and would have fallen to the ground but Dalton caught him.
"I'm sorry I had to do it like this," Dalton whispered. "But it's for the best."
Horrified at what was happening, but unable to stop it, Soap's head spun faster and faster until finally, he blacked out.
Our stalker is revealed and he has made his move! What's going to happen to Soap? =(