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His mother sounded concerned, and Jason couldn’t blame her. He was drunk at two in the afternoon and lying all by himself on the sofa in an empty, quiet house. He managed a grumble in reply, but not much else.

His mother came over to sit beside him on the sofa, and he forced himself to sit upright and shuffle over to make room for her.

“What’s wrong?” she asked him, her lips pursing and her head tilting to one side.

“Nothing’s wrong. Just…” Jason sighed and considered not saying anything, but his mother was giving him a look, one that she knew he would give in to pretty quickly.

“Last night at the club Ollie introduced us to a guy named Vincent. A mechanic. Somehow Ollie crashed his parent’s car and found his soulmate all in the one afternoon.”

“Ah,” his mother exclaimed.

“It doesn’t seem fair.”

“So it’s Grant and Daisy all over again is it?”

“I was too young to get drunk then Mom.”

“I seem to remember differently.”

Jason frowned and took a swig of the cheap vodka he had been drinking, finding a sort of messed up pleasure in the way the liquid burned as it went down his throat.

“You know, Oliver’s only a couple of years younger than you,” Jason’s mother pointed out.

“Yeah I know, but I still don’t even know what gender my soulmate is, or what nationality they are or where the hell in the world I should even start looking.”

Jason flopped back on the sofa and stared up at the ceiling.

“At this rate Riley is going to find his soulmate before I do.”

Jason's mother pursed her lips and sighed.

“You need to be patient,” she told him. “You’ll find each other when you’re meant to.”

“But Mom, Vaas is hurting. I can feel it. I should be there. What if we don’t find one another until it’s too late?”

Jason felt his mother’s hand rest on top of his and give a comforting squeeze.

“You’ll find each other,” she told him, “and when you do you’ll love them more than you’ve ever loved anyone else, and you’ll realise it was worth the wait. You’ll see.”

 “So, what are you going to do Jason?”

God, this day was just getting shittier and shittier. Jason’s mind was almost made up, but he’d hoped he would have longer before he would have to say goodbye.

“You’re coming with us, right?” Jason’s friend Ollie asked.

Jason didn’t answer.

“Come on Jason,” Keith added. “You can’t seriously be thinking about staying here with him.”

Jason still didn’t answer, so Keith kept talking.

“Look Jason, your brother did a lot of shitty things, but I think he was right about Vaas. Maybe you can’t see it, but he’s changed you man, and I’m not sure he wouldn’t just shoot all of us if it meant keeping you here with him.”

Jason glared at his supposed friend.

“Like you have any right to criticise him.”

Jason would have continued, but a sharp look from his younger brother Riley made him keep his mouth shut. As far as Jason was concerned Keith could go fuck himself. He was already pissed off without Keith making it worse by badmouthing Vaas.

Daisy was a little kinder at least.

“Jason, please,” his older brother’s soulmate begged him. “I know Vaas is your soulmate, and I know this must be hard, but it’s dangerous for us to stay here for any longer than we already have. Once the Rakyat find out what we’ve done…”

“I know,” Jason said, interrupting her.

He looked back at the temple, thinking of the bodies that lay just up those steps. Daisy was right. This wasn’t going to be easy, no matter how he looked at it. It seemed like nothing had gone how he had planned ever since they had all landed on this island.

“Jason?” Daisy asked.

Jason glanced at the blonde woman. There were dark circles under her eyes. He didn’t know whether they were from crying, lack of sleep, or both, but she did not look well.

“What’s it going to be?”


Chapter Text

Dancing in the club. Skydiving with his friends. Liza smiling at him…

Jason blinked and tried to focus on the screen of his phone as it danced before his face. One of the men that had captured them, whoever he was, was waving it in front of Jason and making it hard for him to concentrate. His vision was blurry. He wondered if he might be a little concussed.

“… think you’re crazy huh?” the man asked him. “Jumping out of planes. Flying like birds.”

Jason tried to remember how he had gotten there. His older brother Grant was tied up on the other side of the rickety bamboo cage. The last few hours, or perhaps it was longer, were all a jumbled mess inside his own mind. He remembered skydiving with Grant, their younger brother Riley and some friends, but everything after they had landed on the island was a haze of screaming and gunfire.

“Fuck, that is crazy,” the man on the other side of the cage bars continued as he stared at the screen, where the various clips and photos that Jason had taken during their holiday were on display.

“I like this phone,” the man told Jason. “This is a nice fucking phone.”

Jason watched their captor as he pulled out the Americans’ wallets and began flicking through them.

“So what do we have here? Grant… and Jason…”

The man paused and glanced over at Jason.

Jason watched the other man carefully as he crouched down beside the cage and began grinning like a Cheshire cat. He looked Jason up and down and his grin, if possible, just grew. Jason shuddered. If this man was a cat then that predatory grin probably made him a mouse.

“Jason,” the man said, “welcome to my island.”

On the other side of the cage Grant yelled something, but his words were impossible to make out behind the fabric that was currently serving as a gag and effectively silencing the older Brody brother.

“I’m sorry, what did you say?” the man said, jumping to his feet and addressing Grant directly. “What did you say? Did you want me to slice you open like I did your friend? Shut the fuck up, okay?”

Jason shuddered again as he remembered the sight of Vincent’s blood spilling all over the ground, and the screams...  Oh god. What had they gotten themselves into? Their captor glanced over at Jason, and seemed to notice his terror.

“You see what you’ve fucking done?!” he roared at Grant. “Jason’s all fucking scared now, and it’s your fucking fault. Look me in the eye. Hey! I said look me in the eye you fucking bitch!”

Grant glared at the other man.

“I rule this fucking kingdom! So you shut the fuck up. I’m trying to talk to your fucking brother, okay?”

The man moved over and crouched beside Jason’s side of the cage once again.

“Don’t worry hermano,” the man told Jason. Hermano; that meant friend, or was it brother? Something like that anyway. Jason wasn’t sure whether that word coming from this man was a good thing or not. “If your tough guy brother there keeps being a dick then I’ll have to shoot him, but I’m hoping that you and me, we’re going to have a lot of fun together.”

The man’s eyes were wild as they stared straight at Jason. He was still smiling. Why the hell was he smiling like that?

“Vaas!” a man called out. Jason jumped at the sound. “Stop scaring the hostages. I need you to take care of the rejects.”

The man that had been taunting them glanced over his shoulder.

“Well, I’ve got to go hermano,” the man, Vaas, said as he got to his feet.

“You behave yourself,” he told Grant, “or I’ll chop your fucking dick off, understand? And Jason. Jason, Jason, Jason. I’ll be back to talk to you again real fucking soon, okay? Hopefully I won’t have to kill you. Ta ta. Bye-bye.”

Jason watched the man closely as he walked away and tried not to panic. Vaas glanced back at Jason a couple of times as he walked, smiling each time they made eye contact.

“Oh fuck…” Jason muttered as he watched the Mohawk-ed man walk off.

Jason wondered if his heart had stopped beating altogether. It felt like it had, and Jason felt like he might be sick if the feeling didn't disappear soon.

“Oh fuck!” he swore again.

The man that had been taunting them was named Vaas. That psychotic fuck was the person that Jason had been waiting for his entire life. It didn’t seem real. It couldn’t be real.

Jason took a deep breath and forced himself to be calm. He told himself that this wasn’t as shitty a situation as it appeared. The man’s name was Vaas, but that didn’t mean that he was Jason’s Vaas. It was probably a really common name where he was from.

Jason wished that his hands were free. He wanted to tear off the band that was wrapped around his left wrist and check the mark there. He didn’t know whether the other man had touched him at all, but maybe, just maybe the name would have changed from black to a lighter shade of grey, letting Jason know that he had finally found his soulmate. He hoped that it was still black though, and wondered if that made him an awful person. Probably.

On the other side of the cage Grant had succeeded in slipping the bonds around his hands, and had just pulled off the makeshift gag.

“Motherfucker,” Grant cursed under his breath.

Grant crawled over to Jason and made quick work of the ropes around his younger brother's hands. Jason felt a strong urge to reach up and check his brand, but he resisted it. That could wait, considering their circumstances.

“Are you hurt?” Grant asked him.

“I don’t think so,” he told Grant, “but Grant, I…”

Grant placed a hand on Jason’s shoulder and squeezed gently. Jason knew that his older brother was trying to reassure him, and wondered if Grant would have even tried if he knew what was really worrying Jason.

“It’s okay J,” Grant whispered. “We’re going to get out of here, and we’re going to find the others, but I need you to be strong.”

“Grant it’s not that. I… ”

Jason ran a hand through his scruffy hair, digging his fingers into his scalp and hoping that the mild pain would somehow make all of this make sense. With everything else that was happening to them the revelation that his younger brother may have finally found his soulmate was probably the last thing Grant would want to deal with, especially considering who said potential-soulmate was.

Grant had never seen the name on Jason’s wrist, which was generally how things were done, even between brothers. Until two soulmates had met, consummated their love and turned the brands on their wrists to a bright white-silver no-one except a person’s parents would know what name lay on their left wrist.

Grant had met his soulmate years ago. Daisy was beautiful, kind and a successful athlete. They had been happy together for a long time. Jason wondered if Grant would even understand the tangled mess of knots that Jason’s brain was currently working itself into.

“I have an idea Jason,” Grant said, glancing over his shoulder and then back at his younger brother. Jason got the feeling Grant wasn’t really paying much attention to what Jason was trying to tell him.

Grant shuffled over to the idea side of the cage and placed his hands up so that they were sitting in the same place they had been when they were tied up.

“Call the guard,” Grant told him.

Jason put his hands up so that his position matched Grant’s and took a deep breath.

“Hey, over here!” he yelled out.

The man stomped over to their cage, looking more than a little pissed at Jason.

“Hey, shut the fuck up!” the man yelled at them.

Before Jason really knew what was happening Grant had sprung from his place on the floor and wrapped his arms around the guard’s shoulders. He pulled the man forward, knocking his head against the bars of the cage. After a few hits the man fell, either unconscious or dead.

Jason swore beneath his breath.

“And that is what they teach you in the army,” Grant commented.

He pushed the door open. It caught a little on the body on the floor, before opening enough to let Grant out.

“Come on,” he said, waving Jason over. “We’re getting out of here.”

“I can’t,” Jason hissed at him.

 “Of course you can,” Grant said, placing a hand on his younger brother’s shoulder again. “Come on Jason. The door’s open. This will be our only chance.”

“No. You don’t understand,” Jason murmured. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. I can’t… I can’t leave. I have to stay here, at least for now.”

“What the fuck? Hey, don’t go crazy on me J.”

“Just go. Get out of here and find Riley and the others. I’ll be fine.”

Grant was staring at him and had begun to bite down on his bottom lip like Jason knew he always did when he was nervous or confused. For a moment Grant looked as though he was about to start arguing with Jason again, but then he let out a loud curse and turned towards the door once again.

“Go on,” Jason urged him.

“All right,” Grant muttered. “I don’t know why the hell you want to stay but I promise I’m going to come back for you J, and when I do you better have a damn good explanation for this.”

“I will. Just hurry up and leave before they catch you.”

Grant nodded at Jason and then scurried away into the night.

Jason leaned back against the bamboo bars of the cage and tried to relax, as if that was at all possible. It would only be a matter of time before the rest of the camp discovered the body beside their cage, or the fact that Grant was missing. Jason listened carefully, hoping that he wouldn’t hear the alarm go off too soon.

Please, he prayed to nothing in particular. Please let him get out alive.

Jason knew that he couldn’t leave until he had determined whether or not the pirate was his soulmate, but he hoped that Grant and the others could get as far away from this miserable place as possible.

Jason listened to the sounds of the night, hearing crickets and birds and other animals that he couldn’t name in the distance. He began to wonder what was going to happen to him. How long would it be before he saw Vaas again? What would happen to him if Vaas wasn’t his soulmate after all? He was probably fucked if that was the case. What a stupid reason for dying that would be.

Now that Grant wasn’t there Jason was tempted to check his soul mark. If his brand had turned grey then it wouldn’t make him any less anxious, but at least he would know where to direct that anxiety.

He was just about to peel the leather band off when he heard a series of shouts coming from the other side of the camp. It was followed by a bout of gunfire, a couple of screams, and then everything turned to chaos.

Jason realised that Grant had been spotted. As long as there was gunfire and shouting then there was hope though. That meant that they hadn’t gotten Grant yet, right? That’s what he told himself anyway, but it wasn’t a very comforting thought.

Please let him escape, he thought again.

The sound of hurried footsteps broke Jason out of his reverie, and he glanced up to find that Vaas was running towards the cage. For just a moment he caught the look of panic on Vaas’s face, but it disappeared as soon as he caught sight of Jason and was quickly replaced with a grin just as wide as the ones he had directed at the American before.

“Jason!” Vaas exclaimed, spreading his arms wide in greeting. “You’re still here!”

He sounded a little out of breath. Had he run across the camp to check on the cage? To check on Jason? Fuck… That probably meant… Oh fuck…

“You’re not tied up,” Vaas pointed out, “and the cage is open. Why are you still here Jason?”

Jason shrugged but didn’t reply. Now that he knew their possible connection he found himself looking at the other man differently. Jason supposed Vaas wasn’t exactly unattractive. Strange perhaps. Insane, probably. The piercings and Mohawk would take a bit of getting used to. As Vaas entered the cage and crouched in front of him Jason tried not to be terrified of the other man and failed. No matter how attractive Vaas was he was still intimidating, and he reeked of marijuana and something darker that Jason couldn’t quite identify.

“Your fuckwit brother escapes but you don’t go with him?” Vaas continued. “It just doesn’t seem right to me hermano. Why didn’t you go running off into the jungle with him huh?”

What was Jason supposed to say? That he had to make sure Vaas wasn’t his soulmate before he left? No way was he going to tell this psychopath that. At least, not until he had a better grasp on the man. Vaas had a bandage tied around his left wrist, but it might not mean his brand was still black. It could very well be the white of someone who had already found his soulmate or his wrist could be scarred, meaning his soulmate was already dead. Or, and Jason was still hoping this was the case; the name there might still be black but belong to someone else entirely.

“Well, I am glad to see that you are still here, but even my stupid fucking friends are going to ask why you didn’t try to escape,” Vaas continued. He reached for Jason’s arm. Jason pulled back and away from the other man’s touch, which caused the pirate leader to glare at him.

“Don’t fucking fight me Jason,” Vaas said. He paused and took a deep breath, the frown disappearing from his face as quickly as it had appeared. “I’m trying to fucking help you here. Now stop being such an annoying bitch and let me tie your hands back up, okay?”

Vaas began to tie Jason’s hands behind his back and Jason began to wonder if maybe he wasn’t making a really stupid decision by going along with whatever the other man was planning.

“We’ve got to stop people from asking why you didn’t run off with your fucking brother, so we’re going to pretend that I caught you. You understand me hermano?”

Jason nodded.

“You don’t talk much, do you Jason?”

“What am I supposed to say?”

“Well, you could tell me why you didn’t fucking run,” Vaas said with a grin. His hand brushed against Jason’s hands as he finished tying them up, and Jason felt a shiver run down his spine at the touch.

“I think you want to stay here with me, isn’t that right Jason?”

Vaas was right in front of him, all dark-ringed eyes and wide toothy grin. The smell of marijuana filled Jason’s nostrils again, and Jason wondered if he was getting contact high. The way Vaas was currently looking at him had Jason expecting another caress, but Vaas's next touch was not nearly as gentle as the last had been.

Vaas hauled him to his feet and dragged him out of the confines of the cage.

“Come on Jason,” he muttered. He half-shoved and half-guided Jason through a series of small rooms. The other pirates watched them as they passed, and Vaas started to yell at Jason.

“You thought you could fucking escape from me? Huh you motherfucker? You’re my fucking bitch. I own you! You don’t fucking escape!”

Vaas pushed Jason forward. Jason was not ready for it. He stumbled and then tripped, falling flat on the ground in front of the other pirates. A couple of them laughed.

Jason looked up just in time to see the man that had commanded Vaas earlier slowly walking towards Jason. He wasn’t like the others. He wore a suit, and his black leather shoes looked like they cost more than most of his employees saw in a year.

He leaned down in front of Jason and smiled at him. Jason stayed where he was and took the opportunity to glare at the other man.

“Him and his fucking brother were trying to run off,” Vaas said from somewhere above Jason. “I got him back though.”

“And the other?” the man in the suit asked. He had a thick South African accent, and didn’t sound too worried that Grant may have gotten away.

“I dunno boss,” Vaas answered. “Why don’t you ask the pricks that were supposed to be chasing after him?”

Vaas gestured towards a couple of other pirates that were scrambling back from the direction that Grant had disappeared in. The two of them were dragging an injured comrade between them. There was no sign of Grant.

The man in the suit sighed, drew a pistol from his belt and pointed it straight at the newcomers. A shot went off and the wounded man let out a brief scream before falling silent. The two other pirates glanced at each other, dropped their now dead companion and began scrambling away from the man in the suit as fast as they could.

“Fucking cowards,” the man in the suit exclaimed. He rubbed at his forehead, as though weary, before turning his attention to Vaas and Jason once again.

“I want you to find him, you hear me?” he told Vaas. “You find him and you drag him back here. Or kill him. I don’t care which it is. That one’s probably more trouble than he’s worth anyway.”

“His brother might know where he’s gone,” Vaas suggested. “Maybe I can persuade him to tell me.”

“Good idea,” the man in the suit said as Vaas hoisted Jason to his feet. “Vaas, get the information from that one. The rest of you, fan out and keep searching. I don’t want any of you returning unless it is with our hostage.”

Vaas pushed Jason towards a small building nearby. It was little more than a shack, but it would shield them from the view of the men outside. Jason began to panic. What if Vaas wasn’t his mate after all? What if he really was going to torture Jason? Or what if he was Jason’s soulmate but was going to torture him anyway? God, this was all so fucked up. He had really made a mistake by choosing to stay with Vaas. He just wanted to get out of here and go home, soulmate or no.

Vaas opened the door to the shack and Jason stumbled through.

“Vaas,” the man in the suit called out before Vaas could close the door behind them.

“Yeah, what is it boss?” Vaas asked, pausing in the doorway.

“We wouldn’t have gotten much for his brother, but that boy is worth a lot of money,” the other man told Vaas. “I don’t want you messing him up and lowering the price. Try not to leave any marks.”

Vaas smiled and sent a mock salute in the direction of the other man.

“You got it boss,” he said, smiling widely.

He then shoved Jason forward, into the relative darkness of the shack, before following him, the smile still on his face.

He closed the door behind them, then pulled a knife from his belt and quickly cut through the ropes around Jason’s wrists.

“Okay, let’s do this properly now that we’ve got some fucking privacy,” Vaas told him as he placed the knife back in its sheath.

Jason rubbed at his wrists. They had only been tied up for a little while this time, but the rope had still hurt.

Vaas stood in front of Jason and placed his hand out as though he thought they should shake hands.

“Hello Jason,” the other man smiled warmly at him. “My name is Vaas.”

“I know,” Jason replied. He eyed Vaas’s outstretched hand, and chose not to shake it.

Vaas’s eyes lit up at Jason’s words, despite the fact that he had rejected Vaas's handshake.

“You already know that huh?” Vaas muttered, letting his outstretched hand drop back to his side. “Of course you fucking do.”

“Your boss called for you by name,” Jason explained. He had a feeling he knew what Vaas wanted to talk to him about, and if the nervous sweat that had begun to form on his brow was any indication then he really wasn’t ready for it.

Vaas just smiled and nodded.

“And you fucking took notice and remembered it,” Vaas noted. “You’re pretty switched on, huh Jason? I like that. I really fucking like that.”

Vaas stepped closer, and Jason found his eyes immediately drawn to the man as he walked. Vaas moved like a shark, or a snake. Jason couldn’t work out which it was, but it was mesmerizing. He realised he was staring, and looked away.

“You should probably make some sort of fucking noise,” Vaas reminded him. “You’re being tortured, remember?”

“Fuck you,” Jason yelled at the other man. He meant it too, or at least part of him did. How the hell was he supposed to concentrate on keeping up their act? His head was messed up enough as it was.

“I guess that works,” Vaas said with a shrug.

The muscles on Vaas’s arms and shoulders rippled subtly with the movement. Jason realised he was staring again and cursed himself.

“Have you looked at it yet?” Vaas asked, seemingly out of nowhere.

“Looked at what?” Jason replied, watching Vaas carefully out of the corner of his eye. He was pretty sure he knew what Vaas was talking about though, and his left hand clenched instinctively.

Vaas shook his head and then came to a stop directly in front of Jason. He leaned down so that his face was only inches away from Jason’s.

“Don’t fuck with me Jason,” he hissed. “I know you’re not a fucking dimwit, so don’t act like one.”

He then grabbed Jason’s left forearm in his hand and squeezed it tightly enough that it began to hurt.

“You keep fucking looking at me, hermano. You remember my name after Hoyt mentions it one teeny tiny little time and I’m supposed to believe you have no fucking clue what I’m talking about? Have you looked at your fucking brand yet Jason?”

Vaas began to smile then, and Jason realised that his surprise must have shown on his face. The only reason Vaas would have expected Jason to do that was if… well…

The only reason that Vaas would expect Jason to look at his brand was if Jason’s name was on Vaas’s wrist as well. What were the odds that there was another Vaas out there somewhere with the name Jason on their wrist? Probably not good.

This was it. This was how he was going to discover his soulmate. None of this was how Jason had imagined it. It was supposed to be more romantic than this, or less messed up at the very least.

“Come on hermano,” Vaas said, letting go of Jason’s arm. “Let’s look. Let’s fucking get it over with.”

Jason ran a hand nervously over the leather band on his left wrist and glanced at Vaas. The other man seemed anxious to tear his off.

“We pull them off at the same fucking time, yeah?” Vaas suggested. “When I say three we both look.”

Jason nodded in agreement and grabbed the end of the leather band on his wrist, ready to rip it off as soon as Vaas’s count was over.

“All right. One…” Vaas began. “Two… Two and a half…”

Jason rolled his eyes. Considering everything that had happened over the past few hours, he wasn’t really in the mood to be joking around.

“Three,” Vaas finally finished.

Jason closed his eyes and tore off the leather band without looking.

“Huh,” Vaas remarked from his place across the shack.

Jason opened his eyes slowly and looked at his brand. It had turned grey. He stared at it for a moment and flexed his hand, unable to really believe what he was seeing.

Jason looked over at the other man and watched as Vaas ran his right hand slowly over his brand with an intensity and fascination that was almost disturbing. Jason could just make out his own name, as clear and grey on Vaas’s wrist as Vaas’s name was on his.

Jason looked back at his brand. He swallowed, trying to choke back the mixture of panic and excitement that was welling in his chest. Over the years he had imagined so many different potential partners and meetings, but he had never imagined this, or Vaas as he really was.

He was just about to ask Vaas what they were going to do next when he found himself enveloped in Vaas’s surprisingly strong arms. They wrapped around Jason as tightly as they possibly could, crushing their bodies together. Vaas dug his face into Jason’s shoulder and inhaled deeply.

“Where the fuck have you been!?” the man said, his voice breaking. He probably wasn’t speaking that loudly, but with his mouth as close to Jason’s ear as it was he might as well have been yelling.

“Huh?” Vaas continued. “What the fuck took you so long?”

Jason felt himself flush. His body felt too warm. It was all too much. Too much of Vaas pressed against him, too much emotion coming from a man that had seemed like nothing but a heartless psycho when he had first spoken to Jason and Grant.

“It’s fucking rude making me wait this long. I went through three other Jasons before I got to you,” Vaas continued. “You’re fucking cruel, you know that?”

Jason’s hands hovered over Vaas for a moment. He had no idea what he was supposed to do with them. After a few moments of hesitation he placed one on Vaas’s back. The other moved up to his head, and his fingers ran gently over the scar there before threading through the surprisingly soft hair of Vaas’s Mohawk.

Jason could feel the warmth of the other man’s breath against his shoulder, and the uneven rise and fall of his chest. Vaas’s hands twisted in the fabric of Jason’s shirt as he clung to the other man and pulled Jason closer.

“Damn it Jason,” Vaas muttered. “Why did you make me wait so long?”

Jason ran his hands down Vaas’s arms, hoping that his touch could give the other man some comfort. It wasn’t an entirely selfless gesture. He couldn’t be sure that an upset Vaas wasn’t a dangerous Vaas.

His hands continued to move down the length of the other man’s arms until they came to a stop on his wrists. Jason ran his thumb over his soulmate’s brand, surprised at the rough texture he found there. He entwined his fingers with Vaas’s and brought the other man’s hand up so that he could inspect the brand closer.

Sure enough it was scarred, a rough jagged line breaking through the letters of Jason’s name. Jason wondered what had caused it. For a second he wondered if Vaas had attempted suicide, but the mark was too thick and rough.

He was just about to ask Vaas what had happened when out of nowhere he felt Vaas’s other fist connect with the side of his face.

Jason stumbled back, clutching at his face and cursing.

“What the hell?” he screamed. “That hurt!”

“That’s for making me wait this long you fucking piece of shit!”

“Well I’m sorry I didn’t know that you were fucking halfway to Australia!”

“Hermano, you’re being too loud. Hoyt will hear us, yeah?”

“What the fuck? You’re being just as loud as I am,” Jason hissed.

“Yeah, but I’m not the one that’s meant to be in pain hermano,” Vaas said.

Jason was just about to start yelling again when Vaas moved closer and placed one of his hands on Jason’s hip, immediately startling him into silence. Vaas’s thumb snuck beneath the fabric of Jason’s shirt and began caressing a small patch of skin. The touch sent shivers down Jason’s spine, and he had to fight with himself to stay angry at the other man.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Jason hissed.

“Relax Jason,” Vaas said, leaning close to his ear again. “Hoyt wants to hear you moan and scream. I’m gonna make sure you do, but in a nice way. I promise I’m not going to hurt you again. This time I’m gonna make you feel real good instead.”

Jason could feel the other man’s warm breath on his ear and then the soft warmth of Vaas’s lips as they pressed down on Jason’s neck and lingered there. Jason arched his neck, unsure whether he was trying to move away from the kiss or further into it.

He felt Vaas smile and the gentle grazing of the other man’s teeth on his skin. Vaas bit down then, wringing a loud cry of mixed pleasure and pain from Jason’s throat.

“You like that hermano?” Vaas said. One of his hands slipped down and snaked beneath Jason’s shirt, running over the faint curves and dips of his stomach and then sliding lower, beneath the waistline of his pants.

“You gonna moan for me Jason?” Vaas muttered in his ear. “I’m gonna make you feel so fucking good.”

Vaas’s hand wrapped around Jason’s penis and began stroking it gently.

Jason let out a whimper as he realised what Vaas intended.

“Oh, you have got to be fucking kidding me,” Jason muttered.

“What? You got a better plan?” Vaas asked, even as he bit into Jason’s shoulder again.

“You don’t have to…” Jason gasped as Vaas bit into his shoulder again. “I could… I could just pretend that I’m being tortured. You don’t… urgh… you don’t have to do this…”

“I don’t have to,” Vaas agreed, “but I want to.”

He gave Jason’s erection another long slow stroke.

“I really fucking want to,” he muttered right into Jason’s ear, before biting down on Jason’s earlobe just hard enough that Jason didn’t know whether the pain or pleasure was greater.

Jason let out a loud cry.

“That’s good hermano,” Vaas told him. “That’s real fucking good. Hoyt’s gonna think I’m doing all sorts of fucked up shit to you. Now, you and me, we gotta work out what the fuck we’re going to do about those marks on our wrists, yeah?”

Jason wondered how the fuck he was supposed to work out anything with Vaas touching him as he was. It was hard to think at all.

“What?” Jason mumbled. “I don’t know…”

“You’re gonna stay here with me now, right?”

“I guess,” Jason conceded, although he had a feeling that he would have agreed to anything at that moment if it meant that Vaas would continue to touch him.

“If I keep you untied then you won’t escape, right?

“I… I don’t know…” Jason admitted. “Probably not, but won’t your men attack me?”

“Don’t worry Jason,” Vaas whispered in his ear. He ran a hand through Jason’s hair, gently bringing Jason’s head back so that it rested on Vaas’s shoulder. “I’ll protect you. I’m gonna keep you locked up away from the others. I’m gonna make sure nothing happens to you. Not to you. Not to my Jason.”

Locked up? That didn’t sound particularly good, but whatever Vaas was thinking had to better than the bamboo cage, right?

“Fuck you,” Jason muttered through clenched teeth. He still had enough of his dignity left that he wasn’t just going to agree to being locked up like Vaas’s pet without at least some sort of resistance.

Vaas just chuckled at Jason and began kneading his tender flesh with a little more force.

“Don’t rush it so much Jason,” Vaas whispered. “We’ll get to the fucking soon enough hermano.”

“What the hell are you trying to do to me?” Jason muttered. His legs were close to giving out beneath him, but even if they had Vaas’s arms ensured that he would be kept in place and at the mercy of Vaas’s hands.

“I told you Jason,” Vaas muttered, nibbling on one of Jason’s ears. “I’m gonna make you scream.”

Vaas gave Jason’s erection a particularly firm stroke, and bit down on Jason’s ear at the same time. Jason screamed and tried to push forward into Vaas’s hands and back into the rest of his body at the same time.

Vaas chuckled, the proximity of their bodies meaning that Jason felt it even more than he heard it, and then pulled back, leaving Jason suddenly feeling cold and wrong after the warmth and intensity of Vaas’s body and touch.

“Okay,” Vaas said with a grin. “Now we gotta go out there and pretend as though we don’t mean shit to one another. Hoyt finds out you’re my soulmate and he’ll want to use that against us.”

“Wait a second,” Jason muttered as Vaas began to tie the bandage that served as his wristband back on. “You want us to go back out there right now?”

“Yes Jason. I do.”

“You asshole,” Jason hissed. “I can’t go out there like this…”

He glanced down at his crotch, where his enjoyment of Vaas’s attentions was evident for all to see.

Vaas grinned and looked far too pleased with himself.

“You better stop thinking of my hand on your dick then, huh Jason?”

Jason bit down on his bottom lip to stop himself from whimpering again. Vaas’s words were definitely not helping.

Come on Jason, he told himself. Calm yourself down. Soulmate or no it was completely ridiculous for him to be so turned on because of a freak like Vaas. After all, Vaas still had his friends and his little brother Riley captive.

That was a sobering thought, and definitely brought him back down from the lust that had briefly overtaken him. Grant might have made it out okay, but Riley and all of the others were probably still caged up, and Jason knew he still wasn’t much better than a captive either.

God, what was he doing letting some guy feel him up while his friends were suffering? Jason ran a hand over the now grey name on his wrist one last time, before replacing the leather band that usually covered it, feeling sick to his stomach as he did so.

“Come on hermano,” Vaas asked, clamping a hand on Jason’s shoulder. “I have to tie your hands back up or Hoyt’s gonna ask too many questions.”

Jason didn’t fight at all as Vaas set to work replacing the ropes that bound his hands together.

“Okay, now we gotta walk out there and act like I just fucking beat you up, okay?”

Vaas pressed a hand gently to the side of Jason’s face. Jason was tempted to lean into the touch, but he resisted, forcing himself to concentrate instead on the severity of the situation. Riley and the others needed him to be something stronger than a lust-driven moron.

Vaas frowned and patted the side of Jason’s face.

“That’s good hermano,” he said as he pulled away from the other man. “We don’t wanna let them know how fucking turned on we are right now, do we?”

Vaas grabbed one of Jason’s forearms and pulled him towards the door. Jason followed meekly, his head hung low, trying to look as broken as possible. With his mind as busy and as messed up as it was it was a surprisingly easy role to play.

Vaas pushed the door open and glanced around. A few of the other pirates looked over at him, but there was absolutely no sight of the man in the suit.

“Hoyt left?” Vaas asked one of the nearest pirates.

The man nodded, and glanced at Jason.

“Huh,” Vaas remarked. “You get the other brother?”

The pirate looked nervous as he shook his head.

Vaas shrugged, much to the relief of the other man, and ducked back inside the shack, closing the door behind him. Vaas glanced around the room and then back at Jason.

“Guess what Jason!” he said, sounding delighted and excited enough that Jason became a little worried. “You don’t have to worry about hiding your hard on from everyone, because you get to stay here.”

“What?” Jason yelled. He looked around the room. It was an improvement over the cage, but not by much. There was only the one door, and all of the windows had been boarded up. There wasn’t much in the way of furniture either; just a couple of bamboo shelves that looked as though they had seen better days, and a simple wooden table.

“Welcome to your new home,” Vaas said, gesturing to the almost empty hut.

Vaas looked as though he was about to leave, but Jason called out before he could.

“Wait!” he yelled. “Hoyt's not there so we don't have to fake it, right? Can’t you untie my hands?”

Vaas chuckled.

“I don’t think so hermano,” he said. “You see, I don’t fucking trust you yet. Our marks may bind us to each other, but I only just met you. For all I know you’ll try to fucking escape just like your brother, or you’ll try and help your stupid friends escape. I can’t have that Jason. Maybe I’ll untie your hands in a few days when I know you’re not going to try anything, but for now those ropes are gonna stay where they are.”

“Fuck you,” Jason growled.

Vaas just smiled at him as he closed the door. Jason heard the loud snap of a lock clicking into place and cursed under his breath. It looked like he was stuck with Vaas, at least for a while.

Chapter Text

Jason stomped along behind Vaas, his eyes burning into the other man’s back. Soulmate or no he wasn’t happy with his current situation, and he had every intention of making sure Vaas knew that. The rope dug into his hands, and it was surprisingly difficult to navigate the rocky, uneven ground with both of them tied in front of him.

He hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before either. It was hard to get comfortable when there was nothing to sleep on but the ground, and between meeting Vaas and worrying about Grant, Riley and his friends his mind had refused to calm down and just let him sleep.

He would have killed someone for a coffee, but wasn’t expecting one to appear any time soon. He continued to glare at Vaas’s back, a small part of him hoping that maybe if he glared hard enough Vaas would be able to feel it.

“Where are you taking me?” Jason demanded.

“No, no, no, white boy,” Vaas replied, and Jason could hear the smile on his face. “You don’t get to ask questions. I’m the fucking boss. You do whatever the fuck I tell you, or you’ll regret ever coming to this island. You understand, hermano?”

They were still within hearing distance of the camp, and Vaas had brought two of his men with them. Jason hoped that it was these two facts alone that were making Vaas treat him so coldly. He’d heard enough tales of people being taken for granted or outright abused by their soulmate to know that it happened, but it wasn’t so common that he’d have to worry about it with Vaas, right? Or at least he didn’t think it was common.

In front of him Vaas continued to rant, even though Jason had yet to say anything against him. One of the other pirates, a tall, Hispanic man that had started to stare at Jason more than the American was comfortable with, lifted his rifle and slammed it into the centre of Jason’s back.

Vaas ceased his rant and immediately whirled around to face the other pirate, the playfulness with which he had been addressing Jason now completely gone.

“Hey you fuck!” Vaas yelled. “Did I say you could touch Jason, huh?”

The pirate had been about to hit Jason again, but Vaas’s words had caused him to freeze with his rifle lifted just above the American’s shoulders.

“Carlos!” Vaas snapped at the other pirate, the one that had yet to abuse Jason, or acknowledge his presence  in any sort of manner at all.

Jason would have said that the other pirate jumped to attention at the sound of Vaas barking his name, but in reality Carlos’s reaction was barely more than a shrug.

“Yeah boss?” he asked.

“Punch Angelo in his big ugly face for me, would you?”

Carlos, to Jason’s surprise, did exactly what Vaas had asked him to. His fist connected with Angelo’s face with a sickening crunch. It sounded like he had used a lot of force, perhaps more than was really warranted.

Angelo let out a loud shout and clutched at his face. Vaas walked over to his underling and grabbed him by his short hair, pulling his bloodied face up so that he was forced to look at Vaas.

“No-one gets to touch Jason unless I say so,” Vaas muttered at the other man, before yelling his next sentence. “That definitely includes you Angelo! You hear me fuckface?”

Angelo nodded slowly, blood streaming from his nose as he did. Vaas let Angelo fall to the ground, as though he was no more than garbage to be discarded now that Vaas had finished disciplining him.

“God Angelo, clean yourself up,” Vaas said. “You’re fucking bleeding all over the place.”

Jason might have felt sorry for the other man if Angelo hadn’t hit him first. As it was when Angelo’s already swelling face turned to glare at Jason once more the American just smiled at him. At least Jason knew Vaas wasn’t going to let any of the other pirates mess around with him.

Vaas barely gave Angelo enough time to stumble back to his feet before he was gesturing for Jason and the two pirates to follow him.

“Hurry the fuck up,” Vaas grumbled. “Why the fuck do I put up with you shitheads, huh?”

After they had walked a little further away from the encampment Vaas pulled Jason close and began tearing off the bindings around his hands.

“What are you doing?” Jason asked, all too aware that Carlos and Angelo were still there, and were currently staring at Jason and Vaas, Carlos with confusion and Angelo with undisguised suspicion and disapproval.

“You want me to keep your hands tied up?” Vaas asked, grinning mischievously as though he was hoping for Jason to say yes.

Jason shook his head, and Vaas looked disappointed.

“Shut the fuck up then,” Vaas told him.

Jason flexed his hands, and then carefully adjusted the band around his left wrist, which had slipped a little thanks to the rope. He didn’t want any of Vaas’s men to know about their connection just yet.

Vaas threw an arm around Jason’s shoulders and drew him close.

“You ever go hunting Jason?” the pirate leader asked.


“Well, you’re gonna need to learn hermano, and I’m gonna teach you. Around here we can hunt boars but once you’ve done that then we can move on to cassowaries, crocodiles, tigers…”


“Yeah. Tigers. They’ll eat your fucking face if you don’t shoot them first. You do kill them, you can sell their furs and guts and stuff. If you can catch one alive then you can get a fucking fortune for it, but for now if one attacks you then you fucking shoot it. Don’t want it messing you up.”

Jason nodded slowly and hoped that Vaas was just exaggerating. Hopefully the odds of him coming face to face with a tiger any time soon were almost non-existent. There couldn’t be that many of them on the island, right?

 “Here you go then Jason,” Vaas said, drawing his pistol and placing it in Jason’s hand.

“You’re giving me a gun?”

“Of course I’m giving you a fucking gun. How the fuck else are you going to shoot something?”

Jason felt the weight of the gun in his hands and tried not to be nervous. He’d held a gun a few times before, and had even been to the range a couple of times with his older brother, but this was the first time he’d ever held one with the intention of killing something, even if it was just a stupid wild boar.

“You can’t…” Angelo began to object.

“I can’t what?!” Vaas yelled at the other pirate. “You don’t want me to give Jason a gun? That’s my fucking gun, and Jason is my amigo. You are not my fucking amigo Angelo.”

Vaas snatched the gun back from Jason and pointed it straight at Angelo’s forehead. Jason heard something click into place, and he started to wonder whether he was going to watch his soulmate shoot one of his own men.

“You gonna make me pull this trigger huh?” Vaas asked, pressing the barrel of the gun right up against the other man’s forehead.

Angelo’s eyes narrowed as he stared at Vaas. Vaas stared back, and after a moment Angelo shook his head slowly.

“No?” Vaas asked.  “Well shut the fuck up then you piece of shit. I’m trying to teach Jason how to kill things and you’ve done nothing but piss me off all day. How about we let Jason kill you? Would you like that you stupid motherfucker?”

Angelo shook his head again. Vaas frowned, almost as though he had actually wanted an excuse to shoot Angelo, and finally lowered the weapon. He threw the pistol at Jason, who caught it, hoping as he did that Vaas had thought to put the safety back on.

“Ignore him Jason,” Vaas told him. “Angelo doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about. We need to concentrate on your training. You know how to use that?”

“Sort of,” Jason muttered. “I’ve never actually shot at anything outside of a range though.”

Vaas moved so that he was standing behind Jason. He prompted Jason to lift his arms as though he was shooting at something.

“No, no, no, hermano,” Vaas said, shifting the position of Jason’s hands on the gun ever so slightly. “This isn’t some fucking shitty toy like you’ve got in the States. The recoil’s gonna fuck up your hands if you grip it like that. Okay. There we go. Now, if we’re going to hunt something you and me are gonna have to be stealthy; a pair of fucking ninjas.”

Vaas whirled around and addressed Carlos and Angelo again.

“Either of you two fuckfaces makes a sound then I’m gonna tell Jason to shoot you, okay? You stay here and stay real fucking quiet. No noises.”

Carlos shrugged. Angelo looked less than happy, but said nothing. Ninjas be damned. Jason was pretty sure that Vaas had been shouting loudly enough that any animals in the nearby jungle would have already fled.

Vaas gestured towards a nearby patch of thick trees and underbrush, indicating that Jason should lead.

Jason advanced further into the jungle with Vaas close behind him. He moved as quietly as he could, which must have been enough to satisfy Vaas, because he didn’t hear any complaints or instructions from the pirate leader until Vaas clamped a hand on his shoulder, stopping Jason in his tracks.

“You smell that?” he asked, sniffing at the air. “Smells like boars to me. You ready to get us dinner Jason?”

Jason nodded. Together they left the safety of the foliage they had been travelling through. After scanning the area for a moment Vaas pointed out a hunched brown shape hidden in the deep underbrush downhill from them.

“There we go hermano,” Vaas whispered into Jason’s ear. “Your first kill is going to be an easy one. Go on. Take the fucking shot.”

Jason personally thought that they were probably too far away for him to make the shot, but he raised his gun anyway. He checked to make sure his fingers were in the same place that Vaas had indicated earlier and took aim at what parts of the creature he could see behind the brush.

He fired, hoping that he would hit the creature’s head or heart so that the death was a quick one.

A loud cry echoed through the forest and Jason shuddered.

“What the fuck?” he cried out. “That was a human scream…”

“Of course it fucking was,” Vaas muttered, snatching the gun from Jason’s hand. He started walking over towards the figure Jason had just shot. Jason followed, not sure he wanted to see the man he had just shot, but not knowing what else to do.

“What the fuck?” he repeated. “Did I just shoot someone?”

As they drew close Jason realised there had been a boar after all, but it was dead and it’s stomach had been cut open. The man must have been skinning or gutting the creature when they had arrived. He was dressed in a ragged old khaki singlet and brown pants which had caused him to blend in with the surrounding plant life, appearing as no more than a shadowy silhouette behind the dead creature.

It seemed impossible to Jason that he could have mistaken the man for a boar, even though the evidence was right in front of him. It was just ridiculous. Jason couldn’t have shot him. He’d never shot anyone in his life.

The man wasn’t dead. Not yet at least. The bullet had struck him in the chest, and judging by the blood that was dribbling from his mouth it had pierced a lung. He tried to say something to Jason and Vaas, but all that came out was a gurgling sound and a spray of blood.

Vaas pointed the gun straight at the man’s head and fired off two shots in quick succession. The man collapsed, blood streaming from his chest and head. Jason watched, horrified, as Vaas picked up the boar, swung it over his shoulders and started heading back the way they had come.

“Oh fuck. Oh fuck. Oh fuck…”

Jason’s hands were shaking, and he realised he was muttering the same two words over and over again as though they were some sort of screwed up mantra.

“Come on Jason,” Vaas called out to him. “We set out to teach you how to shoot and to get dinner and we have done both of those things. Today was a motherfucking success hermano.”

Jason shook himself out of the shock that had gripped him and ran after Vaas.

“Did you know?” he asked Vaas as he caught up to him. “You knew, didn’t you? You knew he was there.”

“I did,” Vaas said, seemingly unaffected by Jason’s distress.

“You said we were going to hunt boar.”

“That was the plan,” Vaas said, “but then the plan changed when that stupid fucker appeared. I have to teach you how to hunt and kill. What the fuck difference does it make whether it’s a boar or a human? For what it’s worth Jason I’m pretty fucking proud of you. That was a good shot.”

Jason tried to focus on putting one foot in front of the other. He tried not to think of the man that had just died, and tried not to look at the bloodied boar that was currently wrapped around Vaas’s shoulders like the world’s most horrific and impractical scarf.

He could try and run away. He’d probably never get a better chance. After all, Vaas wouldn’t shoot at him, would he? Maybe at his legs to try and stop him, but definitely not anywhere that would really hurt Jason, right? And Vaas had the boar to deal with. That would give Jason a few seconds head start. How far could he make it before Vaas caught up? If, and this was a big if, he did manage to escape, where would he go? Further into the jungle when he had nothing with which to defend himself against tigers and pirates and who the hell knew what else?

It seemed pointless to even think about it. Besides, dangerous or no, Vaas was his soulmate. That meant Jason had to stick with him, didn’t it? Fuck, it probably did.

Vaas glanced back at him. Jason realised he had begun to fall behind.

“You coming?” Vaas asked.

Jason ran to catch up. Vaas was still watching him closely.

“Look at you Jason,” Vaas muttered. “You shoot one guy and you’re all messed up. What a fucking pussy. It’s like you’ve never killed anyone before.”

“I hadn’t,” Jason muttered.

“Huh,” Vaas said as they continued walking side by side. “Well then Jason, I am proud to have been there for your first.”

“Who was he?” Jason asked, hoping that Vaas would tell him the dead man had been a criminal or at least an enemy of some description. If he had deserved death then maybe Jason could stop feeling so guilty.

“I don’t know,” Vaas admitted. “Probably one of the natives. Stupid motherfuckers are always coming into my territory and fucking things up. Don’t worry about it Jason. It’s not like you fucking knew the guy.”

Vaas was right. The man had not been Jason’s friend. In fact, as far as Jason knew all of his friends were still being held captive by Vaas and his boss, Hoyt.

“Jason,” Vaas muttered softly, leaning over and ruffling his hair. “Don’t look so fucking sad hermano. It’s making me feel like shit.”

“Where are my friends right now?” Jason asked him. “What are you going to do with them?”

“One second you’re all worried because you shot some stupid fucking prick of a stranger, and the next it’s ‘Vaas, I miss my friends’. You don’t make any fucking sense Jason.”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“And if I did, what would you do, huh? You gonna go charging into the other camps to try and save them all by yourself? Not likely hermano. You couldn’t even kill a fucking stranger without getting all messed up. How the fuck are you gonna get through dozens of guys with guns?”

Jason knew that Vaas was right. He couldn’t save Riley and Liza and the others; not with his current skills at any rate. The truth was though that he hadn’t even been thinking about helping them escape, just seeing them and making sure that they were all okay.

“I just need to know that they’re safe,” Jason muttered. “Can you tell me that at least?”

“Yeah, they’re fucking fine,” Vaas told him, “and they’ll continue to be fine as long as their parents give us the fucking money. You don’t need to see them.”

He paused, pulled an old, crumpled cigarette from his pocket and lit it up. Jason caught a whiff of something much stronger than tobacco as it burned.

“You want some?” Vaas asked, holding the cigarette out for Jason to take if he wanted.

“No, that’s fine,” Jason told him. “I just want…”

He wanted to get out of there. He wanted to see his younger brother Riley and his friends. He wanted to be as far away from this island and from Vaas as possible.

“I’m just tired,” Jason settled on saying.

“Yeah, you probably didn’t sleep well huh?” Vaas said. He took one last draw of the cigarette before stomping the butt out on the ground. “You’re used to your nice fluffy pillows and all of that bullshit. When we get back to camp I’ll round you up something a little more comfortable for your room.”

His room. Right. His cell was more like it. He didn’t say as much to Vaas though, and tried to appear at least a little grateful.

“Thanks,” Jason muttered.

Vaas leaned over and ruffled Jason’s hair.

“You’re welcome,” he chirped, before running off towards the camp with renewed vigour.

As soon as they were reunited with the other two pirates Vaas handed the boar to Angelo and tied Jason’s hands back up. The four of them trudged back to the camp and Jason was shoved back inside his room with little more than a pat on the shoulder from Vaas.

Before too long Jason heard shouting and laughter from outside, along with the sound of gunfire. He tried his hardest to see what was going on through a tiny hole in the wooden walls of his prison, but he could make out little more than smoke and the red singlets of Vaas’s crew.

The shouting sounded pretty happy, so Jason tried to relax. He slouched against the wall, and started half-heartedly trying to slip the rope around his hands. He tried to remember how Grant had done it the night before, but the truth was he hadn’t really been watching Grant at that moment. His attention had been almost entirely on Vaas.

Jason had just managed to stretch the ropes enough for them to stop chafing when the door swung open and Vaas entered the room, dragging a raggedy old mattress behind him as he did.

“Hi Jason,” Vaas greeted him with a lot less energy than Jason had been expecting.

“Hi,” Jason muttered in reply.

He watched Vaas drag the mattress inside, wondering if he should get up and help, only to realise that with his hands still tied up he would be of very little use.

There were small patches of a dark red stain that could only be blood on one side of the mattress, but Jason was happy to see it nevertheless. The prospect of actually getting a good night’s sleep almost seemed too good to be true.

Vaas closed the door behind them, shoved the mattress against the far corner of the small room and flopped down on top of it. He patted a spot on the mattress beside him, inviting Jason to join.

Jason wandered over and sat beside other man, watching him carefully as he did. Vaas had been unusually quiet, and Jason found himself wondering what the other man wanted.

“Um… thanks for this,” Jason began.

“No problem,” Vaas told him.

Vaas shifted on the bed so that he was sitting cross legged and facing Jason. He began staring at the American. He was still, barely twitching, and his stare was so unwavering and the look on his face so serious that Jason found himself looking away.

“What the fuck am I going to do with you?” Vaas finally said.

“What do you mean?” Jason asked.

“I’m serious hermano,” Vaas snapped. “I have no fucking clue what I’m doing. Do you?”

Jason shrugged.

“I wish I did,” he admitted. “You’re kind of holding all the cards right now though, so I don’t know what you expect me to say.”

Vaas let out a cry of frustration and flopped back against the wall.

“This is bullshit!” Vaas cried out. “This is not how these fucking things are supposed to go.”

Well, at least they could agree on that.

“Seriously,” Vaas continued. “Just fucking bullshit. With you showing up yesterday and everything I just couldn’t fucking think straight, you know? Still can’t fucking think.”

“You know what though hermano? I’m gonna be a good fucking soulmate. Like a really good fucking soulmate. I’m gonna take better care of you, okay?  You want anything you just let me know.”

Jason weighed his options for a moment, and decided it was worth the risk, even though he’d probably get shot down.

“Well you could let me see my…”

Jason hadn’t even finished his sentence before Vaas cut him off.

“Anything except seeing your fucking friends, okay? And I’m not going to let them or you off this island, so don’t go fucking asking for that either. And I’m not going to give you a gun or any sort of fucking weapon except for when I can keep an eye on you.”

Jason thought for another moment.

“Do you have any coffee?” he asked.

“Nope. No coffee. I can get you some meth if you want. That might wake you up a bit.”

“Uh, thanks, but I think I’d better not.”

Jason thought for a little longer.

“Could you untie my hands?” Jason asked.

Vaas paused for a long while, and looked at Jason and the bonds around his wrists.

“If I untie them will you try to run?” Vaas asked him.

“Where the fuck am I going to go?” Jason asked him, gesturing at the small room, but thinking also of the vast jungles and hordes of animals and armed men that lay in wait outside of his cage.

Vaas stared at him again, his eyes searching Jason’s face. Whatever Vaas saw there must have been enough to content him, because he shrugged and reached out for Jason’s hands.

“Come on then hermano,” he said. “Let’s get that fucking rope off.”

Vaas pulled a knife from his belt, and began cutting through Jason’s bonds.

“If you attack me as soon as these are off then it’s gonna break my fucking heart Jason,” Vaas told him.

The ropes fell to the floor, and Jason let out a sigh of relief, before flopping back against the wall as Vaas had done before. Vaas shuffled around a bit before joining him.

“You fuck up and those are going straight back on,” Vaas told him.

“Yeah, I figured as much,” Jason said. “Don’t worry. I’m not a complete idiot.”


Vaas rummaged around in his pockets for a moment before emerging with a lighter and a crumpled mess that had probably once been a cigarette. After several failed attempts and several curses from Vaas the flame sprung to life. Vaas lit the cigarette, pressed it to his lips, took a long drag and then flopped back against the wall once again.

It was surprisingly easy to relax, and Jason had to concentrate to stop himself from closing his eyes and letting the softness of the mattress lure him into sleep.

Instead he took the opportunity to look at the man beside him, for once not having to worry about what Vaas was going to do with him.

He took it all in; the full lips, the scar that ran all the way down from the middle of Vaas’s head to one of his eyebrows, the dark rings beneath his eyes. His soulmate had obviously been through a lot, and Jason found himself thinking about the man’s words the day before and the anger and desperation he had directed straight at Jason.

 “Hey Vaas?”

“Yeah Jason?”

“Yesterday you said that you went through three other Jasons before meeting me.”

“Yeah. So?”

“What happened to them? Did you; you know; kill them?”

“Of course I fucking did. They were just going to be slaves anyway hermano. Besides, they fucking pissed me off. What were they thinking, coming to my fucking island with that name? It’s fucking rude trying to trick a guy like that.”

Vaas took another long drag of his cigarette.

“And if I had turned out to be the wrong Jason as well? Would you have killed me?”

Vaas scoffed.

“That wouldn’t have fucking happened. The thing is, I knew you were my Jason. Your pretty boy face was pissing me off way before I knew what your name was.”

“Pissing you off?” Jason repeated, trying to work out whether Vaas’s statement had been meant as a compliment or an insult.

“Yeah. Your big pretty eyes looking at me like you were gonna cry, and your fucking pretty boy lips all pouty and scared. It really pissed me off.”

Vaas threw the cigarette butt on the floor and stamped it out with the heel of his boot.

“And the thing about getting pissed off at someone is,” Vaas continued, “it’s generally not that fucking bad unless there’s something else going on, like with the two of us.”

Jason let the idea float around in his head for a moment, but no matter how he looked at it Vaas wasn’t making much sense.

“Don’t look at me like that,” Vaas snapped. “I know what the fuck I’m talking about.”

“Sure you do,” Jason said.

He found himself smiling despite himself.

That night there was fresh boar for all of the pirates and for Jason, who Vaas allowed out of his room once again, this time with his hands untied, although Vaas insisted on staying so close that Jason wondered how Vaas expected to keep their relationship a secret.

Jason looked at the roast boar and only thought of the man he had killed for the briefest of seconds, before he was distracted enough by the taste of fresh food, the feeling of Vaas’s arm as it kept coming to rest on Jason’s shoulders, and the shouting of the pirates.

More than once he caught Angelo staring at him from the other side of the fire. His face was bruised and bloodied from being punched, and he looked at Jason like he wanted the American dead, but Jason ignored him. It wasn’t like the pirate would do anything while Vaas was there.

Jason slept soundly through the night, and well into the next day, although he woke with a stiff back and a disgusting taste in his mouth. He ate the food that one of the pirates brought him, did a few stretches and was just wondering what the hell else he was supposed to do in such a small barren room when Vaas appeared at the door.

He didn’t enter. Instead he gestured for Jason to follow him outside.

“Jason,” Vaas greeted him as he stepped outside. “Hermano! You look a hell of a lot fucking better today than yesterday. Yesterday you looked like shit.”

“Gee, thanks,” Jason muttered.

“You feeling good today Jason?” Vaas asked, throwing an arm around Jason’s shoulder as they walked.

“I guess.”

“Not still worrying about that stupid prick you killed?”

“I’ve been trying not to think about it,” Jason told him. “Thanks for bringing that up though.”

“You’re welcome,” Vaas said, having completely missed Jason’s sarcasm.

“So Jason,” Vaas continued. “You are still here. You have not tried to escape, which makes me really fucking happy, so I’m gonna let you help me with some stuff.”

“Help you?” Jason asked. “Are we going hunting again?”

Vaas chuckled and shook his head.

“No hermano. It’s way more fun than hunting. The idiots working for me can take care of that shit. No, we’ve got some new captives to deal with.”

Jason stopped in his tracks.

“Captives?” he said. “You want me to help you with some hostages?”

“Nah, not this lot,” Vaas told him. “They’re not nearly as rich as you and your friends. These guys are just going to be slaves.”

Jason stayed where he was, not sure that he wanted to accompany Vaas any further. No matter how he looked at it ‘dealing’ with slaves did not sound like a task he wanted to be involved in.

“Why do you want my help?” Jason asked.

“I thought you’d want to help Jason. Get out of that fucking building,” Vaas replied. “No problem if you don’t though. You wanna sit in there bored out of your fucking brain all day then you can go back to your tiny little room.”

“No, I’ll help,” Jason muttered.

“Good,” Vaas told him. “I’m trying to do something fucking nice for you Jason. You better fucking appreciate it.”

For a moment he hoped that maybe, just maybe Vaas was going to let Jason see Riley or his friends after all, but as soon as they rounded a corner and Jason saw the captives he knew that his hopes had been for nothing.

There were five of them in all; three men, ranging from just a little younger than Jason to around forty, a young woman, and a girl that could have been no older than twelve. They all looked up at Vaas and Jason as they approached. The young woman caught his eye and Jason could see desperation in her wide eyes and tear-stained face.

He looked away hastily, unable to keep looking at her pretty face without remembering that he had been in a similar position to them only days earlier. They must have been terrified.

“Now hermano,” Vaas said, gesturing to the five captives. “We’ve got a bit of a problem here. We caught this group a little way out. Thought it would be fun to take their fucking boat for a spin around the islands. Problem is, what with the Rakyat attacking us and you and all of your fucking friends showing up, we’ve got more people than we can deal with. We can keep three of these bitches, and since I’m in a good mood, I think we can let one go as well. The other one is going to have to die.”

A couple of the captives screamed and cried out at that announcement. The young woman and one of the men immediately turned to Jason and began begging to be freed. He tried to shut out their voices. He needed to think, and Vaas had not given him all of the facts just yet.

“The person that we free,” Jason began. “They’re not going to get any help are they? You’re just going to let them go and they’ll have to survive the jungle and get off the island all by themselves?”

Vaas chuckled.

“Of course,” he told Jason.

“You see,” he continued, crouching down so that he was addressing their captives directly. “Jason thinks of everything. He’s going to make the right choice.”

He ruffled the young girl’s hair, her long blonde tresses becoming messed up and staying that way even after he removed his hand. She began to sob, and Jason felt his heart clench.

This was so fucked up. None of them should have even been here, and now three of them would spend the rest of their lives as slaves, and at least one of the others would die.

He wanted to free the little girl, to give her some sort of chance at a life of freedom, but he knew that she would never survive in the jungle. He tried not to panic, and to approach the choice in as rational a manner as possible.

He needed to free the person that stood the best chance of surviving the island. He didn’t want to completely screw over Vaas either. The young woman was pretty, and would fetch a higher price than the three men, and judging by her manicured nails and smudged make-up she didn’t stand much of a chance against the dangers of the jungle either.

She looked up at him hopefully.

“Please,” she begged Jason. “Please, you let me go and I’ll… I’ll do anything you want. I’ll have sex with both of you. Just please don’t kill me or my sister.”

“We’re not going to kill you,” Jason told her.

It didn’t escape Jason’s notice that the woman had begged for her own freedom rather than her little sister’s. Jason imagined the life that lay ahead of the little girl if she was sold into slavery and shuddered. She was too old for anyone to want to adopt, which just left… He tried not to think of it, or of the sort of person that would choose to buy someone that young.

If it was between that sort of life, being torn apart by wild creatures or a quick bullet to the head he knew what he would choose for the girl.

“The little girl,” he told Vaas.

“You want me to free her?” Vaas asked, frowning.

“No,” Jason told him. “I want you to shoot her.”

Both the girl and her older sister began screaming. Jason closed his eyes and looked away. It was only a matter of seconds before he heard the gun go off, and the thud as the girl’s body fell to the floor.

The young woman continued to scream, calling him and Vaas every name under the sun. Damn it. Didn’t she realise he had just done them both a favour? He looked over at Vaas, who was glaring at the woman, looking as though he was only seconds away from telling her to shut up. He couldn’t blame Vaas. She was really loud, and her screaming wasn’t making the rest of his choice any easier.

He looked between the three of the men. One of them was quite young and, Jason supposed, not horrible looking. The middle was about the same age as Grant, and reminded Jason of his older brother in the fierce way he simply glared at Jason and Vaas, as though daring them both to try anything else. He looked reasonably strong, and probably stood the best chance of surviving the jungle, but Jason wasn’t entirely sure that he wouldn’t just turn around and try to kill Jason and Vaas as soon as they freed him. As a slave it would probably take a lot before this one gave in. The oldest wasn’t quite middle aged, not yet, but he was approaching it gracefully. He looked like he still took care of himself. Jason tried to imagine what someone who bought this man as a slave would use him for. Manual labour perhaps? He probably wouldn’t fetch as much as the younger two.

This was a harder choice than Jason had thought it would be. Rationality wasn’t proving to be the ally that Jason had thought.

The oldest man looked defeated. The middle one was still glaring at them. The young woman was still screaming and crying and the tears that streamed down her face were making an even bigger mess of her make-up than had been there when they had started this.

Only the youngest of the men was still staring at Vaas and Jason with any sort of hope.

“Please,” the young man begged, his eyes catching Jason’s. Jason didn’t want to think about this anymore. He just wanted it to be over.

“Him,” Jason finally said, pointing at the youngest man. “Let him go.”

The man looked at Jason and Vaas like he couldn’t believe his luck. Hopefully he would run and get away from the encampment as fast as he possibly could. He didn’t look too unfit. Hopefully he would stand a chance.

Jason stormed away as soon as the bindings around the young man’s arms were cut. He couldn’t be there any longer. The sight of the little girl’s body, blood staining her blonde hair, and the screams of her older sister would haunt him for weeks.

He heard Vaas yell some instructions at his men before he came scurrying after Jason.

“Hey!” he called out. “Where the fuck do you think you’re going?”

“Back to my cell,” Jason muttered.

“Don’t you want to see your new friend run off into the jungle?” Vaas asked him. “It could be beautiful hermano.”

“No, I don’t!” Jason yelled. “I want to be as far away from those people as possible right now Vaas.”

He reached the small building that had become his new home, threw the door open and stormed inside, flopping down on his makeshift bed and burying his face in his hands.

Vaas followed him inside. When Jason glanced up at him Vaas was staring at him and frowning.

“I feel like I’m going to be sick,” Jason muttered, hoping that the churning in his stomach would stop.

“What the fuck is wrong with you Jason?” Vaas asked. “You eat something bad?”

“No I did not fucking eat something… Why would you make me do that!?” Jason roared.

Vaas stared at him for a moment, as though Jason was a puzzle he couldn’t figure out. He dropped to his knees in front of Jason and moved to place his hand on Jason’s shoulder, but then thought better of it. He looked sorry, Jason realised, and a little confused.

“I thought you’d want to help hermano,” Vaas told him. “I thought you’d want to pick. You just got to choose who lives and who dies out of those spoiled little shits. That’s a good thing, right?”

Jason stared at his soulmate. Vaas was being completely sincere, and Jason realised Vaas meant everything he was saying. He had truly thought he was doing Jason a favour by letting him help.

Vaas chuckled a little to himself and grabbed both of Jason’s hands in his own.

“You held the power of life and death in your fucking hands, hermano,” he muttered. “Like a fucking god. Don’t you want that sort of power?”

Jason didn’t know what to say, so he said nothing. Instead he thought of the man he had killed while they had been hunting, and the face of the little girl, so scared in that moment before she had died.

If Vaas had thought Jason would want that then he was even more fucked up than Jason had thought.

“I’m not like you Vaas,” Jason told him. “I’m sorry, but I’m not.”

Vaas frowned at him.

“Please don’t ask me to help with something like that again,” Jason added.

Vaas’s frown just grew, and then he stormed out of the room, cursing as he went. The lock clicked into place behind him.

For the next two days Jason barely saw Vaas. Another pirate, usually the unflappable Carlos brought him his food, and Jason was only ever let out of his prison for really short and thoroughly supervised toilet breaks, but when he did walk outside he would often find Angelo’s eyes following him, and without Vaas constantly watching out for him Jason began to worry.

Chapter Text

Jason had been sleeping quite peacefully when he was awoken by the rattle of the door being thrown open. Jason’s eyes blinked open slowly as moonlight flooded the shack. He looked up, expecting to see Vaas, and frowned when he realised it was Angelo that had entered his room.

That realisation woke him up pretty quickly. Jason had a feeling that whatever reason Angelo had to be in his room in the middle of the night he would not like it. For a moment the moonlight turned Angelo’s silhouette into a dark shadow against the rest of the night, but then Angelo shut the door behind him, trapping the both of them in almost pitch blackness.

“What is it?” Jason muttered as the other man stalked over to the bed. “What are you…?”

Angelo slammed a hand down on Jason’s mouth, smothering the rest of Jason’s sentence. Jason eyes began to scan the room, looking in vain for anything that he could use to defend himself.

“Look at you, you stupid fucking American,” Angelo hissed.

Jason tried to lash out and hit the other man, but Angelo grabbed his arm, pinning it in place against the mattress.

“You think you’re so special, huh? Just because Vaas gives you a little bit of attention you think you’re better than the rest of the slaves? Better than us?”

Angelo took his hand off Jason’s mouth and reached down. Jason thought that the man was reaching for a weapon, and readied himself to fight back when a good moment presented itself.

Angelo’s hand moved instead to the fly of Jason’s trousers, and Jason felt his world shift sideways as he realised what the other man’s intentions were.

As Angelo finished unzipping the American’s trousers Jason pushed back against him with his free arm, trying to throw the other man off him. Angelo grabbed a handful of Jason’s hair and slammed his head back against the wall.

The room spun around Jason. His head was heavy, and he felt as though he was surrounded by a thick fog, but he could still feel it when the other man climbed on top of him, pinning him to the old mattress. Angelo moved Jason’s arms above his head, and used one of his hands to keep them both pinned there.

“Being Vaas’s pet does not make you special,” Angelo growled at him. “You’re a slave. You’re our bitch. It’s time you remembered it.”

Angelo’s free hand began to tug at Jason’s pants. He shuddered as the cold night air brushed against his skin and woke him up a little, reminding him of the need to fight back. Angelo’s hand ran over Jason’s exposed body, and Jason grimaced before slamming one of his knees into the other man’s crotch with as much force as their current position would allow.

Angelo swore and cringed, releasing his hold on Jason and allowing the American to squirm free. Jason rolled off the mattress and began scrambling towards the door, but Angelo recovered quickly. He grabbed at Jason’s legs, pulling his pants further down and making his escape almost impossible.

“Get the fuck off me you freak!” Jason screamed, kicking at the other man. One of his attacks hit home, his foot slamming straight into the middle of the other man’s face. There was a sickening crunch as his heel connected with the man’s nose, which had already been injured after the incident with Vaas and Carlos.

Angelo reached up to clutch at his face. When his hand came away a second later Jason could see a trickle of blood was beginning to make its way down from Angelo’s nose.

“You fucking bitch!” Angelo roared as he fumbled with the gun on his belt. “I’m going to kill you and rape your corpse!”

Jason glanced around the room, looking frantically for some way of defending himself. He grabbed one of the small bamboo shelves and hit Angelo over the head with it. It barely slowed Angelo for a second, and shattered to pieces when it hit the other man.

There was some sort of commotion outside. Jason realised that the sound of their fighting must have woken other people up. Maybe he wasn’t completely fucked after all?

“Vaas!” he screamed, as loudly as possible. As much as he hated having to depend on his soulmate to get him out of this situation, if it meant getting rid of Angelo then he had to try it.

“You fucking whore!” Angelo roared, bringing his pistol up to aim right at Jason.

The door slammed open, causing the entire shack to rattle.

“What the fuck is going on in here?” Vaas roared. “You’re waking me from my beauty sleep hermano. What…”

Vaas trailed off as he took in the sight of the two men in front of him. Jason’s pants were still halfway down his legs, and Angelo’s gun was still pointed straight at Jason.

The look on Vaas’s face changed in an instant. When he had stormed into the shack he had been irritated, but now he was furious. He stormed over to Angelo, looking as though he was ready to tear the other man in half.

Angelo was stupid enough to point the gun at Vaas. Jason made a lunge for it and knocked the gun out of Angelo’s hands, just as Vaas came within arm’s range of the man. He swung his fist at Angelo’s already blood-stained face, the punch connecting with a gut-churning crack. Vaas winced, and Jason wondered if the noise had come from Angelo’s already injured face, or from one of the bones in Vaas’s hand.

Angelo didn’t even have time to defend himself before Vaas attacked again, his forehead slamming straight into Angelo’s face. Angelo let out a strangled scream, and when Vaas pulled back the trickle of red coming from Angelo’s nose had turned into a steady stream.

Vaas stared at the other man as Angelo tried to stop the blood from pouring from his broken face. Angelo glanced up at Vaas and then made a sudden attempt to scramble to one side, although whether it was to grab a weapon or to run away Jason would never know. Vaas pounced on him before he could move, and began yelling at the other man, emphasising his words with a series of punches, each one connecting with the side of Angelo’s face and bringing with a sickening crunch.

“Didn’t I tell you, not to fucking…”



“You stupid fucking asshole!”

Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.

When Vaas pulled back Angelo was whimpering. The pirate sobbed and lifted his hands to cradle his beaten face.

Vaas growled at the other man and grabbed one of Angelo’s hands, pulling it away from his bloodied face. He then drew his knife and slammed it straight into Angelo’s palm, pinning his hand to the floor.

Angelo let out a scream of pain.

Jason knew that he should probably care that Vaas was mercilessly assaulting the other man, but he just couldn’t give a damn what Vaas putting Angelo through after what Angelo had just attempted. If it wasn’t for Vaas then Angelo would have… Angelo had almost…

Jason shuddered. He heard a moan, and realised too late that it had come from his own throat and not from Angelo. The sound snapped Vaas out of the violent rage he had flown into, and he dashed over to Jason, his hands and eyes running over Jason’s body.

“Jason,” he muttered. “You okay? Look at me! You feeling okay? Come on Jason, hermano, talk to me.”

Jason managed to nod.

“Did that asshole do anything to you?” Vaas asked him. “I swear, if he fucking hurt you...”

Jason wondered what Vaas could do to the other man that he hadn’t been planning to already.

“It’s okay,” Jason told Vaas, although at that moment he felt anything but. “You stopped him before anything could happen.”

Vaas’s hands and eyes continued to search Jason for injuries, and when they reached the back of Jason’s head they came away covered in blood. Vaas cursed beneath his breath and then looked Jason in the eye.

“What the fuck did he try to do to you?” Vaas asked Jason. “Don’t fucking lie to me hermano. If he tried to rape you…”

Jason’s eyes met Vaas’ and he knew he didn’t have to say anything.

Vaas’s face was filled with pure rage as he turned back to face Angelo once more.

“You fucking piece of shit!” he roared.

Angelo had been trying to pull the knife out from his hand, but Vaas saved him the trouble, pinning him down and tearing another scream from Angelo’s throat as he ripped the knife out of the floor and through Angelo’s flesh.

Jason watched, unable to look away as his soulmate pressed the knife against Angelo’s throat. Angelo’s eyes widened. Jason wondered if the other man would try to escape. He had to know that he wouldn’t get far; not with Vaas in his current state.

He was going to watch Vaas kill Angelo. The thought didn’t bother him as much as it probably should have. In fact, he found it quite comforting.

“Listen to me you motherfucker,” Vaas yelled. “I’m going to ask you something, and you better tell me the fucking truth or we’re going to have all sorts of fun together.”

Angelo’s eyes were fixed on Vaas. He looked terrified. Jason had a feeling the other man would not even think about lying to Vaas in his current state.

“Did you try to fuck with my Jason? Answer me motherfucker! Did you try to fucking rape my hermano, huh? Thought you were gonna be a big alpha wolf motherfucker?”

Angelo nodded slowly. If possible he looked even more terrified than before.

“You sick fuck!” Vaas yelled, “Trying to do that to my Jason. Who the fuck do you think you are you fucking asshole!?”

Vaas picked up Angelo’s gun from where it lay on the ground and pointed it straight at the other man’s forehead.

Angelo let out a muffled whimper. Jason realised that his lips were puffy and many of his teeth had been broken in Vaas’s earlier onslaught. As far as Jason was concerned it served the asshole right.

“Don’t worry,” Vaas told the other man. “I’m not going to kill you. Not just yet.”

Angelo’s eyes widened with hope for just a moment.

“You see this gun? The one you threatened Jason with?” Vaas asked. Angelo nodded.

“I figure I’ve got one bullet in here with your fucking piece of shit name on it, and I’m gonna let Jason over there choose where you get it.”

Angelo glanced over to Jason. Jason met the other man’s eyes and tried not to shudder. Angelo’s face may have been beaten to a pulp, but it was still the face of the man that had almost raped him. He had no intention of showing mercy.

“So Jason,” Vaas asked. “Where’s it going to be? The way I see it this piece of shit wronged you, so you get to pick where the bullet goes. Anywhere you want hermano.”

He could be kind. He could say leg, and maybe Angelo would be limping for a couple of weeks.

Fuck that.

“The heart,” Jason told Vaas. “Shoot him in the heart.”

Angelo’s eyes widened in panic.

“No, no, no,” he murmured as he tried to scramble for the door.

Vaas’s foot slammed down on his hip, keeping him in place. Angelo tried to reach up and tear at Vaas’s leg with his one uninjured hand. Vaas ignored it, and slammed his foot down on Angelo’s body once more.

“No, no, no Angelo,” Vaas told him. “You’re not going anywhere just yet.”

Angelo whimpered.

“Jason’s fucking smart, but he’s also kind of cruel,” Vaas told Angelo, ignoring the other man’s struggling and his cries for mercy.

“He could’ve said arm or leg and then you would’ve bled all over the fucking place for a while, but you would have lived,” Vaas continued, leaning down so that he could look Angelo in the eye. “Or, he could have said head and then ‘boom’, it would all be over in a second. He didn’t though. Jason said heart. He wants you to die, and he wants you to suffer.”

Vaas paused for a moment to look back and smile at his soulmate.

“I’m so fucking proud of you right now Jason.”

Angelo stared at Jason.

“Don’t let him do this to me,” he muttered, making one last plea for his life.

“Consider yourself lucky,” Jason told the other man. “I could have asked Vaas to shoot you in the balls.”

There was a moment when Angelo stared at Jason as though he couldn’t believe Jason would choose to kill him, and then the gun went off, the bullet piercing Angelo’s chest.

“Pretty sure that would have hit the heart,” Vaas muttered. “It’s kind of hard to tell. Who knows, this piece of shit might not have even had one.”

Angelo began choking and sputtering, as blood began pouring from his chest and seeping from his mouth.

“You… you fucking assholes,” he muttered. “You…”

He glared at Jason.

“I should have fucking killed you, you whore. I’m dying, and it’s all your fucking fault…”

“Don’t pay any attention to this piece of shit Jason,” Vaas told him, interrupting Angelo’s rant. “Stupid motherfucker should have listened to me when I told him not to touch you.”

Angelo continued to glare at Jason as the blood poured from his body, and the coughing and sputtering slowly grew worse. After a couple of minutes the man went silent, his body flopping back against the wood of the shack. His eyes stayed open though and they continued to stare straight at Jason, even after he had stopped breathing.

“What a fucking piece of shit he turned out to be, huh?” Vaas said, lifting his boot from where it had been pinning Angelo to the ground. “Maybe I should have killed that fucker as soon as he set foot on my island.”

Jason felt sick. A kind man would feel bad for Angelo after watching him die in such a manner, but Jason knew that wasn’t what was bothering him. The knowledge of what Angelo had almost done made his head and stomach churn in a way that was not at all pleasant, and when Vaas’s arms reached out to touch him he threw himself towards his soulmate, clinging to Vaas as though the other man could somehow erase the memory.

“It’s okay Jason,” Vaas murmured, his hands threading through Jason’s hair. “I’ve got you hermano. That fucker can’t hurt you anymore. See?”

Vaas gently turned Jason’s face so that he could see the bloodied remains of Angelo’s body.

“He’s dead Jason,” Vaas murmured softly into his ear. “He’s fucking dead. He’s not going to get you.”

Jason shuddered, and he heard Vaas sigh.

“I tell you what Jason. I’ve got an idea. You take my knife, or that gun or whatever the fuck you want, and you fucking shoot or stab that guy over and over again as much as you want until you’re sure he won’t bother you anymore. I don’t want you having nightmares.”

“Will that help?” Jason asked, glancing towards Angelo’s body.

“It might,” Vaas said, “and even if it doesn’t it’ll feel pretty fucking good.”

Jason nodded and reluctantly removed himself from Vaas’s arms. He stood, wordlessly grabbing Vaas’s knife as he did so, and approached the man’s body. Angelo’s blank eyes continued to stare straight ahead, no matter how much Jason stared at him. His fingers hurt, and he realised it was because he was clutching the knife with all of his strength.

He brought the knife down, piercing one of Angelo’s eyes, and then the other. The other man would not stare at him any longer. Jason let out a cry of triumph and rage as the knife then plunged through Angelo’s heart, right where the bullet had pierced his body. He then began stabbing the man’s torso again and again and again, taking out all of the rage and terror he had felt on Angelo’s corpse.

Part of him was disgusted by the violence he was indulging in, but the rest of him felt safer, and freer with every thrust of the knife. Angelo’s torso was little more than a bloodied mess by the time he was finished. Jason realised he was crying, and he dropped the knife beside Angelo’s body.

Vaas had watched him silently the whole time, but now he moved over to where Jason was kneeling, and wrapped his arms around Jason’s shoulders, pulling him close once more.

“That’s it Jason,” he whispered as he sunk down to the floor and pulled Jason into his lap. “Feels better yeah? He’s not going to hurt you. He can’t hurt anyone anymore.”

Jason leaned in to Vaas’s touch and concentrated on the feeling of the other man’s arms around him and the sound of Vaas’s voice unusually soft by his ear, until his body stopped shaking and his breathing returned to normal.

“You’re okay,” Vaas told him.

It had not been meant as a question, but Jason nodded regardless.

“Don’t worry,” Vaas told him. “I’m gonna take care better care of you. No more ignoring you and not being there when shit like this happens.”

Vaas got to his feet and offered Jason a hand up.

“Come on Jason,” he said as he hauled Jason to his feet. “Up you get hermano. Now follow me.”

Vaas’s hand was still wrapped tightly around Jason’s own, so he didn’t really have any chance but to follow Vaas as he stormed out of the shack.

It looked like half the camp had woken up, and they stood and stared as Vaas emerged from the shack with Jason in tow. Vaas caught the eye of one of his men as they walked, and Jason was relieved to recognise Carlos.

“It’s a fucking mess in there,” Vaas told Carlos. “Make sure that shit’s cleaned up okay?”

Carlos looked completely unfazed, and nodded at Vaas before heading inside the shack. Jason wondered if the sight of Angelo’s mangled corpse would shake Carlos out of his usually relaxed state, but then he realised that with a boss like Vaas Carlos might actually be used to this much violence and bloodshed. Hell, if it wasn’t for the way the pirates were staring at him and Vaas then he might have thought this was a normal day for them.

Vaas was heading for a building on the other side of the camp. It looked a little more permanent than a lot of the others, being made of large cement bricks rather than the tin and wood of the rest of the encampment, and had been covered in graffiti.

Vaas pushed the door open, keeping his hand wrapped tightly around Jason’s the whole time, and then dragged Jason inside. He paused to turn on a light, the room flooding with an eerie combination of neon green and pink, and then gestured for Jason to sit down on the nearby bed. It was old and covered in a messy pile of stained sheets and animal skins. It looked bigger than Jason’s at least, and would probably fit two people quite comfortably, as long as those two people didn’t mind the bloodstains, drug paraphernalia and weapons that decorated the rest of the room, or the strong smell of gunpowder and marijuana that lingered in the air.

There was a tiger skin hanging over a nearby pile of boxes, and Jason chose to stare at that as Vaas rummaged around in a nearby set of drawers. The pirate swore and muttered to himself as he threw things across the room in his search and ultimately emerged holding an old bandage, some wire, a needle and what looked to be an old bottle of vodka.

“What’s that for?” Jason asked.

“That asshole broke open your fucking head, remember?” Vaas said.

Oh. Right. His head had been throbbing, but he hadn’t really given it any thought, and had forgotten all about the injury he had sustained while grappling with Angelo. Jason wondered if the nausea he had been feeling might also be explained by the head injury. He hadn’t realised the wound was that bad.

“Move over,” Vaas told him as he tried to join Jason on the bed. “Gotta make sure your head’s okay hermano.”

Vaas settled in behind Jason and muttered a few curses under his breath.

“This is a fucking mess Jason,” Vaas told him. “You feeling okay?”

“I’ll be fine,” Jason told him.

Vaas began muttering again, calling Angelo every name under the sun as he gently pulled at Jason’s hair, inspecting the wound beneath.

Jason turned his attention back to the room, taking in the coloured lights and the mess.

“This is where you sleep,” Jason observed, before he felt a sudden sharp stinging on the back of his head. He hissed and let out a loud curse.

Vaas had begun to clean the wound on Jason’s head, the vodka stinging as it came in contact with Jason’s broken flesh.

“You could have warned me first,” Jason snapped.

Vaas ignored his protests and continued to clean.

“This is where you’re gonna sleep now too,” he told Jason. “I’m not going to fucking leave you by yourself any more, that’s for fucking sure.”

He was going to be sharing this bed with Vaas. Jason tried to imagine it. Sharing a bed implied certain well… things. Surely Vaas wouldn’t be asking for that after what had just happened though, right?

“You’re probably gonna be sleeping a lot over the next couple of days,” Vaas continued, dabbing the last of the blood and alcohol from Jason’s hair. “I’ll be surprised if you don’t have a fucking concussion in that stupid head of yours.”

“Stupid… didn’t you just tell Angelo I’m smart?” Jason said, smiling despite the pain in the back of his head.

Vaas chuckled, and at that moment it was the most comforting sound in the world.

“You are smart,” Vaas told him. “But you’re also really fucking dumb, letting Angelo attack you like that. You should have been able to kill him. When you’re feeling better I’m going to start training you better, okay hermano? Gonna make a proper killer out of you. Until then…”

Vaas paused and leaned forward to press a gentle kiss to Jason’s cheek.

“I’m going to take care of you Jason.”

Jason sighed and tried to relax in Vaas’s arms.

“Now,” Vaas continued. “I’m gonna have to stitch this up. It’s gonna hurt. You wanna scream or yell at me or anything then that’s okay. Just don’t fucking move.”

Jason grit his teeth as the needle pierced his skin. Compared to the pain of the alcohol it wasn’t so bad, but it still hurt, and Jason knew that it would have to be done if he wanted the wound to heal quickly.

Vaas’s touch was surprisingly quick and gentle as he worked, and Jason found himself wondering if Vaas had done this before. As far as he could tell there weren’t any doctors amongst Vaas’s men. He looked around the room, taking in the piled up supplies, sorted according to whatever logic Vaas dictated, which probably wasn’t very logical from what Jason could see. He then thought of the bandages that seemed to cover parts of Vaas’s arms and hands and realised that Vaas had probably had to tend to his own wounds for quite a while.

How many cuts and bruises had Vaas patched up? How many times had he stitched his own flesh, hoping for it to repair? It seemed like a lonely existence and rather sad, and Jason promised himself that the next time Vaas was injured he would tend to his soulmate himself. He just hoped that his own first aid skills would measure up to Vaas’s. He hadn’t had nearly as much cause to use them as he suspected Vaas had.

“Almost done,” Vaas murmured.

He tied off the stitching and tore off the excess thread with his teeth, before gently patting Jason’s shoulder.

“All done,” he told Jason. “You were pretty brave through that hermano. Not a fucking sound out of you. You’re fucking tough beneath that spoiled pretty-boy exterior, huh?”

Jason nodded, but didn’t reply.

Vaas shuffled them around on the bed so that they were facing one another.

“You okay?” he asked, cupping Jason’s face in his hands.

“Stop asking me that. I told you, I’ll be fine,” Jason assured him.

He suddenly felt very tired. The pile of skins that covered Vaas’s bed were looking more and more inviting with every second. He vaguely remembered something about not sleeping after a concussion, but right then he didn’t care. He just wanted to go back to sleep and forget that Angelo had ever existed.

“You sure?” Vaas asked. “You need anything, you tell me, okay?”

“I’m just tired,” Jason muttered.

“Okay,” Vaas muttered, running his hands through Jason’s hair. “Okay. Sleep is good hermano.”

He lay back on the bed, bringing Jason to lie down beside him.

“Sleep,” he said, pausing to kiss Jason on the shoulder. “Don’t worry Jason. No-one will dare to fuck with you while I’m here.”

Vaas settled behind Jason and wrapped his hands around the other man’s torso, holding him close. For a moment Jason wondered if Vaas was going to do anything else, but no further kisses came, just the sound of Vaas murmuring in Jason’s ear.

“It’s okay Jason. It’s okay. I’ve got you. Nothing’s going to happen. Anyone tries to hurt you again I am going to fucking tear them to pieces. You hear me? You’re safe.”

Vaas’s words were surprising relaxing, and Jason felt himself slowly drifting off to sleep, with the feeling of Vaas’s arms around him and the sound of his soulmate muttering threats and promises in his ear.

Chapter Text

Sharing a room with Vaas turned out to be a lot more of an improvement than Jason would have thought. Each night Vaas wrapped his arms around Jason's torso and held him close, but didn’t try anything more than the occasional kiss on the cheek or shoulder, which Jason found comforting, and it didn’t take him long to start relishing the moments between wakefulness and sleep, when he would be held close and kissed softly, as though he was something precious that Vaas wanted to protect.

Vaas had been right about his head wound. The next couple of days were a blur, mostly filled with sleeping and feeling like he’d been run over by a truck. Jason was familiar with the effects of a concussion thanks to his love of extreme sports, but that didn’t make them any easier to bear.

Vaas offered him every painkiller under the sun, but Jason stuck to the softer stuff to start with, not wanting to develop a taste for any of the more addictive drugs, especially now that he had seen the effect they had on Vaas. Now that they were living together Jason could see the mood swings, the cold sweats and the panic or melancholy that might suddenly overtake Vaas depending on what he had been taking.

Jason realised after his second day of recovery that Vaas was no longer locking him in. The door to Vaas’s home, if that was the right word, was always left unlocked, leaving Jason free to explore the camp. He didn’t wander too far though, knowing that without Vaas the jungle was probably a little too dangerous to explore simply out of boredom, at least until his concussion was gone and he could handle himself better in a fight.

The other pirates tended to leave Jason alone too. Word of what had happened to Angelo must have gotten around, and many of the pirates gave Jason a wide berth, treating him with the same sort of fear and reverence they usually reserved for Vaas.

There were always a few that kept their eyes on Jason though, especially when Vaas wasn’t around, and Jason wondered if Vaas had in fact ordered them to keep an eye on him and make sure he didn’t try to escape.

Three days after Angelo’s attack Jason chose to approach Vaas.

“Of course they’re fucking guarding you,” Vaas replied. “It’s fucking dangerous out there Jason. You try to escape and the next thing I know the Rakyat have taken you or you’ve been bitten by a fucking snake. I can’t let you leave hermano. Not yet.”

“Then teach me how to better defend myself,” Jason said. “Didn’t you say you were going to teach me some things once I was feeling better?”

“Yeah, I did,” Vaas said. “You’re fucking eager to learn, aren’t you Jason? That’s good. It’ll make you a lot fucking easier to teach. Just don’t go using what I show you to try and save your friends or I’m gonna be really fucking pissed, got it?”

“You know I can’t promise you that,” Jason replied.

“Fucking stubborn…” Vaas shook his head. “Okay. Okay. I’m not going to get angry. You wouldn’t be my Jason if you stopped worrying about those fucking idiots, would you? What the fuck do I care as long as you stay here, right?”

Jason shrugged.

“Okay then hermano; let’s go,” Vaas said, jumping to his feet and heading for the door.

“What, now?” Jason asked.

“What happened to you being so eager?” Vaas said. “You fucking coming or not?”

Jason followed gladly, and for the next few hours Vaas showed him more than he had thought, from how to sneak up on his enemies and kill them quickly and quietly, to the best ways to deal with some of the local wildlife. For the first few hours Vaas was his practise dummy, and by the time Vaas had run through everything he wanted to they were both covered in bruises.

Jason wondered if Vaas would declare that they had covered enough for one day, but instead he handed Jason a gun and announced that he was ready to move on to target practise. At first Jason started taking aim at various trees and other plants with Vaas standing behind him and occasionally adjusting his stance or hold. Jason tried not to think too much about the way Vaas’s body pressed up against his own during those moments, and concentrated instead on hitting his target.

After a while they spotted a pack of feral dogs. Vaas had already told Jason that most of the dogs on the island were rabid, and had warned Jason against being bitten by one. Despite that Jason was still a little disturbed by the idea of shooting dogs, but when he saw the state of their patchy and bloodied fur he didn’t feel so bad.

Under Vaas’s instruction they began stalking the pack, a trek which led them far away from the encampment. They kept downwind, Jason using everything he had learned so far to keep the dogs from becoming aware of his presence.

The dogs eventually started harassing a group of goats and Vaas told Jason he should try his luck with moving targets.

There were four of them in all, and he managed to take out two of them, Vaas dispatching the other two before they could bite either of the two men.

“You did well,” Vaas told him as they crouched by one of the dog’s bodies.

“Thanks,” Jason replied, trying simultaneously to stop himself from blushing and to block out the smell of the dead animals.

Vaas finished whatever it was he was doing; Jason thought he was probably making sure the dogs were dead, although Vaas hadn’t exactly told Jason that was what it was; and then stood up and smiled at Jason.

“Might as well keep that on you,” Vaas said, gesturing to the rifle in Jason’s hand. “You’re pretty good with it Jason.”

“You’re trusting me with a real gun?” Jason asked.

“You’ve been in a fucking room full of real guns for the last three days,” Vaas pointed out, and Jason felt like an idiot when he realised Vaas was right. “I’m not fucking worried.”

“Huh,” Jason muttered. “Thanks Vaas.”

Vaas waved at him as though to say ‘don’t worry about it.’

“Not just for the gun,” Jason continued. “For all of this, the training.”

“Don’t fucking thank me for this,” Vaas told him. “I don’t want you fucking dying so this had to be done. Just don’t go waving that thing around or showing off if Hoyt or one of his mercenary pricks shows up, okay?”

“You got it,” Jason told him.

Vaas would often be gone from the camp for hours at a time. Jason didn’t know where he went, or whether he was going to see Hoyt, transport prisoners or take care of a group of locals unless Vaas brought it up later, so he didn’t think to question it when Vaas disappeared for several hours one afternoon.

Then around sunset Vaas came stumbling into the room he shared with Jason, frowning and screaming and for the first time Jason knew he needed to find out where Vaas had been and what had happened to leave him in such a disturbed state.

“Stupid fucking bitch thinks she can manipulate me?!” Vaas yelled. “She thinks I’m gonna come running to her like I’m one of her fucking puppets?”

Jason wondered what drugs his soulmate had taken. Usually Vaas was manageable, even when he was as high as a kite. This was bad, whatever it was.

“She’s fucking wrong!” Vaas yelled at the ceiling. “She doesn’t fucking own me, you hear me!? You don’t fucking own me you bitch!”

“Vaas,” Jason muttered, grabbing the man by each of his arms and holding him in place for a moment. He checked Vaas’s eyes, which were extremely dilated, just as he had thought they would be. The pirate smelled like marijuana, as well as something else Jason couldn’t put a name to.

“What have you been smoking?” Jason asked him.

Vaas shrugged off Jason’s touch and continued his rant.

“It’s like… It’s like, you know, like I haven’t given her enough already. No matter what I do or how far away from her I get it’s always ‘Vaas, you’re a traitor. Vaas, why don’t you love me? Vaas, you should burn that FUCKING NAME off your FUCKING WRIST!’”

Vaas’s rant was making Jason more and more worried as it continued. He grabbed Vaas’s arms again, expecting to be shrugged away like the last time, but it never happened.

Instead Vaas practically collapsed against him. Jason’s arms wrapped around the other man’s back, and before long he was supporting almost all of Vaas’s weight.

Jason gently lowered them until they were sitting on the floor together. Vaas’s arms wrapped around Jason’s waist and he let out a low, pained groan.

Jason didn’t say anything just yet. Instead he lifted a hand and began caressing his soulmate’s head. Vaas leaned into the touch and slowly but surely Jason felt some of the tension leaving the other man’s body. Jason leaned forward and placed a kiss on Vaas’s forehead.

“What happened?” he asked, continuing to shower Vaas with gentle, calming touches in the hopes that he wouldn’t fly into a drug-fuelled rage once again. “Who got you this upset?”

Vaas sighed and pulled back just enough to sit upright.

“It’s my fucking sister, Citra,” Vaas told him. “I saw her today. She knows I’ve got your name on my wrist, and somehow the bitch found out you’re here with me. She was acting like I should have told her, even though it’s none of her fucking business.”

“She wasn’t happy for you?”

“Of course she wasn’t fucking happy!” Vaas snapped.

He then appeared to remember who he was talking to, shook his head and began to speak again, this time a little more calmly.

“You haven’t met her hermano. You don’t know what she’s like. She’s got no name on her wrist, just a big blank nothing.”

Jason felt that a blank wrist should inspire pity rather than such hatred, but it felt like there was more to this story than he had heard so far, and so he waited patiently for Vaas to continue.

“It used to be I’d do anything for her,” Vaas told him, “but then, when we got old enough that brands started to matter she grew really fucking pissed off because I had a brand and she didn’t. She starts yelling at me saying ‘Vaas, you have me. Why the fuck would you care about some guy that you’ve never met?’ Like she has any fucking clue what it was like having to wait for you.”

He unwrapped the bandage around his wrist so that Jason could see his own name there and the scar which ran down the middle of it. The brand was a lighter shade of grey than the last time he had seen it, their proximity over the last few days slowly brightening it.

“She tried to cut your name off my arm,” Vaas said, running a finger over the jagged scar there. “She fucking hates you Jason.”

“Why?” Jason asked, although he had a feeling he already knew the answer.

“Because she wants me all to herself,” Vaas said, “but she’s not going to get me hermano. Not while I’ve got you.”

Jason’s heart twisted painfully in his chest. He tried to smile at Vaas, but it was a lot harder than it probably should have been. Vaas was looking at him like he often did, as though Jason was something rare and precious; a miracle or a dream come to life. No-one had ever really looked at him like that before he had come to the island. Jason wondered how the other man would cope when Jason and his friends inevitably had to leave.

The thought of Vaas being all alone once again made him feel so sorry for the other man that for a moment he was seized with the desire to just hold Vaas and keep him close.

Instead he leaned forwards, their faces slowly growing closer until his lips brushed against Vaas’s.

At first Jason kept the kiss soft, his lips barely brushing against the other man’s, but then Vaas started kissing back, pressing against Jason’s mouth with a hunger that Jason soon found himself returning.

Before long their tongues were in each other’s mouths, and their arms were wrapped tightly around one another’s bodies.  Jason moaned into his soulmate’s mouth as he fell backwards. Vaas pinned him to the ground, his lips taking every ounce of passion that Jason was willing to give.

Vaas eventually pulled back, and collapsed on top of Jason, his head resting against Jason’s chest. They were both out of breath and panting, but after only a few moments of silence Vaas began to laugh, and Jason could feel the vibrations from his laughter more than he could hear the other man.

“So, should I bring a fucking pity party to you every time I want a kiss Jason?”

For a moment Jason was lost, but then he realised that this was the first time that he had initiated any sort of physical affection between the two of them.

“No,” Jason muttered, trying not to feel too embarrassed by the realisation. “I just…”

“What was that then?” Vaas muttered. He moved so that their faces were almost painfully close together. If Jason moved his mouth just so then he could lure Vaas into another kiss. “You think me talking about my fucking sister is hot? Or maybe you’re just jealous huh?”

Vaas grinned and ran a hand over Jason’s collarbone.

“Can’t stand me even talking about someone else, hey Jason?”

Jason rolled his eyes.

Vaas leaned forward and began to nuzzle into Jason, their noses and cheeks brushing against each other so gently that it sent a pleasant thrill down Jason’s back.

“I’m not going to let her take you from me,” Vaas whispered into Jason’s ear. “She’s tried to take everything else, but she’s not going to fucking take you away. I’ll put a fucking bullet right through her skull before I let her.”

Jason decided that if he ever met this woman he would find it hard not to immediately hate her. Vaas was obviously hurting a lot because of her, and not even the passionate kisses they had shared before had erased the pain of whatever it was she had done to Vaas.

Maybe it was crazy to even think about trying, but Jason found himself wanting to protect Vaas as much as he could. He wasn’t sure what exactly he could do. Vaas had been through so much, only some of which Jason knew about, and most of which he knew he could never truly relate to, at least if he didn’t want to go through the same hell Vaas had.

And even if he was to comfort and protect Vaas, what would the other man do when Jason had to leave? If he was just going to be plunged into a deeper darkness later then maybe it was better for them both if he didn’t try to make Vaas’s life a little brighter now.

Screw that. He was thinking too much.

He pressed his lips to Vaas’s once more and kissed him with as much enthusiasm as he could summon, his tongue plunging deep into Vaas’s mouth and drawing a moan from the other man. Vaas grabbed Jason by the back of the head and tried to pull him closer. For a long while there was nothing but the two of them. Jason forgot that he was on an island far from home, forgot that he was still probably technically Vaas's prisoner, and later he would hope that Vaas managed to forget about Citra as well.

“Mine,” Vaas murmured when they eventually pulled apart, more from lack of oxygen than waning enthusiasm.

Jason shuddered as Vaas began nibbling at his neck. Vaas was being pretty possessive, and Jason didn’t know what it said about him that he was so turned on by it.

“My Jason.”

Jason moaned and clung to his soulmate.

The days began to blur together, and occasionally Jason would spare a thought for his friends, and once or twice he even tried looking around and talking to a few of Vaas’s men to see if he could find out where they had been taken, but the dark looks that the pirates gave him every time he asked were enough to keep him in line.

It had probably been about two weeks since they had first been taken captive by Vaas and his men. Probably. Maybe a little more. The concussion certainly hadn’t helped, and neither had the odd hours that Vaas kept, or the drugs. Jason had stayed clear of them mostly, but Vaas definitely had not, and Jason was pretty sure he had gotten contact high off the other man at least once.

Vaas continued to teach him how to shoot and how to defend himself with a machete or knife. He wasn’t as good as Vaas, not by a long shot, but he could feel himself making progress. He even helped Vaas fight off an attack on the camp by the Rakyat, and only hours later, when he was helping to bandage a scrape on Vaas’s arm, did he realise that he had killed at least two people during the attack.

He tried to feel bad about it. He couldn’t though, not really, but he put that down to the fact that the Rakyat had attacked them. He was just defending himself and his soulmate. Of course he didn’t feel bad. If the stupid locals hadn’t wanted to die then they shouldn’t have attacked Vaas’s camp.

A few more days, a few more hunts, only some of them human, and a few more make-out sessions with Vaas later and Vaas insisted that it was time for Jason's stitches to come out.

He sat in front of Vaas on the floor of their home. No… Vaas’s home. This wasn’t his home. He needed to remember that. There was nothing more than a few pieces of cardboard between them and the cold concrete floor, and Jason wasn’t sure how Vaas could really see what he was doing with only the neon lights to guide him, but Vaas hadn’t complained yet, and his wound had barely hurt as Vaas had removed the old thread.

Vaas’s hands were surprisingly gentle as they ran over the back of Jason’s head.

“You’re healing okay,” Vaas told him. “You might have a scar, but no-one’s gonna notice it beneath your stupid fucking hair Jason.”

The way Vaas spoke, it almost sounded like he expected Jason to want to everyone to see the scar. Jason glanced at his soulmate’s own scarred and mohawked head and tried to imagine himself with a hairstyle like Vaas’s. He grimaced and shook his head. Nope. Definitely not. Vaas could keep that one.

“Fuck,” Vaas muttered, although he sounded more resigned than angry. “You don’t need more stitches Jason. I got this fucking needle out for nothing.”

Vaas was silent and still for a moment. Jason knew him well enough to know that something was up, and looked back to discover that a wide, almost manic grin had appeared on his soulmate’s face.

“Hey Jason,” Vaas said in a sing-song voice, waving the needle in front of his eyes. “You know what we should do with this?”

“I don’t know,” Jason admitted. “What should the two of us do with a needle and some thread? Wait… do I even want to know the answer?”

“What we should do,” Vaas began, “is we should do some fucking piercings. Do you want me to pierce your ear hermano?”

Jason didn’t reply. He just looked between Vaas and the needle, unable to stop himself from wondering how easy it was to screw up a piercing. Admittedly Vaas had stitched up his head and that had turned out all right, but the piercing thing seemed a little more permanent by comparison.

“Come on hermano,” Vaas said, leaning in close to Jason and staring at him intently. “You’ll look real fucking sexy.”

He leaned forward and bit Jason’s earlobe, wringing a moan from his soulmate.

God, it was so tempting to just give in and let Vaas do whatever the fuck he wanted, but Jason wasn’t quite that easy to distract just yet.

“Do you have any idea what you’re doing?” Jason asked him.

“Sure,” Vaas responded.

He pointed to the piercing in his right ear.

“I did that one myself,” he told Jason.

Jason looked carefully at the bullet there.

“Yeah, but did you put it there with a needle or with a gun?” Jason replied, one of his eyebrows rising. He wasn’t entirely convinced that letting Vaas pierce his ear would be a sane thing to do.

Vaas looked at him and Jason had to stop himself from groaning. It should have been impossible for someone like Vaas to summon such effective puppy-dog eyes, but there it was. The man was practically pouting.

“Don’t you trust me Jason?” Vaas asked him.

It was ridiculous. It was impossible. There was no way he was going to give in to Vaas’s pleading.

“Fine,” Jason gave in. “What the fuck. You only live once right?”

Vaas grinned widely and clapped Jason on the shoulder. He jumped to his feet and rummaged around in the shack for a moment before returning with a bottle of alcohol.

He quickly cleaned the needle and then positioned himself so that he could also start cleaning Jason’s left earlobe. Before long Vaas was practically sitting on top of Jason.

“This is going to sting a bit,” Vaas told him, the needle hovering just above Jason’s ear.

“It’s okay,” Jason told him, squeezing the part of Vaas’s arm that he could reach. “I trust you.”

Vaas chuckled.

“I’m really fucking touched hermano, but whether or not you trust me doesn’t mean shit for this. It’s still gonna sting.”

Vaas shifted in Jason’s lap, and Jason tried to focus on the feeling of Vaas’s legs against his own rather than on the metallic glint of the needle, or the way Vaas was smiling as he tugged at Jason’s ear.

Jason braced himself, mentally cursing the fact that he had allowed himself to be manipulated so easily.

The needle plunged through his ear without any further warning, stabbing all the way through the lobe in one swift motion.

Vaas grinned triumphantly for just a second, before a look of worry quickly appeared on his face.

“Fuck,” Vaas muttered, patting his pockets and then looking around the room as though he was missing something.

“What is it?” Jason asked.

The needle was still in his ear. He could feel it, and he had to fight the urge to reach up and pull it out. Despite all appearances to the contrary, he had to believe that Vaas knew what he was doing.

“I didn’t grab any sort of fucking earring for you Jason,” Vaas revealed. “We gotta put one in otherwise the hole is gonna just close up.”

He grinned at Jason and then quickly jumped to his feet.

“Be right back,” he told Jason as he began to rummage through the belongings in his house, presumably searching for something to use as an earring.

Jason grimaced, partially because of the pain but mostly because he had started to imagine how hygienic an earring found among the wreckage that was Vaas’s home would be. What the fuck was he letting Vaas do?

He heard Vaas curse under his breath and then the other man returned to him. He crouched in front of Jason and began muttering to himself as he fiddled with a few items too small for Jason to see.

“You see this?” Vaas eventually said as he held up a metal loop with what appeared to be a large animal tooth attached to it. “This belonged to the first tiger I ever killed. It’s real fucking special, so you better look after it, okay?”

Jason nodded, touched, but ultimately glad that it wasn’t the tooth itself that would be entering his earlobe.

Vaas splashed some of the leftover alcohol on the earring, practically drowning it, before taking a large swig of the strong smelling spirit himself. Jason tried to be as still as possible as Vaas crawled onto his lap once again.

Vaas slowly removed the needle and then pushed the earring into the hole. The metal ring scraped against Jason’s already broken skin as it slid into place, stretching his flesh and stinging far more than the needle had earlier.

“Ow! Fuck!” Jason screamed, practically throwing Vaas off his lap in the process. “That really fucking hurts. Fuuuuuuuck.”

“Told you so,” Vaas said, chuckling at Jason from where he now lay on the ground.

“I never should have let you talk me into that,” Jason groaned.

“I didn’t talk you into shit Jason,” Vaas said. “I said…”

“You wanted me to,” Jason snapped as he plonked down on the floor beside Vaas.

“No, no, no hermano,” Vaas said, shaking a finger at Jason. “I said you would look really fucking hot. You were the one that was all like ‘Vaas, I trust you. Fucking pierce my ear and then listen to me bitch because I’m a total fucking pussy and I can’t handle a little pain.’”

Jason groaned. Vaas leaned over and ran his hand through Jason’s hair in one quick, rough motion that had it standing up even more than usual. His hand lingered near the back of Jason’s head, and Jason knew the other man would be looking at the scar there.

“You want something for the pain amigo?”

“Like what?” Jason asked. He had a feeling that whatever Vaas offered him would more than likely be illegal or at least highly regulated in most countries, and he wasn’t disappointed.

Vaas pulled a vial containing a few small white tablets from one of his pockets and showed it to Jason. Jason blinked, trying to read the label, but it was too faded for him to make out any of the words.

“What is it?” Jason asked.

“Special K,” Vaas told him. “Makes you feel good. Makes the pain stop.”

“Ketamine?” Jason asked. “You want me to take ketamine?”

“I don’t want you to take shit. I want you to stop fucking moaning,” Vaas told him.

Jason eyed the vial warily.

“You know the pain from my head is mostly gone, right? And I’m pretty sure they don’t prescribe ketamine for something as small as this,” Jason said, pointing to his newly pierced ear.

Vaas shrugged.

“So, don’t fucking take it then,” Vaas said.

Jason stared at the vial for a few more seconds, before taking it from Vaas, unscrewing it and grabbing one of the small pills.

What the hell right? His life was already pretty fucked up. It wasn’t like a couple of pills could make it much worse.

Jason swallowed the pill and handed the vial back to Vaas, who was watching Jason closely and grinning like a child at Christmas.

“Wow Jason,” Vaas said, smiling from ear to ear. “Look at you, getting fucking high. I can’t believe you just took that shit.”

He chuckled and ran his hand through Jason’s hair again.

“You’re gonna feel real fucking good in a few minutes hermano.”

Vaas reached into the vial and pulled out two of the pills, swallowing them as easily as Jason had the one, and then wrapped an arm around Jason’s shoulders.

“You know what Jason?” Vaas said. “You are turning out to be way more fun than I thought. You first rocked up all pretty and important and I just thought you were a spoiled brat, and then you said you hadn’t killed anybody and I was thinking ‘how the fuck can this pretty boy be my fucking soulmate?’ But I like you Jason. I really fucking like you. ”

Vaas leaned forward and pressed their foreheads together. Jason forced himself to smile at the other man. Jason tucked his knees up under his chin and waited for the effects of the ketamine to first make themselves known.

He only knew a little about the substance he had just taken. Ketamine was an anaesthetic and… what else? A hallucinogen, right? He’d never done anything stronger than marijuana before, and even that had just been some low grade stuff that Ollie had talked him into trying. This was going to be interesting to say the least.

The first thing he noticed was the dizziness. He leaned against Vaas and pressed into the other man’s side as a wave of warmth flowed throughout his body.

He felt like the ground was shifting beneath him and Vaas was the only point in the room that was still solid and safe. He just wanted to touch, and to hold.

He wasn’t sure when it happened, or which one of them started it, but Vaas’s lips were soon pressed against his own and suddenly everything was okay. Jason felt safe and warm and couldn’t get enough of the feeling of the other man’s mouth against his.

One of them, Jason couldn’t work out who, moaned loudly. Their lips parted, but Jason made sure that he kept holding on to the rest of Vaas, in case he disappeared.

Vaas smiled at Jason, and his eyes were pits of beautiful fire that threatened to burn Jason alive if he looked into them too deeply.

“Look at you Jason,” Vaas murmured. “So fucking pretty…”

His finger pressed against Jason’s lips, and Jason kissed it. Vaas’s finger tasted a little like the metal of the needle he had used to pierce Jason’s ear, and a little like the ketamine they had both taken. It was amazing, and Jason closed his eyes as he kissed Vaas’s finger again.

When he opened his eyes Vaas was still staring at him.

“Jason,” Vaas murmured. “Jason, hermano… You have no idea how fucking happy I am right now. I don’t think I’ve ever been this happy in my entire life, and it’s all because of you.”

Jason still had just enough control of his own brain to think that maybe the ketamine had something to do with it too, but when he spoke all that came out was Vaas’s name.

“Vaas,” he murmured again. “Vaas…”

He wanted to get closer to Vaas. He needed to just bury himself in Vaas’s arms. That was all that mattered right now, but when he leaned against Vaas’s shoulder the whole room starting swaying. He knew they sitting down, but he felt like he was going to fall over.

“Jason!” someone screamed.

Jason jerked back from Vaas’s shoulder. It wasn’t Vaas that had screamed. The voice had been a woman’s. He looked over his shoulder, trying to find the source of the scream, but he couldn’t see anyone.

“Jason, help us!” the voice screamed again. This time it sounded like it was coming from just behind him, and he shuddered. He definitely knew that voice.

It was Liza. One of the friends that had followed him to the island, and who, as far as Jason knew, was still captured by Vaas’s comrades. She couldn’t be here in the room with them. She just couldn’t.

“Jason,” the voice called again. “Please…”

When he looked over his shoulder again Liza was right there. She was chained to the wall, and she looked up at him with eyes that begged for his help.

“It’s no good,” another voice said, and Jason looked over to see his little brother Riley chained to the wall just beside Liza. “Jason doesn’t give a fuck about us anymore.”

“Riley,” Jason called out to his younger brother. He tried to reach out and touch him, but his hand passed through nothing. “It’s not true Riley.”

“He wouldn’t even care if we died,” Riley said, and Jason realised he was talking to Liza rather than to him.

Jason wanted to object, but then his memory reminded him of all the other times he had let Riley down. He hadn’t been there when Riley had graduated. He hadn’t been there, despite Riley’s pleading, when Riley had earned his pilot license. He wasn’t there now, when for all he knew Riley was being raped or tortured. No, he was here, getting high with his soulmate. Maybe it would have been more surprising if Riley had still had any faith in his older brother at all.

“Riley, Liza,” he muttered, trying to reach out and touch them both, and comfort them, despite the fact that part of his mind knew none of this was real. “I’m here. I’m going to find some way to save you, and everyone else. I’m here…”

He closed his eyes and leaned in to them, hoping to embrace them. His skin met the cold metal of the wall rather than the warmth of flesh and the unexpected sensation caused him to open his eyes again.

Riley and Liza were gone, as was the interior of Vaas’s home. Instead he found himself in the jungle that covered the rest of the island.

There was another scream, and he looked through the plants and trees that surrounded him to see his older brother, Grant, grappling with a tiger.

The creature was huge, a mess of claws and fangs and muscles that was only seconds away from tearing Grant apart.

“No,” Jason muttered, running towards Grant.

Grant was alive. Grant was fine. He had escaped from the camp and he was a trained soldier. He would survive. He wouldn’t let the jungle take him.

“Grant!” Jason called out to his brother, trying to move closer to him, but a pair of arms wrapped around him and kept him in place.

The tiger roared and swiped at Grant’s face.

“No, no, no,” Jason shouted. “Grant…”

“Ssshhh, Jason,” a voice in his ear whispered.

Someone was running their hands through Jason’s hair, trying to calm him down. Jason tried to shrug off the touches. He had to get to Grant. He had to save him.

“Jason, hermano, its okay,” Vaas muttered into his ear. His arms were stopping Jason from getting any closer to Grant and the tiger. Didn’t he know that Jason had to save his older brother?

“Jason,” Vaas whispered. “Calm down hermano. It’s okay.”

“No, it’s not,” Jason said, squirming out of Vaas’s arms.

He reached behind him and grabbed Vaas’s dagger. He vaguely heard Vaas shouting something as he charged towards Grant and the tiger.

The tiger whirled around and roared at Jason. Then the whole world shifted, and Jason realised it wasn’t a tiger at all, but a man that looked surprisingly like Angelo. That was ridiculous though. Angelo was dead.

Grant was lying on the floor, blood streaming from a wound in the back of his head. His clothes had been half torn off his body.

Jason screamed and attacked the man in front of him, stabbing him over and over again in the same way he had with the original Angelo, until the man was no more than a bleeding mess on the floor.

The man’s blood spread out as though it had a life of its own. The red liquid was so beautiful, and Jason found himself staring at it in rapt fascination.

Grant was nowhere to be seen now, but the man that had attacked him was still lying dead on the floor. Jason still had the knife, and there was still so much of the man’s body that lay untouched.

Jason was vaguely aware of the warmth of another person at his back, and the touch of a pair of arms as they gently wrapped around his shoulders.

“Jason,” a voice whispered, right next to his ear, making him shiver in delight. He knew that voice. That was a good voice. A kind, comforting voice that made him feel content and loved.

“You are so fucked up Jason,” the voice whispered.

Jason shrugged. Maybe he was. The whole world felt like fuzzy cotton wool, except for the touch of the other man, and the feeling of the blade in his hands.

“You need to calm the fuck down Jason,” the voice told him.

Screw that. He didn’t want to be calm.

Chapter Text

When Jason woke up the first thing he noticed was the stabbing pain in the back of his head. He groaned, curled into a ball and swore that he was never going to take ketamine again, no matter what Vaas said to him or how much pain he was in.

The second thing he noticed was that there was something draped over his shoulders. Jason reached up to find Vaas had placed one of his singlets so that it was covering Jason like it was the world’s worst blanket. Jason wasn’t sure how the small piece of clothing was supposed to protect him or keep him warm, or whatever it was Vaas had been thinking when he had left it, but he found himself bringing it up to his chest and holding it close regardless. He could smell Vaas’s scent on it, a perfume with notes of blood, sweat and ketamine that he breathed in deeply. It wasn’t the nicest of smells, but it was still comforting.

After lying there for what was probably too long and trying to ignore the pain in the back of his head Jason realised he should probably move, or at least make some attempt to check the rest of the room. Vaas was probably still there somewhere, and judging by the item of clothing in his hands, he was probably topless.

“Vaas,” Jason called out, screwing up his face in distaste when he heard how croaky his own voice was.

He forced himself to roll over, and then he began to hate that morning, because the next thing he noticed was the mangled mess of blood and broken flesh lying just a few feet away from him.

Jason stormed across the camp. He had changed into the red singlet Vaas had left when he had discovered that his own shirt had blood splattered all over it. Vaas’s singlet probably had blood on it too somewhere, but at least with the colour of the fabric it was harder to tell.

A few of the other pirates glanced up as he passed, but no-one tried to stop him.

Jason’s memories of the previous night were pretty fuzzy, and most of them after he and Vaas had started to make out made very little sense, but he was pretty sure he had killed the stranger in Vaas’s room. It would not be the first time he had killed someone, but the others had all been, for the most part, locals or other people that might turn out to be a threat. This was a potentially innocent victim, wearing Vaas’s colours and bleeding all over the floor.

Jason found Vaas yelling at a few of his subordinates near the edge of the camp. As Jason had suspected Vaas’s chest was completely bare. Jason forced himself not to linger on the tones of Vaas’s skin, or the way the muscles on his back rippled as he gestured. Instead he tried to listen to what Vaas was saying. For a second he thought he heard Vaas say the name ‘Snow White’, but then he immediately dismissed that idea as ridiculous. He must have misheard.

Vaas’s underlings looked up as Jason approached. Vaas continued his ranting for a moment, but then he seemed to realise where the pirates were looking, glanced back at Jason for just a second, and immediately told the three pirates that they could leave, at first calmly and then by shouting at them.

“Go, go, go!” he shouted. “Stupid chicken shits. You better have some good fucking news for me when you get back.”

He then whirled around and smiled widely at his soulmate.

“Jason!” he cried, arms outstretched as though he was about to embrace the other man.

Vaas’s bare torso was even more tempting to look at from the front. Jason wished that he could allow himself to become distracted by it, but he knew he couldn’t.

“Vaas,” Jason said, greeting him with a simple nod and not responding to the other man’s attempted embrace.

When they reached each other Vaas clamped his hands down on Jason’s shoulders. He then took a step back and began looking up and down Jason’s body, his grin widening as he did. Jason was quickly reminded that he was still wearing the other man’s singlet.

“Did you want…” he made to take the singlet off, thinking that maybe his soulmate would want it back, but Vaas waved him into silence.

“Keep it,” he told Jason. “I can get another one.”

His eyes lingered on Jason for a long time, especially on the other man’s chest and newly pierced ear. The hunger, or pride, Jason couldn’t tell which was more dominant, was written clear on his face. Jason grimaced as he realised what he must look like from the outside. As though Vaas’s name on Jason’s wrist wasn’t enough the pirate had found two more ways to mark Jason and claim him as his own.

Jason realised he was more turned on by that thought than disgusted by it and frowned. He really was losing sight of things.

“Vaas,” Jason whispered, grabbing his soulmate’s arm and looking him in the eye. “There’s a dead body in your room.”

Vaas shrugged.

“Not the first time,” he told Jason.

“It’s a mess, and I can’t… I can’t remember most of what we did last night.”

“That does not fucking surprise me hermano,” Vaas said. He sounded a lot less concerned than Jason would have liked.

“You got pretty fucked up,” Vaas continued. “Like, you were really tripping. Yelling all sorts of bullshit.”

“Did I kill him?” Jason asked.

Vaas just smiled at his soulmate and shrugged.

“What do you think?” he asked Jason.

“Damn it Vaas!” Jason yelled, pushing the other man away. “I could deal with it if I’d just killed him, but that other stuff…? He was a mess. Why would I do that to him? I can’t… It’s all so messed up in my own head. I just remember Grant being in trouble, and I…”

Jason took a step back and tried to calm himself. Some of the pirates were beginning to stare at him. He didn’t want to attract any more attention than they were already.

“Please tell me you did it,” he said, once he was sure he could speak normally again. “Please tell me that I didn’t decide to…”

“What the fuck does it matter?” Vaas asked. “He was already dead, so why should it matter what the fuck you did to him afterwards? It’s not like he could feel it Jason.”

“It matters. There’s a difference between killing someone because you’re high and you think you’re protecting your brother and getting off on slicing someone to pieces.”

Vaas shrugged.

“You want the truth?” he asked Jason. “Or do you want me to fucking lie so that you can feel better?”

Jason didn’t need Vaas to say anything else.

“At least tell me he attacked one of us or something. Please don’t tell me he was innocent.”

“He fucking works for me and Hoyt,” Vaas replied. “I don’t think he was innocent hermano, but he didn’t fucking attack us either. I told you, you got fucked up last night. Probably heard you screaming or some bullshit and came to check we were okay.”

Jason groaned. His stomach was beginning to churn uncomfortably. Maybe some small part of it was because of the guilt he was feeling, but most of it was because of the headache that was threatening to split his skull in half.

“What was his name?” Jason asked.

Vaas stared blankly back at him.

“What was his fucking name Vaas?!”

“Lee,” Vaas finally answered, “but why the fuck do you care what his name was? It’s not going to make any fucking difference, is it?”

“It matters, because when you do something that fucked up to someone then you should at least know their name!”

Jason’s head throbbed violently again, and he immediately regretted yelling at Vaas. He grimaced and reached up to clutch at his forehead. Vaas moved to help him, but Jason pushed him away.

“This… this isn’t right,” he told Vaas.


“I need to be alone for a while.”

Jason stumbled away in a random direction. Hopefully he could find some sort of peace, but at that moment he would have settled for a drink of cold water, or anything that would stop his head from throbbing.

The man’s body… No. Lee. Lee’s body, was still waiting for Jason when he returned hours later. He’d been an idiot to expect anything else. He spent what was left of the day digging a grave for the other man, letting the aches and pains of manual labour distract him from the throbbing of his head or the occasional pang that came from his new piercing. He tried not to think too hard as he worked, but his visions from the previous night kept coming back to haunt him, and it wasn’t just what he had done to Lee that was bothering him. He could still see Grant being attacked by the tiger and could still hear Liza’s cries for help.

The sun had just finished setting when he finished filling in the grave and returned to Vaas’s room. The pirate lord was waiting for him, and he smiled when Jason stumbled in, covered in dirt and still wearing Vaas’s singlet.

“Jason!” Vaas said, smiling and moving to embrace the other man.

Jason allowed his soulmate’s arms to wrap around him and pull him close, but he did nothing to return the gesture.

“Hey Jason,” Vaas muttered again, nuzzling into Jason’s shoulder and pressing a series of kisses to his neck and shoulder. The kisses didn’t relax Jason as much as they usually did.

He found himself looking around the room. He had cleaned up as much as he could, but he could still see hints of red on the floor where Lee’s body had rested just a few hours earlier.

“Jason,” Vaas said, and Jason realised he had been calling out Jason’s name for a while. “Hermano, what the fuck is wrong with you huh? You’re just standing there like a fucking tree or something.”

“It’s nothing,” Jason replied. He stepped around Vaas and headed for the bed, rolling beneath the furs even though he was still covered in dust and sweat. He curled up facing the wall, shut his eyes and waited for sleep to claim him.

He heard Vaas mutter something to himself and then after a few seconds there was the sound of shoes hitting the floor. Jason felt the furs and bed shift as Vaas crawled in beside him.

“Jason,” Vaas called out again. “Come on hermano. This is not nothing.”

He felt Vaas poke his shoulder a few times, and he realised that he was going to have to give Vaas some sort of response.

“Fine,” Jason muttered, rolling over so that he was facing Vaas. “Can I ask you something?”

“Anything you want hermano,” Vaas replied.

“Are my friends okay?”

“As far as I know, yeah.”

“Have any of them been bought or are they still on the island?”

Vaas frowned.

“We haven’t sold any of them yet,” he told Jason. “Why do you want to know? I hope you’re not getting any dumb fucking ideas about helping them escape.”

“No, I’m not that stupid,” Jason told him. “I guess I just miss them.”

Vaas stared at him for a long time. He finally sighed, shuffled closer to Jason and wrapped his hands around the other man.

“You’re too fucking concerned about other people hermano,” Vaas told Jason. “Too fucking soft.”

That was strange. Jason had just been thinking the opposite. He had lied to Vaas of course, if only because he knew how pissed Vaas would be if he knew what Jason was thinking.

Jason spent the following day doing everything he could to find out more about the island and hopefully discover where his friends were being kept.

Vaas didn’t make it easy though. From the moment Jason had awoken Vaas had stayed barely more than a few steps away from his soulmate. He kept trying to touch Jason as well, throwing his arm around the other man or grabbing his hand despite the fact that Jason had not returned any of his affectionate gestures and had greeted many of them with a raised eyebrow or snarky comment. Vaas just wasn’t getting it though, and if he asked if Jason wanted anything or if he was okay one more time then Jason wasn’t sure he would be able to stop himself from throttling Vaas.

Jason might have thought that the other man’s devotion was touching if it wasn’t so fucking irritating, but as it was all Jason could think was that it was really hard to eavesdrop or spy on the other pirates when Vaas was hanging off his shoulder.

As noon passed and Vaas continued to watch his every move Jason began to wonder if Vaas actually knew what Jason was trying to do and was watching him very carefully to make sure he couldn’t make any progress at all.

He soon realised that his plan of attack wasn’t getting him anywhere, and it wouldn’t as long as Vaas was following him.

It was reasonably easy to get Vaas to help him scout the area under the pretence of going hunting together. As Vaas sniffed around for different sorts of prey and told Jason about the one time he had killed a shark with nothing more than a bow and arrow Jason looked to the mountains and landmarks in the distance, making a mental map of the island and the area surrounding Vaas’s camp, knowing that with any luck he would need that information soon.

More than once Vaas went silent, and Jason would look over to catch him just staring at Jason, a slightly worried look on his face.

They were on their way back to the camp when things finally came to a head. Neither of them were carrying any sort of prey, but Jason was content with the amount of information he had managed to acquire.

Vaas chose that moment to turn to Jason again.

“What the fuck is wrong hermano?” Vaas asked him. “And don’t you dare fucking tell me that you’re fine, or that you’re just thinking or missing your friends or whatever the fuck it is that you were about to say.

“You see Jason,” he continued. “You and me, we’ve known each other for a while now, and I’ve been watching you. I can fucking tell that something is up, so you better fucking tell me right now yeah?”

“Or what?” Jason snapped in reply. “What the fuck are you going to do Vaas? Shoot me? Lock me up again?”

Vaas just shook his head and began to chuckle softly. Jason crossed his arms and frowned at Vaas. He couldn’t see anything about their current situation that was funny.

“What is it?” Jason asked.

“Fuck you,” Vaas replied. “This is what I fucking get for being worried about you? You fucking prick. Look, I’m sorry about that bullshit with Lee alright, but that fucker shouldn’t have come bursting into our fucking room like that if he didn’t want one of us killing him. There, that make you fucking feel better?”

“No,” Jason replied. “I mean… yes. Maybe? I don’t know. That’s not… that’s not what’s bothering me.”

“Your fucking friends then?” Vaas guessed. Jason didn’t have to reply for Vaas to know that he was right this time, and that worried Jason more than he would have cared to admit.

“Fuck!” Vaas screamed as soon as he saw the look on Jason’s face. “Fuck them Jason! Just…”

Jason was already holding his rifle under the pretence of needing it for hunting but he found himself clutching it close, just as ready to use it now as he had been during their hunting trip. A nearby cycad received the brunt of Vaas’s anger in the form of a kick that was so forceful that it sent the plant toppling over at Jason’s feet.

This seemed to calm him down a little bit and Vaas took a deep breath before he spoke again.

“It’s okay hermano,” he said. “It’s okay. I get it.”

He took a couple of steps towards Jason, leaned in close and pressed a long soft kiss to Jason’s mouth. Jason froze. The kiss was so unexpected, and by the time he was actually thinking about kissing back Vaas had pulled away.

Vaas strode straight past Jason, heading back towards the camp. He didn’t wait for Jason to follow, and as Vaas continued to walk away Jason realised that the other man had left him completely unsupervised. Jason was free to walk off into the jungle, to go wherever he would choose, and there was no-one there to stop him.

Jason climbed to the top of the nearest hill and looked out over the island. The sun was beginning to set. He could see some sort of ruin not too far from where he was standing and a couple of old buildings. The ocean was pretty close, and he could see a small boat resting on the beach that looked like it might actually work.

He took one last look at the view, before turning around and heading back towards the camp.

Vaas was surprisingly happy and energetic for most of the next day, which made Jason worry. He knew there was a lot that Vaas wasn’t telling him, which he was usually fine with, but this time Jason was sure the pirate was up to something, and not knowing what it was made Jason nervous, especially after everything that had happened the day before.

He caught Vaas talking to a few of his men at several points throughout the day, but whenever he saw Jason looking at them Vaas would pointedly stop talking and start looking like he was busy doing something else that was very definitely not scheming.

Later that afternoon Vaas came to Jason, trying to hide the smile that kept breaking out on his face, like a mischievous child trying to keep a secret.

“Jason. I’ve got a surprise for you. Come with me hermano.”

Vaas grabbed him by the arm before Jason could object, and started dragging him over to a building on the other side of the camp.

Jason frowned as he followed his soulmate. Considering what Vaas’s gifts and surprises usually consisted of Jason was slightly afraid of what he might find inside that building. For a moment he was terrified that Vaas had actually decided to lock him up again.

Carlos was standing guard at the door when they arrived, and he and Vaas nodded at each other before Carlos wandered off, leaving Vaas and Jason alone by the door.

“Go on,” Vaas said, indicating that Jason should go inside first.

Jason was definitely anxious now, but he resisted the urge to get his rifle ready.

As Jason stepped inside the building he saw a bamboo cage, similar to the one that he and Grant had been kept in when they had first been captured. As he drew closer his heart began to pound in his chest, and a smile broke out on his face when he realised that inside the cage were his younger brother Riley and their friend Oliver.

“Riley!” Jason cried out as he ran towards the cage.

The two of them had been sitting with their heads hung low, but Riley glanced up at the sound of his name, and soon enough the youngest Brody brother was reflecting Jason’s smile back at him.

“Jason,” Riley hissed, “what are you doing here? Do they know?”

He glanced towards the door, where part of Vaas’s back could just be seen.

“It’s all right,” Jason told him. “Vaas let me in here to see you. You don’t have to be quiet.”

Riley gripped the bars, and Jason placed a hand on top of Riley’s, his heart warming at the feeling of his little brother’s hand beneath his own.

“How are you holding up?” he asked Riley, glancing back at Ollie’s hunched form as he spoke. The blonde man hadn’t yet moved, and hadn’t appeared to have noticed Jason’s arrival at all.

“I’m fine,” his younger brother told him. “Ollie’s pretty messed up after what happened to Vincent, but he managed to talk one of the pirates into giving him some weed, so he’s pretty much spent the last few days high.”

“Same old Ollie then,” Jason replied with a laugh.

“Yeah,” Riley said.

“So no-one’s hurt you?” Jason asked, remembering the drugged up nightmare he had experienced a few days earlier and doing his best not to picture Angelo or someone just as bad touching Riley.

“No,” Riley replied. “I told you, we’re fine. One of the pirates; I think he’s their leader or something, has made sure all the others treat us pretty well. I mean, they’ve done some awful things to some of the others, but any time one of the pirates would go to touch us, this guy, he has like this Mohawk and looks like he’s as high as Ollie most of the time… well, he’d start yelling at the others and they’d just leave us alone.”

“He’s not a good guy,” Ollie piped up from his place in the corner. “Come on man, don’t say nice things about him like that. It’s his fault that Vincent’s dead.”

“Ollie, Jason’s here,” Riley told the other man.

With those words Ollie’s eyes opened immediately, and a fire seemed to light within the stoner. He crawled over to greet Jason, smiling through the dark rings beneath his eyes and the wooden bars that separated them.

“Jason, man,” Ollie exclaimed. “It’s good to see you. What the fuck are you doing here?”

“Look, I can’t explain it right now, but that guy with the Mohawk you mentioned has let me talk to the two of you for a few minutes.”

“Can you get us out of here?” Riley asked.

Jason glanced back to the entrance of the building. He could just see Vaas as he paced backwards and forwards in front of the door, assault rifle ready in his hand. If it hadn’t been Vaas that was there with them then he might have considered it. The life of any of the other pirates would have been a fair price to pay to free Ollie and Riley, but he wasn’t going to kill Vaas and he couldn’t imagine his soulmate just letting the three of them leave.

“I can’t,” he told Riley. “Not now at least.”

For just a moment Riley’s happy demeanour slipped. He looked crush, and Jason felt like the worst person in the entire world, but then Riley’s smile returned. Jason forced himself to smile back, even though he knew both of them were faking it.

Jason and Riley both looked over at Vaas.

“They’re going to sell us as slaves?” Riley asked Jason.

“Probably,” Jason admitted.

Riley nodded slowly, and Jason could tell his younger brother was finding it harder and harder to force a smile.

“I think Grant made it out,” Jason told them. “If I know him then he’ll try and save you guys, and he’ll do a way better job of it than I would.”

“What about you?” Riley asked.

“Don’t worry about me,” Jason told them. “I don’t need saving. You two just worry about yourselves.”

“Have you heard from Keith?” Riley asked. “Or, you know, any of the others? Are they okay?”

“I don’t know,” Jason admitted. “But I don’t think any of them have left the island yet. I haven’t been able to find out much else.”

“Oh, well… I guess you’ve been stuck here, right?”

“Something like that.”

Riley nodded slowly. Jason glanced back at the door. Vaas was staring pointedly at Jason, and he got the distinct impression that the pirate wanted to talk to him.

“Look, I’m going to visit you as often as Vaas will let me, okay?” Jason told his brother. “If I hear anything then I’ll let you know. I might be able to pry some information out of him.”

“Okay,” Riley said, nodding again.

“Hopefully I’ll be back in a moment,” Jason said, getting to his feet. “If not, you two look after each other okay?”

Riley nodded at him one more time. Ollie didn’t move, but he muttered something that sounded like an affirmation from his place in the corner of the cage.

Jason ran over to Vaas and as he grew closer he realised that the other man was definitely worried about something.

“Get back in there Jason,” Vaas hissed as he approached. “You need to give them a proper goodbye.”

“What? Why?”

“I’m taking them to Hoyt’s camp this afternoon,” Vaas told him. “Boss is gonna start talking to a couple of potential buyers. Won’t be long before they’ve been shipped off the island and then you’ll never see them again.”

Jason glanced back at the cage, and then at Vaas. His first instinct was to lash out, to get angry at Vaas for taking them away at all, but then he forced himself to be calm and soon realised that Vaas was trying his hardest to help them.

Vaas had to know that Jason would do something to help out Riley and Ollie. He wasn’t that stupid. Or perhaps he was and he just trusted Jason way too much. Either way, once he had really thought about it Jason could see it for the opportunity that it was.

“Thank you,” he told Vaas.

The other man shrugged as though it was nothing, but Jason had seen the excitement and glee that had been on Vaas’s face earlier, and knew better.

“I can give you a few more minutes hermano. You better put them to good use,” Vaas told him, “and don’t do anything stupid.”

Jason nodded at Vaas before entering the building and approaching the cage once more. Riley immediately perked up again. Ollie was just sober enough to lift his head and smile at Jason once again.

“Hey,” Jason said, reaching out and placing his hand on top of Riley’s again. “Riley, I… I might never see you again so…”

Jason leaned forward as he spoke. Riley threw himself at Jason, wrapping his arms around his older brother’s shoulders and pulling him close so that only the bars of the cage separated them.

Jason held Riley as tightly as he could even though the cage made it difficult. He leaned in so that his mouth was only inches away from Riley’s ear and began to whisper.

“You need to escape,” he told Riley. “They’re moving you to the Southern Island. You’ll be sold shortly after that. Keep an eye out for an opening but don’t be reckless. This might be your only chance.”

As he pulled back he could see the comprehension and the panic that was starting to build on Riley’s face.

“Can’t you do something?” Riley hissed.

Jason glanced at Vaas who was pointedly not looking at Jason and Riley.

“I don’t know,” he told his brother. “I’ll do what I can, but I can’t make any promises. You and Ollie look after each other and keep an eye out for Grant.”

Jason pulled away from the cage, even more reluctantly than he had the last time. From his spot on the floor Ollie was looking between Jason and Riley with his mouth open. Jason wondered how much his friend had heard. Hopefully with the two of them working together then Riley and Ollie could escape.

“Goodbye Ollie,” Jason said. “Goodbye Riley.”

He turned away, choosing to look at the floor rather than at the look he knew would be on Riley’s face.

“Hey Jason!” Riley called out to him as he walked away. “I’ll see you soon, okay?”

At those words Jason did turn back, and was surprised to see that rather than the despair or panic he had expected Riley looked determined and almost fierce.

“See you soon,” he replied, hoping it was true.

Jason left the building and Vaas moved from his place leaning against the wall to walk in step just behind him.

“You’ve been looking after them,” Jason noted.

“They don’t make it fucking easy. That little blonde guy, he’s always bitching and crying no matter how much stuff I slip him.”

“Your men did kill his soulmate,” Jason pointed out.

“Fuck that hermano. I killed his soulmate. Little fucker was yelling at me. What else was I supposed to do? Besides, I didn’t know he was your friend, did I?”

Jason let the expression on his face show his doubt.

“Well okay, I knew he was your friend,” Vaas admitted, “but I didn’t know you were my soulmate so… See, this is why you shouldn’t give a fuck who someone is, or whether their soulmate is gonna cry when you kill them. It just makes the whole thing fucking confusing.”

“Still, you tried to protect Riley. Thanks for that.”

“Don’t go getting all fucking sappy on me Jason,” Vaas said. “I didn’t do shit. They’re probably still gonna get shipped off as slaves, or assuming they’re way smarter and better at fighting than you then they’re probably gonna get shot or eaten by sharks or tigers and then they’ll fucking wish they were slaves. Don’t thank me.”

“Still, thanks for this. If nothing else it was good to see them.”

Vaas shrugged, but Jason spotted the hint of a smile that Vaas failed to disguise, and knew that the other man was proud that he had been able to make Jason happy.

“You’re welcome.”

They fell into silence then, and Jason couldn’t decide whether the silence was awkward, or just intense. He was just about to ask Vaas if he wanted to spend some time getting a little more intimate in their room when Vaas broke the silence himself.

“Look, I gotta take them Hoyt now okay?” Vaas said, scratching the back of his head. “I’ll be back later. You’ll still be here yeah?”

Jason smiled.

“Where else am I gonna be?”

Vaas grinned. He clapped Jason on the shoulder, and leaned in to press a quick kiss on the other man’s cheek before running off with a spring in his step that had not been there for days.

Jason smiled as he watched the other man run off. He could still feel the press of Vaas’s lips on his cheek and that alone was making him happier than he would have admitted, but more than that Vaas was going to be gone for quite a while if what he had just said was true, leaving Jason with plenty of time and no-one that would get in his way.

Grant walked deeper into the temple, and then dropped to his knees immediately when he saw her. God, she was so beautiful, so regal, and so far beyond anyone else he had ever met. Her power practically radiated off her in waves that left him breathless.

He bowed low before her, as he knew he should.

She smiled at him, and spoke softly as she touched him on the arm and shoulder. She seemed proud of him. That was good. He wanted to make her proud.

She gestured for him to stand so he did.

“I have some good news for you,” she said. “Would you like to hear it?”

“Of course,” he replied, trying not to be distracted too much by her slender fingers as they traced a path down his chest.

“I know where your brother is,” she told him. “I know how you can save Jason.”

Chapter Text

Moving the two prisoners to Hoyt’s encampment hadn’t been nearly as difficult as Vaas had expected. He had kept a close eye on Riley and Oliver, wondering when the two Americans would make their move, but they hadn’t even tried to escape, at least that Vaas could tell. Admittedly Vaas had made sure that the two were being watched by at least three armed men at all times so that might have had something to do with it.

He knew Jason would be happy if they escaped, but Vaas would rather that he was as far away from them as possible when, or if, it happened. He could get into enough shit with Hoyt as it was without Jason’s stupid brother and stupider friend helping him.

Still, part of him had hoped that at least one of them would have a little more backbone than that. It would make the trip more interesting, and would prove that at least one of Jason’s friends might actually be worthy of him.

Vaas pushed open the door to Hoyt’s office, wondering as he did whether Jason would be angry with him when he returned. It wasn’t like it was his fault that Jason’s friend and brother were pussies, but Jason might still be angry at him. Or worse, Jason might get all quiet and sad. Fuck. Vaas was really beginning to get pissed off when Jason was like that.

“Ah Vaas!” Hoyt greeted him loudly as Vaas stepped into his office. “So good to see you. Come in. Come in. Sit down.”

Hoyt was sitting behind a rather neat and professional looking desk, his feet propped up on one corner of it, and he was smoking a rather foul smelling cigar. Vaas screwed up his nose at the smell as he grew closer and the smell grew stronger.

“I brought the prisoners, just like you asked,” Vaas said as he slipped into the seat across from Hoyt.

“Yes, about that. I can’t help but notice that you’ve only transferred two of our young American friends,” Hoyt said. “You had three with you last time I checked, and I asked for all three of them.”

He leaned forward on his desk. Vaas tried his hardest to look disinterested.

“Where is the third one; what’s his name; Jason Brody?”

Vaas didn’t reply, knowing that he would need a few more seconds to come up with an excuse that would please Hoyt. He hadn’t really expected Hoyt to care so much. He hadn’t when Vaas had chosen to keep someone before.

“I understand,” Hoyt continued, filling the silence for him. “The boy is good-looking. It must be nice to have some eye candy around.”

Hoyt waved his cigar in the other man’s direction and Vaas screwed up his face again as a cloud of foul smelling smoke assaulted his nostrils. The cigar was probably expensive, but it smelled like shit, and Vaas was sure it wouldn’t have the same kick to it as a plain old cigarette. Vaas concentrated on how much of a fucking waste of tobacco the cigar was rather than on what Hoyt was saying. He had never been able to outbluff Hoyt and if he thought too much about what Hoyt was saying then he wasn’t sure he’d be able to keep his anger at Hoyt from spilling out and ruining everything.

What he wanted to do was yell at Hoyt; make him shut his stupid fucking mouth. Jason wasn’t eye candy. Well, he only sort of was. Jason was really fucking pretty, but he was way more than that too. He was Jason. More importantly, he was Vaas’s Jason. Of course Vaas hadn’t let him be transferred, but if Hoyt knew how important Jason was then there was no way he’d let Vaas keep him. The other man had never really liked it when Vaas was happy, unless of course there was something in it for him, which meant that Vaas wanted to keep Jason as far away from Hoyt as possible.

“I’m sure you’ve had your fun with him,” Hoyt continued, “but I need it stop now. Buck wants the boy, so you’re going to hand over Jason Brody to him without any sort of fuss.”

Buck wanted Jason. Oh, fuck no…

“Fuck that!” Vaas yelled as he jumped to his feet. “I saw Jason first. You can tell that stupid Aussie to go fuck a crocodile.”

“Tell him yourself,” Hoyt said, grinning at Vaas.

“Hello mates,” a friendly voice said as a hand clapped Vaas on the shoulder.

Vaas turned around to see the bearded face of Bambi ‘Buck’ Hughes, their resident Australian soldier-turned-hitman. Buck grinned at Vaas as he stepped around him and sat down in the seat that Vaas had occupied until just a few seconds earlier.

“I saw Jason first,” Vaas told the other man. “He’s mine.”

“Well, you didn’t tell me that you wanted to keep him,” Hoyt pointed out as he took a long slow draw of his cigar. “Mister Hughes did.”

“Plus your boss here owes me a lot of money for offing that British fucker,” Buck added.

“You see?” Hoyt said. “Brody is also allowing me to remove a debt that I have with our dear friend here. If I let you keep Jason would you be paying for him?”

“I can pay,” Vaas murmured, even as he tried to work out how much money he had to spare, and how much Hoyt would want for Jason. Most of his money was usually spent on drugs and weapons. Maybe if he gave up some of the weaker stuff… “I’ll get you the money boss.”

Vaas realised Hoyt was staring at him.

“No,” Hoyt said after a few too many moments of silence for Vaas to be comfortable. “You won’t, because he’s going to Buck. You must understand Vaas. I try to be fair. Really I do, but Buck came to me with this request long before you said anything.”

“Don’t worry,” Buck spoke up. “I’ll take good care of him.”

Vaas glanced at the scarred patch on Buck’s arm where his soulmate’s name would have been until they had died and the brand had burned away. The asshole wore the scar openly and with pride, and now he wanted Jason. Vaas’s Jason. If Hoyt wasn’t there then Vaas would have punched the Aussie right in his smug face. Maybe cut that stupid deer tattoo off his chest as well. If Buck knew what Vaas was thinking then he certainly didn’t show it. He just kept smiling at Vaas and Hoyt.

“Go on,” Buck said, waving for Vaas to leave. “Go and get him.”

“I can’t,” Vaas said.

Buck’s eyebrows rose. Hoyt just looked pissed.

“And why is that?” Hoyt demanded. “If you’ve lost another one…”

“No, no,” Vaas said, trying hard to think of a reason why Buck couldn’t have Jason, “I know where Jason is. I’ll bring him to you, okay? We’re just… You know. We’re fucking in the middle of something and I can’t give you Jason until we’re done.”

“You need Jason?” Hoyt repeated at him, clearly not believing a word that Vaas had said. Hoyt sighed and rubbed at his forehead. “I don’t want to know what sort of games you’re playing with the boy. Just tell me; is he still in one piece?”

“Give me until tomorrow. He’ll be right as fucking rain then, okay boss?”

“All right,” Hoyt said with a shrug, and Vaas wondered exactly how okay with it Hoyt really was. He and Jason were treading on thin ice. They’d have to be careful.

“Can I go?” Vaas asked. “I don’t like being in the same room as this Aussie prick.”

Hoyt nodded and Vaas turned to leave.

“Don’t be too rough with him,” Buck said as Vaas stormed out. “I want to break him in myself, you hear?”

Vaas didn’t give Buck the dignity of a response.

“Fucking Aussie asshole,” Vaas muttered to himself once he was out of earshot.

There was no way he was going to let Buck anywhere near Jason.

Jason glanced behind him to make sure none of the pirates had followed him, before sneaking into the small building in front of him. It had taken a fair bit of scouting, but he had discovered where Vaas and the other pirates kept the personal belongings of those that they captured.

He glanced around the room. There was more here than he would have thought; piles of phones, wallets and passports, organised with just as much precision and logic as the objects in Vaas’s room, which was to say, absolutely none at all. Jason sighed and wondered how he was going to find anything in the mess in front of him.

He began rummaging around in the piles as carefully and quietly as he could. He had given up any hope of finding his wallet or passport as soon as he had seen the state of the room, but it was probably worth looking for his phone. He searched a couple of the wallets as well, and emerged with a handful of assorted notes and coins. He wasn’t sure if anyone on the island would accept them. Hell, he didn’t even know what country half of the money was from, but it was better than nothing. There was a map of the island on a nearby table as well, and he folded that up as best as he could, shoving it in one of his back pockets.

He almost cried out in joy when he spotted a familiar looking phone near the top of one of the piles. He picked it up and pressed the button a little harder than he probably should, wondering as he did whether he would actually be able to get a signal anywhere on the island. He immediately frowned when he noticed that it wouldn’t turn on. Of course the batteries were dead. He’d been staying with Vaas for over a fortnight now. He’d been an idiot to think it might still work.

He sighed and threw the phone back on the pile. He then picked up a couple of others, hoping that he might at least find one that worked.

He froze as he managed to turn one on, only to be greeted with familiar faces. Riley looked to have taken the selfie sometime during their stay in Bangkok. Ollie and Vincent had their arms around his shoulders, while a less than impressed looking Keith lingered in the background.

Jason’s hands hovered over the phone. There was no signal, but it occurred to him that maybe he should keep the phone anyway, and give it back to Riley the next time they saw one another.

“Hey you! What the fuck are you doing in here?”

Jason jumped and dropped the phone, before turning around slowly. Sure enough one of Vaas’s men stood in the doorway, blocking the exit.

Damn it. Jason had been hoping for things to go a little more smoothly. Still, if he played this right this could be an opportunity rather than a problem. The man was holding a gun, but he wasn’t pointing it at Jason. Not yet.

Jason smiled and slowly approached the other man.

“Hey. Sorry. I was just looking for Vaas,” Jason told him. The pirate looked to be pretty relaxed. That was good. He was buying it.

When Jason was close enough he quickly drew the knife that he had taken from Vaas’s room and grabbed the other man, pushing him against the wall and bringing the knife up to the pirate’s neck.

“Perhaps you could help me find him,” Jason growled.

“Hey! Let me go asshole!”

“I’d be a lot quieter than that if I was you,” Jason hissed, pressing the knife against the pirate’s neck, not hard enough that it would draw blood, but hard enough that the other man would feel it. “You see, loud noises startle me. My hand might slip.”

The pirate swallowed nervously.

“Now, let’s try this again,” Jason said. “Tell me where Vaas has gone. I want to know exactly where he’s taking Riley and Oliver.”

“To Hoyt,” the pirate replied. “They are going to be slaves. Where do you think they have been taken?”

“I know that you stupid fucking…”

Jason continued to curse beneath his breath, and reached into his pocket to pull out the map he had found earlier.

“Here!” Jason said, holding the map up in front of the pirate’s face. “Show me where Hoyt’s base is.”

The man looked at Jason’s face for a moment and then pointed to a spot on the West of the Northern Island.

Jason shook his head and plunged his knife into the wall right beside the man’s ear, the blade just nicking the other man’s skin.

“Nice try asshole,” Jason growled, “but I know he’s on the Southern island. I wouldn’t try that again unless you want to lose that ear.”

The man looked shaken. That was good. If he was scared then he would probably talk. He looked like he was just about to say something when a loud cry echoed from outside the building.


“Damn it,” Jason cursed under his breath when he recognised Vaas’s voice. He hadn’t been expecting Vaas back until the next day. Hoyt’s base must have been closer than he had thought.

“Jason!” Vaas screamed again. “Where the fuck are you hermano?”

Jason wanted to stay quiet. Maybe he would be able to slip out of the building and then Vaas would never know what exactly he had been up to.


Then again, Vaas sounded really worried, and pretty pissed about something.

Jason’s captive made the decision for him, hollering as loudly as he could.

“He’s in here!” the pirate screamed.

Jason shook his head.

“God damn it,” he muttered, pulling the blade back from the pirate’s neck. “You stupid…”

The pirate grinned triumphantly at Jason and folded his arms in front of him.

Vaas soon arrived at the entryway to the building, and appeared to relax a little as soon as he saw Jason.

“Hey,” Jason greeted him, wondering how he was supposed to explain his sneaking around to Vaas.

The other pirate ran up to Vaas before either of them could say anything else, gesturing towards Jason with the gun he still held.

“I caught this white boy sneaking around in here,” the pirate told Vaas, who just looked at the other man like he couldn’t work out what he was doing there. Jason was torn between trying to look as innocent as possible and appeal to Vaas’s affection for him, and running away as quickly as he possibly could.

“He was doing something he shouldn’t,” the pirate continued, “and when I tried to stop him he threatened me.”

Vaas had already looked upset when he had walked into the building, and his mood seemed to be growing worse and worse with every word that was coming out of the other man’s mouth.

“He was asking questions,” the pirate said.

“You tried to stop him?” Vaas asked.

The pirate had barely started to nod in response to Vaas’s question when Vaas grabbed him and shoved him up against a nearby wall. Vaas had grabbed the man’s knife from his belt and plunged it into his neck before he could do anything to defend himself.

The pirate fell to the ground, blubbering and clutching at the blade for a second before he quickly fell silent.

Jason had been prepared for a lot of different reactions from Vaas, but he had to admit that the murder of the other pirate had not been among them. Vaas was obviously in an even worse mood than he had thought.

“Vaas, I’m sorry,” Jason muttered. “I know this looks bad but…”

“Shut up,” Vaas barked. “I could probably guess what you were doing but I don’t fucking care, you hear?”

Vaas grabbed Jason by the arm and began dragging him out of the building. Jason spared a glance back at the building, and just caught sight of the dying pirate watching them leave.

Damn it. He should have pocketed Riley’s phone when he had the chance.

“What’s going on?” Jason asked as Vaas continued to drag him across the base and towards Vaas’s room.

“I need to talk to you somewhere private,” Vaas replied.

Jason watched his soulmate closely. Vaas was glancing backwards and forwards around the encampment, as though he was afraid they would be caught doing something they shouldn’t. Jason swallowed nervously, and wondered just what the hell had happened to Vaas in the few hours since they had last seen each other.

Vaas pulled Jason into his room, pulled the door shut tightly behind them and began pacing backwards and forwards in front of Jason, mumbling under his breath as he did.

“… just got to fucking… can’t let him…”

Jason got to his feet and tried to grab Vaas gently by the arm. Vaas immediately shrugged the touch away though, and Jason frowned. Jason had thought that after the last few days Vaas would have been hungry for any sort of affection. Something was definitely wrong.

“Vaas, what…?”

“Stupid Aussie fuck!” Vaas screamed so loudly and so suddenly that Jason found himself taking a couple of steps away from his mate.

Vaas dropped to the ground and curled up with his head on his knees.

“Hey, what is it?” Jason mumbled, dropping beside Vaas and grabbing one of his hands. “Come on Vaas. You can tell me. It helped when you knew what was bothering me, right?”

Jason checked the other man’s eyes. Judging by how dilated his pupils were Vaas was definitely high. His eyes were even more red and blurry than usual as well, although whether that was drugs or something else he couldn’t tell.

Vaas’s eyes met his own and Jason’s heart broke a little. He had never seen Vaas this lost or confused before and wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do.

“That stupid Aussie fucker can’t have you,” Vaas said.

One of his arms wrapped around Jason’s shoulders and pulled him close. Jason wrapped his own arms around Vaas in response, and leaned in until their foreheads were touching. That seemed to calm the other man down a little.

“I’m not going to let him take you from me amante,” Vaas muttered.

Amante? That was a new one, but Jason couldn’t dwell on it long enough to sort through his vague memories of high-school Spanish and remember what it meant. Not with Vaas so obviously distressed.

“No-one’s going to take me,” Jason reassured Vaas, “now could you finally tell me what the fuck has you so worried?”

Vaas ran a hand through Jason’s hair a little too roughly.

“So there’s this sick Aussie asshole named Buck,” Vaas told him. “He killed some high-rolling asshole for Hoyt and now Hoyt owes him a fuck-tonne of money. Boss thinks he’s gonna settle the debt by giving you to that kangaroo-fucker and he expects me to just fucking hand you over!”

“Well, if he’s someone you know then maybe it’s not so bad,” Jason suggested. “I’ll still be on the island. We’ll still be able to…”

“You do not want to go with that fuck!” Vaas interrupted Jason, grabbing Jason’s face in his hands.

He then grabbed Jason’s wrist and pulled it up so that it was at their eye level.

“His fucking wrist is a big scarred mess ‘cause he killed his own fucking soulmate. Now he fucking wears it out in the open like it’s a fucking badge of honour. He didn’t give a shit about his own soulmate Jason! What the fuck do you think he’d do to you?”

Vaas paused and let Jason’s hand go.

“He’ll fuck you up Jason,” Vaas muttered. “I don’t want to let him take you from me.”

Jason was silent for a moment as he let Vaas’s words fully sink in. He moved his hand up so that he could cup the side of Vaas’s face and hopefully give the other man some sort of comfort. Vaas’s eyes met his again, and Jason found himself drawn in, leaning forward until they were almost kissing.

“Well,” Jason muttered, “don’t give me to him then.”

“Like it’s that fucking simple,” Vaas said. He took a deep breath, leaned in and pressed a kiss on Jason’s cheek before he continued. “Tomorrow I’m gonna give you some supplies and you’re going to get the fuck away from here. I want you to run as fast as you fucking can, got it?”

Jason’s forehead was still pressed against Vaas’s, so that when he nodded in response their noses bumped against one another.

“Just don’t get eaten by a fucking tiger okay?” Vaas told him.

Jason chuckled.

“I’m fucking serious,” Vaas barked, pulling back from Jason just a little. “It’s fucking dangerous out there hermano. There’s tigers and snakes and sharks and those fucking Rakyat pricks. You gotta promise me you’re not gonna get eaten or shot, okay?”

Jason nodded again.

“Don’t worry,” he told Vaas. “You’ve taught me enough. You know, before you came back I was actually thinking about taking off on my own anyway.”

Vaas frowned at him.

“What, you think you were going to go and save your fucking friends or something?” Vaas snapped.

“Something like that.”

“I can’t leave you alone for two fucking minutes, can I Jason?! You little... I don’t want to hear that you tried to rescue your brother and your friend and got killed by Hoyt’s men either, you fucking hear me? That place is like a fortress Jason. They would fucking kill you.”

“I’m not going to die like that,” Jason said, cupping the side of Vaas’s face with his hand.

Vaas appeared to relax, and leaned forward so that their foreheads were touching again. One of his hands moved so that it was gently running over Jason’s wrist and hand.

“Tell me that I’m still gonna get to see you after you’ve fucked off tomorrow.”

“You’re going to see me again Vaas.”


Jason entwined their fingers and squeezed Vaas’s hand firmly.

“I promise you’ll see me again,” he said.

Vaas nodded slowly, before leaning in and crashing their mouths together in a desperate, hungry kiss. Jason kissed back, not caring about the bitter taste in Vaas’s mouth, or the awkward way they stumbled over each other as they got to their feet. He could feel Vaas slowly guiding him back, to the bed he thought.

He should have been worried, either for himself or for Riley and Ollie, but at that moment his mind was clear of anything but the feeling of Vaas’s body pressed against his own, the way Vaas’s fingers dug in to his skin as he grasped Jason’s hips too tightly and the feeling of Vaas’s teeth teasing his bottom lip, leaving his mouth open and defenceless.

Their bodies crashed to the bed, Vaas on top of Jason and their lips still moving against one another’s. Vaas’s hands started to creep beneath the red singlet Jason still wore, slowly lifting it and exposing Jason’s torso.

Their lips parted just long enough for Vaas to pull the singlet off and throw it to the floor. Jason sat up a little, reconnecting their lips and reaching out to pull at his soulmate’s clothes.

Their bare chests pressed against one another, and Jason realised that if only he looked he would see the ridiculously distracting sight that was Vaas’s naked torso, this time in a setting where he could appreciate it in all its glory, but that would mean he would have to stop kissing the other man, and that was just an insane thing to contemplate.

The feeling of Vaas’s hand slipping below his beltline made Jason moan into Vaas’s mouth. Vaas began stroking him, and Jason clung to him, his body rocking against the other man’s. Vaas had done this before, but this time his touch promised pleasure and a joining of flesh rather than just teasing at it.

Jason froze momentarily as he realised that if they continued like this then they would turn their soul-brands white.

Vaas pulled back. His eyes searched Jason’s, probably wondering why Jason had stopped moving.

“We’re…” Jason panted, torn between staring at the man on top of him and getting out the words he knew he had to say. “We’re going to…”

“Yeah. If you want,” Vaas said.

He ran a hand over Jason’s chest, causing Jason’s entire body to shudder, and breaking any sort of hesitation Jason might have felt. He wanted Vaas, Vaas wanted him, and if everything went to shit then they might not have an opportunity like this for a long time. Why the fuck shouldn’t they turn their soul-brands white?

“I want,” Jason said, pulling Vaas down so that their lips slammed against one another again.

There was the sound of thick fabric shifting against skin, and after a moment Jason felt Vaas’s hand tugging at the waistband of his pants. He lifted his lower torso as much as he could to assist Vaas, but it was hard to concentrate when there were lips and muscled shoulders and the taste of something dangerous and intoxicating distracting him.

Jason winced as certain parts of his body were freed from their cloth wrappings. The cool evening air ghosted against certain patches of his skin and made him shudder in Vaas’s arms, and then the cool air was quickly replaced by the warmth of Vaas’s fingers returning to stroke him once again.

No-one had ever warned him it would be like this. Everyone always talked about the joy you felt when you met your soulmate. They spoke of happiness, of relief, and of a tender love that slowly grew until neither could imagine life without the other. No-one ever spoke of this fire, of the desperate need that had overtaken him, of drowning in the darkness that was your soulmate. No-one had warned him that they might cling together so tightly that his entire body hurt, or that the feeling of someone’s teeth sinking into his shoulder would be one of the most glorious things he had felt in his entire life.

Somewhere along the line Vaas must have succeeded in removing both of their pants, because Jason could feel their bare legs getting tangled in each other. Vaas’s touches had settled into a steady pace, just slow enough to leave Jason reeling and clinging to the other man like he was drowning.

“Fuck Jason,” Vaas muttered, pulling back a little despite Jason’s attempts to reattach his teeth and lips to Vaas’s neck. “You have no idea what you’re doing to me right now amante.”

Jason felt two of Vaas’s fingers press against his lips, and his tongue darted out to lick them almost immediately. He was rewarded with a deep, throaty moan from Vaas, before the fingers dipped inside Jason’s mouth. Jason sucked and licked at them, tasting blood and tobacco as he did. He opened his eyes to see Vaas staring at his face, completely transfixed.

Jason grinned and gently bit at the tip of one of Vaas’s fingers. The other man hissed, the look on his face turning almost feral as he removed the digits from Jason’s mouth and swiftly replaced them with his lips and tongue.

Vaas’s spit-slicked fingers began teasing Jason’s entrance, the other man’s gentle touch making Jason squirm. The two digits began pressing a little harder, before slipping inside of him. Vaas’s other hand had continued to stroke Jason, and it began to move faster, distracting Jason from the strange feeling of being stretched, while leaving the entire weight of Vaas’s body pressing against Jason’s own, gravity keeping their bodies together even if Jason should lose his grip on the other man’s shoulders and head.

After a while Vaas removed his fingers, and pulled back from their kiss. His hand stilled on Jason’s erection, and Jason whimpered and arched towards Vaas’s touch.

“You ready Jason?” Vaas asked him, his low voice promising all sorts of debauchery if only Jason said yes. Jason already desperately wanted Vaas, but when the man on top of him gave Jason’s erection another stroke, this one firmer than any of his previous touches, Jason found himself completely overcome to the point of begging.

“Oh god Vaas,” Jason muttered. “Please… Vaas…”

He didn’t even know what he was pleading for. Please Vaas keep touching me? Please fuck me Vaas? Please Vaas let’s just stay pressed against each other like this for as long as physically possible?

He decided it didn’t really matter when in the next second he felt Vaas press against his entrance and then slowly but surely slide inside until he was buried inside Jason.

It burned, but Jason was already consumed by fire. Vaas’s hand had resumed its steady journey up and down his length, so for some reason even the pain inside of him felt right.

Vaas pulled out a little and then slid back in, his hand sliding up and then down Jason’s erection perfectly in time with his own movements.

Jason moaned, trying to think, trying to breathe, torn between losing himself in Vaas’s touch and desperately holding on to what little sanity he had left.

Vaas began moving faster and faster. Jason hadn’t thought it could get any better, but then their bodies aligned in just the right way and Vaas’s hips angled up just so, and Jason saw stars.

“Oh fuck,” he muttered, trying to bury himself in Vaas’s shoulder. “Vaas.”

Vaas hit that spot inside of him again, and this time Jason screamed.

“Fuck,” Vaas breathed as he thrust into Jason, every movement sending almost unbearable waves of pleasure throughout Jason. “So… fucking… beautiful… Fuck, Jason…”

It was all too much, and the next thrust made the dam inside of Jason burst, his climax crashing over him with a force that he was powerless to hold back. He screamed Vaas’s name as he came, his mind shattered and then there was nothing but pleasure and darkness and Vaas for what seemed like far too long. He blinked a few times and realised he could make sense of himself just enough to realise that Vaas was coming inside of him.

Jason looked up at the other man’s face and wondered if he had ever seen anything so beautiful. Vaas moaned and whimpered and finally collapsed on top of Jason.

They were both panting and covered in sweat, and there were aches all over Jason’s body that he would probably regret tomorrow. It was perfect. Jason just lay there for a moment, listening to the sound of Vaas breathing, and feeling his heart beat as it slowly returned to a more normal speed.

Jason shuffled a little so that he could better see the arm Vaas had slung over his chest. Jason reached out and gently ran a hand over Vaas’s soul-brand. It had turned white as expected, signalling a consummated bond. Now that it had turned white it would never fade back to grey or black, no matter how far apart they were, or how long it was before they saw one another again. Somehow that was a comforting thought. He checked his own brand and smiled when he saw Vaas’s name, now also in white.

He glanced back and was about to speak when he realised Vaas was also staring at their soul-brands, the contented half smile on his face reminding Jason just how beautiful his soulmate could be when wasn’t killing anything, and could just relax like this.

Jason shifted his left hand so that it was pressing against Vaas’s, and entwined their fingers.

He felt Vaas grin against his shoulder. The pirate tried to shuffle closer to Jason, which wasn’t really possible considering how close they already were, and wrapped his free arm tightly around Jason’s waist.

He was so comfortable, and so content. As they lay there Jason thought that maybe he could have been happy with Vaas after all, if only they’d met under different circumstances or he’d been given long enough to get used to the feeling of Vaas’s arms wrapped around him.

Chapter Text

“You remember what I told you right?”

Vaas was clearly trying to pretend that he wasn’t too worried about Jason, and doing a terrible job of it. One of his hands reached up to run through Jason’s hair for what felt like the dozenth time that morning, and Jason had to fight the urge to bat his touch away. He should really be savouring it. After all, who knew how long it would be before they would see each other again, let alone touch?

“About the tigers, the Rakyat, the island or the rifle you gave me?” Jason replied with a grin.

Jason was hoping for a chuckle, or at least a smile, but Vaas was not in the mood for joking. He pulled Jason close to him, pressing their foreheads together.

“You gotta take this seriously amante,” Vaas told him. “You die and I’m gonna be super fucking pissed at you, okay?”

“It’s okay,” Jason told him, as he leaned in so that the rest of their faces were almost touching as well. “I remember all of it. I’ll be fine.”

Vaas didn’t look particularly convinced, but it would have to do. Every second they spent talking increased the likelihood that someone would discover them. They’d snuck out of the camp that morning, doing their best not to alert anyone. Neither of them wanted any of Vaas’s pirates telling Hoyt that Jason had escaped, which was a definite possibility, even amongst the men that Vaas thought were loyal.

The only one he had trusted enough was the always calm and ever present Carlos, who was currently standing on guard a little way away, allowing Jason and Vaas to at least get a few minutes in which to say a proper goodbye.

Vaas wrapped his arms around Jason and pulled him into an embrace so tight that Jason felt his bones twist uncomfortably. He heard the other man inhale deeply, taking in Jason’s scent as though it was some sort of drug.

“I’m gonna fucking miss you Jason,” Vaas muttered.

“I’m going to miss you too,” Jason said, realising even as he said it how true the statement was.

They parted reluctantly, Vaas’s lips just brushing against Jason’s cheek as he drew back. Jason stepped away from the other man. He nodded at Vaas, trying his hardest not to think about the previous night. Vaas nodded back, and then Jason turned and slunk into the forest, moving as swiftly and as silently as he could, forcing himself not to look back at Vaas’s encampment.

He didn’t want to admit how hard it was to leave Vaas behind. The thought had crossed his mind that he might never see the other man again, but he knew he couldn’t dwell on that fear. He could worry about that once he was away from Hoyt and safe with his friends.

He was barely out of sight of the camp when the sound of nearby gunfire had him freeze in his tracks. His first thought was that someone had spotted him, and he reached for his rifle, ready to fight back straight away if need be.

He quickly realised that the shots weren’t being aimed at him though. There were shouts from back in the encampment, followed by the sound of return fire, and Jason’s heart twisted painfully in his chest.

Vaas’s camp was under attack. If it was just the Rakyat then Vaas and his men could probably handle them, but there was an awful lot of shouting coming from the encampment. One very familiar voice rose above the rest, shouting commands that Jason couldn’t understand from this distance, and Jason’s hands clenched on the rifle he was holding.

Vaas was in danger. Jason knew that Vaas could handle himself, that his soulmate would probably be fine, but he also knew that he couldn’t leave yet, at least not until he had made sure that Vaas was all right. He cursed, checked the magazine of the rifle that Vaas had given him and turned back towards the encampment.

He crept back as quickly and carefully as he had when he was supposed to be leaving. He heard someone shouting nearby, and ducked lower in the long grass, watching as a dark-skinned man in a blue shirt searched the area. The stranger yelled over his shoulder at someone who yelled back in reply.

Jason stayed low, waiting until he could be completely sure that this man’s friend would not be joining them, before slowly creeping up behind the Rakyat. He had no way of knowing how many more were in the encampment, but judging by the noise coming from the encampment and the fact that Vaas with all of his men had not yet been able to suppress their attackers, it was probably a lot.

Jason knew he would need to be silent, or he might soon find himself facing half a dozen armed and angry Rakyat.

He snuck up behind the first Rakyat and pounced on him, wrapping his hands around the other man’s neck and squeezing until he felt something beneath the other man’s skin collapse. There was a sickening crack, and the man fell down. Jason holstered his assault rifle and grabbed the machete that the other man had tucked on the side of his belt. It would be better for killing the man’s comrades quietly.

He crept into the encampment by the same path that he had left, hoisting himself up onto a nearby building and using his new vantage point to survey what he could. He did not like what he saw. All over the camp were bodies wearing the red clothing that signified they were members of Vaas’s pirate group. Jason searched frantically for a Mohawk, hoping that he wouldn’t find Vaas’s body among those of the dead or dying.

A very familiar voice began shouting obscenities from the other side of the camp. Jason perked up immediately, and began running towards the sound of Vaas’s voice, leaping from one roof to the next.

When he found Vaas the other man was surrounded by three of the Rakyat. Each of them had their guns pointed at Vaas, who was being slowly backed into a corner.

“Come on you motherfuckers!” Vaas roared at them. “Which one of you pussies is going to try and shoot me, huh?”

One of the Rakyat pointed his shotgun straight at Vaas’s head. Vaas frowned and launched himself at the other man, pushing him to the ground and shooting him in the head at point blank range before the Rakyat could fire a single shot. It left him open though, which Jason and the Rakyat both knew.

Jason felt the entire world slow down as the other two Rakyat brought their guns up and pointed them at Vaas’s back. Jason screamed and jumped down from the building, landing on one of the men and pinning him to the ground. His machete sliced into the other man’s neck, ending his life before he could even cry out.

Jason heard a gunshot.

He had not been quick enough. He whirled around to find that the other Rakyat had shot Vaas. The pirate stumbled forwards, clutching a bullet wound in his shoulder, blood pouring from between his fingers.

Jason pounced on the Rakyat that had shot Vaas, plunging his machete into the man’s gut and relishing the pain that briefly showed on the other man’s face. He let the other man fall, knowing that his wound would kill him in a matter of seconds, and turned his attention back to his soulmate.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” Vaas croaked from where he stood, still clutching at his shoulder. “I thought I told you to run.”

“I heard gunfire,” Jason told him. “I couldn’t just leave you here.”

“Yeah, we can be totally fucked together then,” Vaas muttered. “You’re still wearing my fucking colours, so they’re gonna fucking shoot you amante. The two of us getting taken down together by these fucking pussies. That’s real fucking romantic Jason. Real…”

Vaas went silent and his eyes went wide. Before Jason could ask what was happening Vaas had grabbed him and pulled him to the ground. Jason was vaguely aware of the hail of bullets that passed overhead. None of them seemed to hit either him or his soulmate, but before either of them could get back up a shadow appeared above them.

“Vaas!” Jason screamed, before the Rakyat above them brought the butt of his rifle down on Vaas’s head.

Vaas collapsed on top of Jason, his unconscious weight pinning Jason to the ground. He scrambled from underneath Vaas, grabbing the other man’s pistol as he did so and pointing it straight at the Rakyat. He was about to fire, but then he realised that he was not just facing one Rakyat, but about half a dozen that were all starting to converge around Jason and his fallen soulmate.

“Get back!” Jason roared at them.

The Rakyat approached the two of them slowly, seemingly unafraid of Jason, or of the pirate leader that lay behind him on the ground.

“Get the fuck away from him!” Jason roared, trying to keep as many of the warriors covered with the gun as possible. They didn’t look scared, but a few of them did look rather confused.

Jason risked a second’s glance back at Vaas. The other man wasn’t moving, but at least he wasn’t dead. Blood was beginning to pour from Vaas’s bullet wound and stain the ground below. Jason hoped the wound wasn’t as bad as the blood made it look, but there was no way he could be sure without taking longer to check him and endangering them both.

One of the warriors lowered his weapon and took one step closer to Jason and Vaas.

“I’m warning you,” Jason growled.

He didn’t want to shoot the other man. Not because it was inherently wrong. The Rakyat had destroyed any pity Jason may have had for them when they had attacked Vaas. Rather, Jason did not shoot only because he knew that the others would open fire if he did, and neither he nor Vaas would survive.

His finger twitched on the trigger of Vaas’s pistol, but he forced it to be still.

“Jason?” a voice called out from somewhere at the back of the group.

Some of the natives parted to let another man through. It only took Jason a moment to recognise the other man, and when he did he could barely believe it.

“Grant?” Jason asked.

The older Brody brother had a few more scars, substantially more stubble, and one of his arms was sporting an elaborate new tattoo, but otherwise Grant was exactly as Jason remembered him. He slung his own weapon, a semi-automatic that looked to be in far better condition than any of the weapons that Vaas’s men carried over his shoulder and smiled at Jason.

“Jason, you have no idea how glad I am to see you alive,” Grant said, striding towards Jason with his arms open. Jason was not ready to lower his pistol just yet though, which made the smile on Grant’s face disappear.

“Jason, what the fuck are you doing man? It’s me.”

“What the fuck are you doing with them?” Jason asked Grant, gesturing to the men that had attacked Vaas.

“I should be asking you that. We came here to rescue you,” Grant said, “and from where I’m standing it kind of looks like you’re defending one of the assholes that captured us.”

“And if I am?”

“What the hell? You’re defending pirates and slavers now J? Come on. Lower the gun.”

“I am not going to let you hurt him,” Jason growled.

Grant glanced at Vaas’s unconscious form and then back up at Jason.

“It’s okay J,” Grant said, gently gesturing for Jason to lower his weapon. “If he’s that important to you then I’m not going to hurt him, okay? Just come with me and I’ll take you somewhere safe.”

“I’m not going anywhere with them,” Jason said, gesturing to the Rakyat by Grant.

“Not them,” Grant assured him. “Not if you don’t want. Just me.”

Jason lowered the pistol, defeat sapping a large portion of his remaining strength.

“That’s it,” Grant told him. “Now come with me. I’ve got a jeep parked nearby. I’ll get you to safety.”

“He’s coming with us,” Jason said, nodding back at Vaas.

“No he’s not J.”

“He’s coming with us!” Jason roared in reply. “Your new friends shot him Grant. I’m not going to leave him here to die.”

“Jason,” Grant said, looking back at the fallen pirate lord. “That’s one of the men that kidnapped us. I’m not going to bring him with us.”

Jason squared his shoulders and stared unflinching at his older brother.

“Then I’m not going anywhere,” he told Grant.

Chapter Text

The sanctuary that Grant had spoken of was located on the opposite side of the island. It would have been a long and painful journey if it wasn’t for the rusty old jeep that Grant commandeered from a couple of the Rakyat.

Jason piled in the back of the vehicle with Vaas’s still unconscious body, and manoeuvred them so that Vaas was lying with his head in Jason’s lap. Jason checked his soulmate’s wounds as Grant started the car. The lump on the back of Vaas’s head had swollen up, and Jason began to worry, especially when he felt a fresh patch of blood beginning to seep from the wound in Vaas’s shoulder.

The car sputtered to life and they began what Grant had warned him would be a long trip.

He held Vaas close to him, cursing whenever they hit a particularly rough patch of road.

“Can’t you go a little slower?” Jason asked after their descent down a steep and rocky hill had wrung several low moans of pain from Vaas’s throat.

“This island doesn’t have proper roads Jason. I’m doing the best I can,” Grant replied. “You know, this would be a lot easier for both of us if you’d just left him behind. I’m sure the other pirates would have looked after him.”

“What other pirates?! You and your friends killed them all, remember?”

“The Rakyat are good people J. Maybe if you had left him in their care and asked nicely then they would have looked after him for you.”

“Not going to happen,” Jason hissed, trying not to think of what the Rakyat would have really done to Vaas. He had a feeling that they would probably just kill him, considering the number of Rakyat Vaas and Jason had killed over the past few couple of weeks.

“Yeah, well, just don’t expect the others to be happy when they see him,” Grant said, as he turned the car sharply and onto the shore.

Jason heard his older brother curse loudly.

“Hold on,” Grant growled, “and grab your gun. This might get a little ugly.”

“What’s wrong?” Jason asked.

He looked to the front of the car to find that they were approaching a convoy of red-shirted pirates.

“Oh shit,” Jason cursed. “Do you think they’ll attack us?”

“They’ll shoot at me as soon as they realise who I am,” Grant said. “I’m gonna gun it Jason. Hold on.”

Grant slammed his foot down on the accelerator and the old vehicle let out a sickening sound as they sped forward. The pirates lifted their guns as they approached and pointed them straight at the car.

Jason glanced down at the singlet he was wearing and the man in his arms. Surely the pirates wouldn’t shoot if they knew who else was in the car. If he could just stand up and tell them not to shoot… but then he’d have to let go of Vaas.

“Damn it. Don’t shoot!” he screamed as they drew close. “I’m one of you!”

He waved one of his hands at the pirates, holding Vaas in place with the other. He didn’t know whether or not the pirates heard him or understood what he was trying to tell them, but they hesitated as the car went speeding past them, and that was enough.

Jason glanced behind them, watching the pirates yell and gesture at each other and the car as it sped on. He breathed a sigh of relief and pulled Vaas a little closer.

“So you’re one of them now J?”

Grant did not sound happy, and Jason frantically searched for a way to change the topic.

“Were you saying something about the others before?”

“Yeah, while you were playing pirate I managed to save Daisy and Keith,” Grant told him. “We’re sort of staying in a cave under this old guy’s house at the moment. We found an old boat under there too. Daisy’s working on fixing it up. Once I’ve saved everyone that boat should give us a way off the island.”

Off the island. It took a few moments for the meaning of those words to truly sink in. Jason found himself longing for the comfort of a hot shower, a comfortable bed and some greasy, horrible takeaway with a clarity that he hadn’t felt for a long time.

Leaving the island would probably mean leaving Vaas behind though. The thought made Jason’s stomach lurch uncomfortably.

Perhaps he could convince Vaas to come with them. Or not. God, there were a thousand ways that could end, and all of them were bad. Jason suspected that California and Vaas were not really ready for each other and never would be.

He pushed those thoughts to the back of his mind. They had to worry about rescuing their remaining friends and making sure Vaas pulled through first. He could worry about the fucked up situation he and his soulmate had found themselves in later.

Jason looked out over the blue water and ran his hands through Vaas’s Mohawk, careful not to brush against the swollen lump where the Rakyat had attacked him. Had it been one of the Rakyat though? Now that he thought about it Jason realised he couldn’t be sure that it hadn’t been Grant that had knocked his soulmate out.

The jeep began climbing up a steep hill and Jason found himself glaring at Grant’s back even though he hadn’t made a conscious decision to do that.

“Careful. It’s going to get a little bumpy,” Grant told him. “You’ll probably have to carry him for the last little bit. It shouldn’t be too far though.”

Grant was right. They were only halfway up the hill when Grant brought the jeep to a stop. Grant and Jason climbed out, and together they moved Vaas into Jason’s arms. He carried Vaas bridal style, and Jason wondered whether his soulmate would find it embarrassing or merely amusing were he awake to experience it. He would have to ask him later, if… no, when Vaas was feeling better.

There was a large house on top of the hill, but instead Grant headed down a small dirt path and towards the entrance to the cave he had spoken of. Jason’s arms and legs were sore by the time they reached it.

As they entered the cave Jason’s eyes immediately latched onto the boat Grant had mentioned. It was old, and had definitely seen better days, but if Grant and Daisy thought they could get it working then Jason trusted them.

The small camp near the front of the cave had a surprisingly cosy vibe to it. Grant and the others had done what they could with old furniture, makeshift tents and bedrolls that looked even more uncomfortable than the threadbare beds in Vaas’s encampment, but it was better than nothing. Jason headed towards the closest bedroll, and laid Vaas down on top of it.

“Hey,” Grant called out, his voice echoing in the cave. “I’m back!”

Daisy and Keith emerged from somewhere on the boat. Daisy looked delighted as soon as she saw them, and raced over to embrace Grant. Keith’s reaction was a little less energetic, but he smiled as he made his way over to them.

“And look what I found!” Grant exclaimed, pointing to Jason, who had claimed a spot on the ground next to his unconscious soulmate.

Grant and Daisy both turned towards Jason, and their smiles faltered for a moment. At first Jason wondered if there was something wrong, or whether the other two were alerted by Vaas being in the cave with them, but then Jason realised it was he himself that had caused their smiles to slip.

Daisy and Keith both seemed to be mostly unaffected by their time on the island, at least from the outside. They were both wearing the same clothes that they had been when Jason had last seen them and they didn’t have any wounds worse than a few cuts and bruises.

Jason on the other hand was not only wearing the red singlet of one of Vaas’s pirates; it was also sporting a few darker red patches thanks to Vaas’s wound and the Rakyat Jason had killed earlier that day. He was still wearing the tiger tooth earring Vaas had given him, and it had been a couple of weeks since he had even looked at a razor.

“Jason,” Keith greeted him with a half-hearted fist bump. “You er… How are you doing man?”

“I’m kind of all right I guess. It’s a long story,” Jason said as he got to his feet.

Daisy launched herself at Jason as soon as he was fully upright, wrapping him in a tight hug.

“Oh Jason,” she exclaimed. “It’s so good to see you’re all right.”

Jason smiled as Daisy apparently tried to squeeze all of the air from his lungs. His brother’s soulmate was a professional athlete, and it was at times like this that he was forced to remember how physically strong the woman could be.

He patted Daisy on the back.

“Hey,” he muttered. “It’s good to see you too, but I kind of need to breathe.”

“Sorry,” Daisy muttered as she parted from him, “but we’ve all been really worried about you, you know? Grant told us you didn’t want to escape with him.”

“Yeah,” Jason admitted, rubbing the back of his head nervously. “Look, it’s…”

“Who the hell is this?” Keith interrupted, apparently having just noticed Vaas. “Isn’t that one of the guys who captured us?”

Keith stared at Grant, as though he expected the oldest Brody brother to have all the answers.

“You’ll have to ask Jason,” Grant told him. “He refused to leave the guy behind. You care to explain what’s going on now J?”

Jason looked between Keith, Daisy and Grant. All of them were looking at him expectantly, waiting for an answer.

“He’s not really one of the pirates, right?” Daisy asked him.

“Actually he is,” Jason admitted, “but…”

“He’s not just a pirate. He’s their leader,” Grant added.

“Holy shit,” Keith exclaimed. “What the hell are you doing bringing a guy like that here man? If he wakes up then he’s going to know where we are.”

“I’m sorry J, but Keith’s right,” Grant said.

“I told you before, I’m not going to let you hurt him,” Jason snapped at his brother. “He is staying.”

Grant sighed, and fixed Jason with a look that was all too familiar. Jason had always hated it. It was the look Grant gave him whenever he thought Jason was being unreasonable or immature. Next would come the speech, in which his helpful big brother explained in very kind but firm ways why Jason was being an idiot. It was always so fucking patronising.

“Look J,” Grant said, placing a hand on Jason’s shoulder. “I know you’ve been through a lot and you might think that this man is your friend, but he’s not.”

Jason scoffed and pulled away from Grant.

“You have no idea what you’re talking about,” he told his older brother.

“I do actually,” Grant argued. “It’s called Stockholm syndrome. I don’t know what he and his men did to you but you look like you’ve been through hell. You might even think that he cares about you, but if you give it a few days you’ll realise how messed up this all is. You’ll get better, I promise.”

Jason chuckled. Grant clearly did not realise how blind and stupid he was being.

“This is not Stockholm syndrome,” he muttered, shaking his head.

“Then what the hell is it J?” Grant demanded, raising his voice loud enough that Daisy and Keith glanced over in their direction once more. “Why have we got someone that kidnapped and tortured our friends here? You know one of those assholes killed Vincent right? They’ve still got Riley and Ollie and Liza, so if you’ve got a good reason for keeping him alive then you’d better tell me right now!”

“Because I’ve got his name on my fucking wrist Grant!” Jason yelled, holding his wrist up so that Grant and the others could see.

Daisy gasped. Keith swore. Grant just stared at the white letters as though he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

“He’s my soulmate!” Jason roared. “You understand now? His name is Vaas, and he’s…”

Jason sighed and rubbed at his forehead, suddenly very tired.

“He’s my soulmate,” he finished, “so could you please stop threatening him and accusing me of having Stockholm syndrome. It’s not like that.”

Grant finally stopped staring at Jason’s wrist, and glanced between Jason and the unconscious man on the floor.

Jason dropped to sit on the floor next to Vaas once more.

“You know, this really isn’t how I imagined all of you meeting him,” he muttered.

Jason’s soulmate hadn’t even stirred during his argument with Grant, which was a little worrying. Jason grabbed Vaas’s hand in his own and was relieved to find that he could still feel a pulse.

“Jason…” Grant hesitantly began.

“He’s staying,” Jason snapped, before Grant could continue speaking.

“I wasn’t… I wasn’t going to tell you that he should leave,” Grant said. He placed a hand on Jason’s shoulder and squeezed gently.

“I’m sorry I said those things now,” Grant said. “If you had told me earlier, I never would have…” Grant shrugged. “Well, you know.”

Jason nodded.

“I mean, I’m still not happy, but if you want him to stay then I guess he can stay for now.”

If Grant was waiting for Jason to say thank you then he was going to have to wait for a long time. Jason didn’t acknowledge his brother, his eyes fixed instead on the soft rise and fall of his soulmate’s chest, and eventually Grant seemed to get the message and he left Jason.

Daisy waited until Grant was engaged in a conversation with Keith before walking over to join Jason and Vaas. She squeezed his shoulder as Grant had done, but considering she hadn’t been quite as negative about Vaas’s presence Jason welcomed the woman’s touch a lot more.

“I’m happy for you,” Daisy said. “I know it has to be tough right now, but it’s good that you found each other.”

Jason nodded slowly.

“Yeah,” he admitted, although at that moment he wasn’t so sure. “I guess it is.”

“You want me to get some water so you can clean his wounds?” Daisy asked.

Jason nodded again.

“Thanks,” he told her.

“No problem,” she said, before scurrying off.

Jason ran a hand over the back of Vaas’s head, grimacing when his hand came away covered in blood. He didn’t have much medical knowledge, but he thought that the fact that Vaas was still bleeding was probably not a good sign.

He had probably just disturbed the wound when he was moving Vaas. Yes, that had to be it. Vaas was going to be all right.

Daisy returned swiftly with a bowl of water and an old blanket. She immediately began tearing the blanket into strips that were small enough to be used as bandages, or as rags to clean Vaas’s wounds.

Jason started with the wound in the back of Vaas’s head, cleaning it and then wrapping some of the makeshift bandages around his soulmate's head. His hands kept shaking as he worked, and Daisy took over before he could finish, leaving Jason to just hold Vaas’s head in his lap as Daisy finished tying off the bandages.

When Jason had been injured like this Vaas had taken care of him. Jason could remember promising himself at the time that he would take care of Vaas if he was injured, and yet here he was, having to rely on Daisy to help them. It pissed him off. He couldn’t even take care of his own fucking soulmate. He was so fucking pathetic. He grit his teeth together, forced himself to be calm, and shifted Vaas so that he could inspect the bullet wound in his shoulder.

“It’s not too bad,” Daisy told him. “We’ll have to get the bullet out so that it doesn’t get infected, but it should heal up without any problems after that.”

“All right,” Jason said, already looking around the cave from his spot on the ground for something that could help them remove a bullet.

Keith and Grant were tucked away in one corner, muttering quietly to one another beneath their breath. Neither of them looked happy to have Vaas in the cave, especially Grant, who frowned at Jason and Daisy as they both hunched over Vaas’s unconscious body.

“Hang on a moment,” Daisy said as she rummaged around in a nearby box. “It’s not ideal but I think I’ve got a knife in here somewhere. If you hold him still then I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to remove it. I don’t think it’s close enough to his heart or lungs that I’ll be able to mess it up too much.”

Jason took a deep breath and placed his hands on Vaas’s shoulders. He trusted Daisy enough for her to do what she needed to, but he was still worried.

“Okay,” Daisy said, returning to Vaas’s side with the knife in her hand. She looked at Jason as though double checking that he was really okay with her operating on his soulmate.

The knife looked sharp and clean enough, and Daisy’s hands were a lot steadier than his were. He nodded at Daisy and she leaned over Vaas, pushing the tip of the knife into the wound. The pirate let out a groan and squirmed beneath Jason’s hands.

“Hey Vaas, it’s okay,” Jason muttered, hoping that the other man could hear him.

“Jason, can you move a little bit,” Daisy muttered as she worked. “You’re blocking the light.”

Jason shifted back as far as he could while still holding Vaas down, but as Daisy worked he found himself leaning in closer and closer once again, wanting to watch and make sure that Vaas would be okay.

Daisy swore and then finally cried out in triumph as she pried the bullet from Vaas’s chest.

It was covered in blood, but Jason could make out the pellet well enough. It seemed ridiculous that such a small piece of metal could do so much damage.

There was blood all over Vaas’s chest and Daisy’s hands, and the wound in Vaas’s chest was a little messier than it had been before, but the bullet was out, and that was the main thing.

Jason grabbed a few of the remaining strips of cloth, and set to work mopping up the worst of the blood.

The two other men had stayed away through the entire operation, muttering in quiet voices, and Jason had forced himself to block out their voices, but now Grant and Keith were calling out a little loudly, and it sounded like something else was happening. Jason glanced over his shoulder, curious to know what was going on.

“Agnes, what are you doing?” an unfamiliar voice called out from the entrance of the cave.

An old man had just entered their sanctuary. He was wearing faded and dishevelled clothes and his eyes were fixed firmly on Daisy, Jason and Vaas. The man stumbled over to the three of them, shouting as he pushed past Grant and Keith.

“You must stay away from him,” the newcomer exclaimed in his British accent. “That man is dangerous.”

Daisy got to her feet and smiled at the old man.

“Doctor Earnhardt,” Daisy greeted him. “It’s good that you’ve come down here. This is my friend Jason. Jason, this is Doctor Earnhardt.”

“You…” Doctor Earnhardt continued to address Daisy. “You have blood all over your hands. Oh Agnes, what have you done?”

“It’s all right Doctor,” Daisy continued. “We’re just fixing up Jason’s friend. I’m fine, I promise.”

Grant and Keith had moved over to stand by Jason, probably as worried about the appearance of this old man as Jason was.

“Why is he calling her Agnes?” Jason asked his older brother.

“It was his daughter’s name,” Grant told him.

“He’s pretty messed up in the head,” Keith added. “He keeps confusing Daisy for his dead daughter. The crazy old guy has let us stay here right underneath his house though and he’s given us food and blankets, so Daisy and Grant are just kind of putting up with it.”

“He saved Daisy too,” Grant said. “She escaped only to end up running through a bunch of poisonous plants. He’d been taking care of her for a while before I found them both here. The Doc’s got a bit of a mushroom obsession, but apart from that I’m pretty sure he’s harmless.”

Doctor Earnhardt whirled around then to look straight at Grant.

“You,” he said, shaking a finger at Grant. “You need to take better care of her young man.”

As his hand shook Jason caught sight of the frayed bandages that hung loosely over his left forearm, letting him easily see through to the scar on his wrist. A dead daughter, and a dead soulmate; Jason could think of worse reactions to that than turning to mushrooms.

“This young woman here is precious, and should be treated as such,” Doctor Earnhardt continued. “I expect you to get blood all over your hands next time, not her.”

Grant nodded and smiled at the old man, but Jason could tell it was under sufferance.

“You’ve got it Doc,” Grant said. “I’ll take care of it next time, I promise.”

“Good, now,” Doctor Earnhardt continued, directing his gaze to Jason and Vaas. “Would someone please explain to me why that man is in here?”

“You should probably ask Jason,” Grant told him.

Jason looked between his brother and the old man. Neither of them looked particularly sympathetic.

“Please Doc,” Jason practically begged. “It’s just for a couple of days. He’ll be out of here as soon as he’s better, I promise.”

“No, no, no. This will not do,” Doctor Earnhardt replied, throwing his hands up in the air as he spoke. “If Vaas wakes up and finds out that I am sheltering escaped slaves then it will only be a matter of time before he and his men kill me. He cannot stay.”

“He won’t try to kill you,” Jason said, hoping desperately that the old man’s mind was not so far gone that he couldn’t be reasoned with. “Please. I know he would usually be angry, but when he finds out that you’ve helped the two of us I’m sure he’ll make an exception. I’ll protect you if I have to and make sure that he doesn’t get angry at you. I promise.”

“And just how will you manage that? Vaas is insane and dangerous. He cannot be reasoned with.”

Jason looked around at his older brother and his friends, but none of them seemed ready to step forward and defend the two of them.

Finally Daisy stepped up, her most charming smile on her face as she addressed the old man.

“Please Doctor,” she said. “He and Jason care about each other so much. I’m sure when he wakes up he’ll be really grateful that you let the two of them stay.”

Doctor Earnhardt glanced between Daisy and the unconscious pirate in Jason’s arms.

“I don’t know,” he muttered. “I don’t want him to hurt you.”

“What if we move them to the back of the cave,” Grant suggested. “They’ll be as far away from the rest of us as possible, and if it looks like Vaas is going to try anything then we’ll be able to stop him before he gets out of the cave.”

Grant glared at Jason, as though daring his younger brother to disagree with him.

“That works for me,” Jason said with a shrug. Honestly, as long as he and Vaas were safe he didn’t really care where they were, even if it was segregated to the back of the cave like a pair of outcasts.

Doctor Earnhardt nodded slowly and Jason breathed a sigh of relief.

The Doctor continued to fuss over Daisy and to a lesser extent, Grant for a while, asking them if they needed anything, leaving Jason to move Vaas to the back of the cave with Keith’s help.

By the time Doctor Earnhardt had left Jason and Vaas had their own smaller camp set up by the side of the lake at the back of the cave. Jason looked at the stranded boat which lay between the two of them and the rest of the camp and ran his fingers through Vaas’s Mohawk.

After a while there was another commotion near the front of the cave, and Jason paid attention to it only for the few seconds it took him to realise that Grant was heading out again. Grant had been there barely long enough to eat and check in with everyone. He hadn’t slept, and he’d barely said hello to Daisy, and Jason wondered what could be urgent enough that he had to leave right at that moment.

Part of him wondered if he should offer to help Grant. After all, Riley, Oliver and Liza were still out there somewhere, and so far Grant had done a lot more to help the others than Jason had. If Vaas hadn’t been so badly injured then he would have been tempted.

Grant left, and Jason curled up beside Vaas on the blanket that they had stolen from the main camp. Vaas frowned in his sleep, and Jason wondered if the other man was having some sort of nightmare. He placed a hand on Vaas’s chest, making sure that he didn’t so much as brush against the bandages that covered the bullet wound there.


Jason looked over to find that Keith had crouched beside him and looked to be settling in to get comfortable.

“You mind if I join you?” the older man asked.

“No,” Jason lied, “that’s fine. Grant’s heading out again?”

“Yeah,” Keith replied. “He said something about Liza.”

Jason waited for Keith to say something else; maybe for him to tell Jason why it was he had decided to join the two of them at the back of the cave, but when Keith didn’t say anything Jason decided he was just going to concentrate on Vaas and pretend that Keith wasn’t even there.

He ran his right hand over Vaas’s forehead. His soulmate’s skin felt cold and sweaty, but he could still feel the reassuring beat of Vaas’s pulse beneath the skin. It brought him a small amount of comfort, but he knew they weren’t out of the woods yet, and knew he wouldn’t be able to relax until Vaas’s eyes opened once again and Jason knew for sure that he was okay.

He entwined the fingers of his other hand with those of Vaas’s own, and squeezed gently.

“Hey Jason,” Keith said quietly from where he now sat. “What was it like when you first met him?”

Jason glanced over at his friend. Keith was watching Vaas almost as intensely as Jason had been.

“I was terrified,” Jason admitted, “but part of me couldn’t look away from him.”

“Did you know?” Keith asked. “I mean, straight away. Did you know it was him?”

“I didn’t have a clue until I heard his name,” Jason said.

He desperately wanted to curl up beside Vaas, to wrap his body around his soulmate and press against him until he could feel nothing but the reassuring warmth of Vaas’s still-breathing body. He could wait until Keith left though. Surely the other man had something more important to do than to stare at Vaas. Why did Keith even want to know about their relationship? What the hell was he even doing lurking around near the two of them?

“Do you think that maybe sometimes, like, it would probably be really rare, but sometimes our soulbrands might be wrong? Maybe sometimes we’re not supposed to be with the person whose name is on our wrist after all?”

“What the hell are you trying to say Keith?” Jason growled. “If you’ve got a problem with Vaas too then just come out and say it!”

He hadn’t even realised he was going to grab the machete off his belt until he was already pointing it at Keith.

“Woah, woah, woah,” Keith said, holding his hands in front of himself in surrender. “Calm the fuck down Jason. I didn’t even mean you and Vaas. I meant… someone else.”

“Someone else?” Jason said, forcing himself to lower the machete.

Keith shrugged, but Jason didn’t miss the way Keith’s eyes had darted to his own covered left wrist several times as he had talked to Jason.

“I guess you’re one of the last in our group to find your soulmate, huh?” Jason said as he realised why Keith might be curious. Still, couldn’t Keith have asked well… nearly anyone else in their group?

“Yeah,” Keith shrugged as he replied. “I guess I am.”

There was something about the way Keith replied that made Jason wonder what the fuck was going on with Keith and his soulbrand. He didn’t really have the time or the heart to worry about his friend at that moment though; not when he was already so worried about Vaas; and he kind of just wished that Keith would piss off and leave them alone.

“So, your brand,” Keith continued, seemingly unaware of how much his presence was irritating Jason. “It turned grey as soon as the two of you touched?”

“Pretty much,” Jason replied.

Keith was silent for a moment, and Jason realised the other man was waiting for some sort of further explanation from Jason. When it became clear that one was not coming he got to his feet and dusted off his pants.

“Well, I’m going to go and see if Daisy needs help with anything,” Keith told him. “Look man, this whole thing with the island, and Grant and your soulmate… It’s all pretty fucked up, but if you ever need help with him or with Grant then I’m your man, all right?”

“I’m fine,” Jason told him, thinking that if Keith wanted to be helpful then he could have said something earlier when Grant and Doctor Earnhardt were trying to evict Vaas from the cave.

“Right,” Keith muttered.

Jason watched Keith for a moment as he walked towards the rest of the group, rubbing the back of his head as he did. Jason couldn’t help but be pissed at Keith, not only for interrupting his time with Vaas for what felt like no reason at all, but for being such a two-faced jerk.

Jason placed a hand on Vaas’s shoulder and shuffled a little closer to the other man, hoping that his presence might be able to give his soulmate some comfort. He was still frowning, his face twitching as he slept.

“I’m here,” he told his soulmate, wondering if some small part of Vaas could still hear him. “I’m right here beside you. You need to wake up and show these arseholes how wrong they are about you, all right?”

Grant was gone for the whole night and as the sun passed its zenith the next day there was still no sign of his returning. Daisy was obviously worried about him, although she did her best to hide it, instead keeping herself occupied with fixing up the boat they had found.

Jason alternated between lying curled up next to Vaas and exploring the reaches of the cave they had found. He thought he had seen fish in the lake, but he had no idea how he was supposed to catch them.

The one time Jason tried venturing outside, thinking that he might be able to hunt something more substantial Daisy and Keith explained quite pointedly that it was probably better if he stayed inside the cave to ‘look after Vaas.’ Jason knew what they really meant. They were terrified of what might happen if Vaas woke up and Jason wasn’t there. They probably had a point, but it didn’t stop Jason from being pissed off about it.

He itched to run, to hunt, to go outside of this stupid cave, and get away from his stupid friends and more than anything to just make time fast forward until he could see Vaas’s eyes open again.

Two days after he had left Grant finally returned to the camp with Liza in tow. The young actress wasn’t sporting any wounds except for a few bruises, and seemed to be in pretty good spirits considering she had spent the last couple of weeks caged up.

She was especially excited to see Daisy, and the two girls hugged for a long time upon being reunited. Jason stood up from his place at Vaas’s side, noticing Vaas’s face and hand twitch as he did so.

Liza ran over to Jason as soon as she spotted him. She smiled widely and wrapped her arms around his shoulders.

“Jason!” she exclaimed happily. “It’s so good to see that you’re okay. I was so scared that something had happened to you.”

“I’m fine,” Jason assured her.

He pulled back, looking her up and down and checking on her. Liza smiled at him. As far as he could tell she was totally fine, especially considering what she must have been through. That was good. He had always liked Liza, ever since she had strode up to him one day and introduced herself to Jason, declaring that they were going to be friends and making it very clear that Jason had very little say in the matter. She was sweet and helpful and even if she could be a little overdramatic at times Jason was glad to have her as a friend.

“You look different,” Liza commented. “Are you sure you’re okay? Did something happen to you?”

Jason was just about to tell her again that he was okay when Liza caught sight of his bare wrist and her eyes widened.

“Woah. Jason, you found your soulmate?”

“Yeah,” Jason replied.

Liza looked stunned for just a second, but then her face changed, breaking into a large grin, and she threw herself into Jason’s arms again, hugging him even more tightly than before.

“Oh Jason,” she said. “I’m so happy for you.”

A hand clasped on Jason’s shoulder, pulling him quite forcefully away from Liza.

For a moment Jason had no idea what was happening, but when he turned around he saw Vaas standing there, glaring at Liza as though she was trying to take Jason away from him.

“Vaas?” Jason cried out, amazed to see his soulmate awake again, let alone walking. “What are you…?”

Vaas stumbled, and Jason moved just in time to catch him. Vaas clung to his arm as Jason helped him to sit on the floor. Vaas looked pale, and exhausted. Jason had done what he could to make sure Vaas had plenty to drink while he was out, but it had been over two days since he had eaten anything, and he was sure the bullet and head wounds weren’t helping.

Vaas sat up just enough to glare at Liza again.

“Stay the fuck away from my Jason,” he told Liza.

“She’s not going to take me away,” Jason told Vaas, wondering if his soulmate might not be a little delirious. “She’s one of my friends. We’re okay Vaas. We’re staying with them at the moment.”

Vaas frowned, groaned, and leaned into Jason’s arms.

“You need to sit back down,” Jason told him. “You got hurt pretty bad.”

Jason ran a hand gently over Vaas’s face, hoping to calm him down, and looked up at Liza.

“I’m sorry,” he mouthed at the woman. She looked uncomfortable, but did her best to smile at Jason and Vaas.

“I’m fine amante,” Vaas murmured from his place in Jason’s arms, although he was having a lot of trouble getting back to his feet.

“No you’re not,” Jason told him, “but it’s good to see you awake. For a while there you had me worried.”

“Fuck that. You’re not getting rid of me that easily. Now, who the fuck is this bitch and why was she draping herself all over you?”

“Vaas, this is Liza. She’s my friend.”

“And you must be…” Liza began, but Grant had walked over near them and took the opportunity to join in their conversation.

“Vaas here is Jason’s soulmate,” he said, the tone of each word letting Liza know exactly how unhappy he was with that fact. “Lucky Jason.”

“Hey, fuck you,” Vaas shouted.

Jason wrapped his arms tighter around Vaas, trying to make sure that his soulmate didn’t get to his feet and try to pick a fight with Grant.

“Forgive me if I’m not happy with the fact that my younger brother might spend the rest of his life with a murderous, drug-addicted psychopath.”

Liza looked between Grant and the man in Jason’s arms, clearly worried.

“Come on Grant,” Jason said, trying his best to keep the annoyance from his voice and hoping that he might be able to calm the situation down a little. “He’s just been through hell. Can you at least wait until he’s better before you go yelling at him for no fucking reason?”

Grant crossed his arms and continued to glare at Vaas, but he didn’t say anything else, until Vaas, in all of his wisdom, decided that they hadn’t fought enough.

“You know what white boy?” Vaas called out. “It’s your fault I’m fucked up like this. You and your fucking Rakyat friends.”

Vaas shifted in Jason’s arms and let out a cry of pain.

“Those fuckers shot me didn’t they?” Vaas groaned. “Fuck…”

“Yeah,” Jason said. “Shot you and hit you in the back of the head.”

“How long has it been?”

“Two days.”

“Fuck… Head still fucking hurts. Where are we? Are all your fucking friends here or what?”

“Something like that.”

Vaas frowned, and began looking around the cave for the first time. Liza smiled one last time at Vaas and Jason, before gesturing back at the main camp.

“I’m just… I’m just going to go over there and leave the two of you alone for now, all right?” she told Jason.

He nodded at her. Grant followed her, but not before he sent one last dirty look in Vaas’s direction.

Jason helped Vaas stand up, although he still had to support most of Vaas’s weight as the two of them hobbled back to their own little corner of the cave.

“Argh… Jason,” Vaas moaned as Jason sat him down on the blanket. “Why did you bring me here? I thought you were fucking smarter than that.”

“I’m sorry Grant was such an ass,” Jason replied. “He’s just worried about me.”

“You think I’m worried what your brother thinks of me?” Vaas snapped. “I don’t give a fuck about him Jason. What I give a fuck about is this place. What the fuck am I going to do the next time Hoyt asks me to try and get your fucking friends back? You’re gonna be pissed or Hoyt’s gonna be pissed and I am so fucking sick of having to make choices like that.”

“Well, you won’t have to make a decision like that for a while,” Jason told him. “We’re staying here until you’re better.”

“Fuck that hermano,” Vaas moaned. “I am leaving as soon as you help me fucking walk out of here.”

“At least eat something first,” Jason told him, knowing that it was only his hands on Vaas’s shoulders that kept the other man from jumping up and storming out of the cave right then.

In the end he managed to convince Vaas to swallow a few mouthfuls of what was probably goat, and got him to sit still for just long enough to have the dressing on his shoulder changed and the bandage around his head removed.

Vaas flinched more than once when Jason was removing the bandage, and Jason knew that his head must still hurt. No matter how much he protested though Vaas was set on leaving, and it wasn’t long before he was stumbling towards the entrance of the cave. He grabbed one of the guns Grant had left by the door. Grant started to call out for Vaas to leave it, but one dirty look from Vaas made it very clear that he was going to take the gun whether Grant wanted him to or not.

Jason got to his feet and dusted off his trousers, frowning as he did. He let out a loud sigh and began to gather together the few things that he knew they should take with them.

“Let him go J,” Grant told him. “You don’t have to go with him.”

“I do,” Jason replied, fastening his own weapons to his back and belt. “If I don’t go with him then I’m not sure he won’t end up falling off a cliff in his current condition.”

“I heard that!” Vaas yelled from somewhere just outside the cave. “You better hurry the fuck up Jason. Right now I’m trying really fucking hard not to take notice of where we are, and this big fucking house is going to be pretty hard to forget.”

Jason shrugged at Grant.

“You heard him.”

“You don’t have to go J,” Grant repeated.

“I’ll be back before you know it,” Jason told him. “I’ll make sure Vaas is okay, and you never know; I might find some way to help out Riley and Oliver while I’m gone.”

“You do realise we’re not going to be staying on this island forever, right?”

Jason shrugged again.

“Come and find me if you suddenly save everyone and are ready to go in the next day or so then. For now, I’ve got a soulmate to look after.”

Jason found Vaas leaning against the cliffs outside the cave, looking surprisingly alert despite the lumpy scar on the back of his head.

“Jason, amante,” Vaas greeted him. “I gotta tell you, your friends are all really shitty.”

“Yeah, well maybe if you had taken a minute to talk to them rather than just yelling at them then Grant wouldn’t have been such an asshole, and the only thing Liza did was make you jealous.”

“Fuck them amante. I don’t fucking need them and neither do you.”

Jason shook his head at his soulmate as the two of them made their way down the hill. For a moment Jason wondered if perhaps he should have listened to Grant and stayed behind at Doctor Earnhardt’s, but then Vaas stumbled, practically falling against Jason, and he knew that he had made the right decision.

Chapter Text

Overall the club had been all right. It had a pretty good atmosphere, if nothing else, and as far as clubs in Bangkok went it was pretty classy. There were just enough people on the floor that it felt busy without being packed, the music was just loud enough that Jason could feel the beat thrumming through the floor, and the eight of them had managed to find a corner all to themselves.

They had been a few drinks in, and most of them were relaxing in their little corner of the room. Grant had just finished relaying a story from his time serving in the Middle East when Ollie had spoken up.

“War, man, it really makes you think,” he had exclaimed. His eyes were unfocussed, his words slurred, and he was leaning against Vincent, letting his soulmate take most of his weight.

“Yeah,” Vincent said, giving his soulmate a playful shove. “About how high Ollie is right now!”

The rest of the group chuckled and gently teased as Vincent threw his arm around the other man, pulling him close with a grin.

“These are the fun stories Oliver,” Grant said. “You wouldn’t believe the real ones.”

Jason smiled too, but something was stopping him from laughing along with all of the others.

There was an uncomfortable sinking feeling in his stomach, and as loathe as he was to admit it he knew exactly what it was; jealousy. There was something about the way the two men acted when they were together, Ollie fitting against Vincent’s side like he was supposed to be there while Vincent grinned at the blonde in a way that might make people think he was just as high as Ollie was. Then again, knowing the way that the two of them worked Vincent might well have been.

Jason continued to smile at the others as he got to his feet, and headed over to the bar to get them all another round of drinks. He was not nearly drunk enough.

After a brief exchange with the bartender he ended up ordering a round of Sambuca shots. Before the drinks could appear though Daisy had made her way over to join him. His older brother’s soulmate leaned against the bar and gave him a definite Look. One that let him know she was worried, or disappointed, or upset with something and for some reason it was Jason’s fault. He waited for the inevitable chastisement.

“So…” Daisy began, and Jason frowned. Of course she wasn’t just going to tell him what it was. That would be too easy.

“Ollie and Vincent seem happy about something,” he commented.

Daisy grinned at him and nudged him gently with her elbow.

“Don’t worry Jason,” she told him. “You’ll find yours soon enough.”

“Thanks,” Jason muttered in reply, wondering how Daisy could have possibly known what was bothering him.

“What about you and Grant?” he asked her. “You doing okay?”

“Of course we are,” she replied, nudging him again. “We are fantastic.”

Behind them the bartender had gotten their Sambuca shots ready, and Jason called the others over, he and Daisy swiftly distributing the shots between their friends.

Ollie and Vincent were still leaning against each other, but they managed to disentangle themselves when it was time to grab their respective shots.

“Hey baby. Let’s have those shots,” Grant said, wrapping his arm around Daisy’s waist as he leaned in to grab one of the glasses. They looked so fucking happy as their hands brushed against one another.

Jason couldn’t wait to throw back the alcohol in his glass.

In the chaos of handing out the rounds someone suggested a toast.

“Uh, to my brother Riley for getting his pilot’s license!” Grant exclaimed, raising his shot glass with one arm while his other stayed comfortably around Daisy’s waist.

“Where the hell is that motherfucker?” Grant continued.

Jason realised that he hadn’t seen either his little brother Riley or their friend Keith for some time now, but everyone was cheering and throwing back their Sambuca and smiling with their arms around each other. Ollie exclaimed something about his and his father’s black card, as though the rest of the group had somehow forgotten how filthy rich the Carswell’s were.

Jason forced himself to smile as the alcohol burned its way down his throat. After all, he was with his friends in Bangkok and they were all so happy. He just needed to get a little bit drunker and then he was sure he could make himself believe it.

“Where the hell are we going?” Jason asked as he stepped over the bodies of the two Rakyat warriors he and Vaas had just killed.

Vaas was already busy pushing the dead locals’ boat into the ocean, and Jason joined him, putting all of his strength into pushing the vehicle back into the water.

“Going to pay a visit to Hoyt,” Vaas told him. “Boss probably thinks I’m dead, so I’m going to make sure he knows I’m not. Don’t want him putting someone else in charge of my men.”

“Hoyt base… That’s the South Island right?”

“Yes it’s the fucking South Island,” Vaas snapped. “Why the fuck else would we need a boat?”

“Sorry,” Jason muttered. “I’ve just never been to the South Island until now.”

Vaas groaned and shook his head.

“Not your fault I’m pissed. It’s your fucking brother’s. I really need a fix Jason.”

“Maybe you should have hit up Doctor Earnhardt while we were there.”

“Mushrooms? No way Jason. Do you know what those fucking things do to you?”

Vaas continued to ramble on about the mess one of the other pirates had turned into when he became addicted to the mushrooms Doctor Earnhardt supplied, and Jason just smiled and nodded as he helped Vaas into the boat. His soulmate was still pretty unco-ordinated, but he looked like he was doing better. Jason hoped it wouldn’t take too long to meet with Hoyt. The sooner Vaas got some more rest the better off they’d both be.

Eventually Vaas coaxed the boat to life, and then with Vaas behind the wheel the two of them sped towards the South Island. As they approached the shore Vaas told Jason to keep himself hidden, and so he spent the last leg of their journey pressed against the bottom of the boat, looking up at Vaas and getting ready to catch his soulmate should Vaas fall. The pirate leader’s grip on the wheel tightened as they grew closer though, and the set of his jaw reminded Jason that Vaas had been through shit just as bad as this so many times before and had somehow made it through on his own.

Vaas pulled them up on an empty shoreline a fair distance from the settlement where Hoyt was based. Vaas went first, gesturing for Jason to follow when he knew that the area was empty, and together they approached the walled off complex, travelling over hill and through brush rather than following any actual paths or roads.

The fortress was a relatively large settlement by Rook Island standards, but would have barely made up a suburb had they been back in the States. The entire town was walled off, but Jason could see the buildings towering over the top of the wall, and if he glanced through the tiny gaps between panels he could see that the town was crawling with privateers.

“Stay here,” Vaas told Jason as they grew close. “I don’t know what the fuck I’m going to do with you yet, but Hoyt cannot fucking know that you’re here, got it amante?”

“Are you going to be all right going in there by yourself?” Jason asked him.

“I will be fucking fine Jason. Hoyt thinks he’s my fucking friend, yeah? It’s you we have to worry about. Stay here and stay quiet and stay hidden. Do not move from this spot. Do not make a fucking sound. I will come back and get you once I am done with Hoyt.”

“And when will that be?”

“I don’t fucking know. A couple of hours maybe?”

“A couple of hours?”

“I don’t know. Hoyt likes to talk.”

“I better get comfortable then.”

“Yes. Get comfortable,” Vaas agreed. He paused for a moment and then reached out to ruffle Jason’s hair. Jason smiled at him and then took a seat on the ground, his back to the fortress wall.

“I meant what I said okay?” Vaas told him. “Don’t fucking move from this spot. I’ll come and get you soon.”

“I got it,” Jason replied. “I’ll see you soon.”

“Yeah,” Vaas said. “Yeah, I’ll see you soon Jason.”

He seemed to be torn between leaving and staying for a moment longer. He ducked down and pressed a kiss to Jason’s lips, pulled back before Jason could even respond, and then headed towards the town.

Jason sat there for a moment, savouring the taste of Vaas on his lips, and watching his soulmate walk away. He smiled to himself as soon as Vaas was out of sight.

“Don’t fucking move,” he muttered as he got to his feet. “Sure thing.”

He had absolutely no intention of just sitting there and waiting for Vaas. They were at Hoyt’s centre of operations, the very place that Vaas had taken Riley and Oliver just a couple of days ago, and with any luck they would still be there.

Jason checked his rifle, and then headed towards the closest wall. Vaas had taken one of the main entrances, but Jason’s plan involved a less conventional entry. He leaned back against the cold cement of the wall and forced himself to breathe slowly and deeply. He would wait a couple of minutes to make sure Vaas was gone, and then he was going to sneak inside the fortress, find Oliver and Riley and save them.

Vaas felt like shit, but he wasn’t about to admit it, and he certainly wasn’t going to show any sort of weakness in front of Hoyt’s privateers. They all tended to act like a pack of ravenous wolves, and if Vaas acted at all like a fucking wounded deer then they would smell blood and pounce.

Vaas clenched his teeth together, and walked into Hoyt’s office. He was greeted with wide open arms and an Australian accent that Vaas really didn’t want to hear.

“And look who it is!”

Just fucking great. Of course Buck had to be in there with Hoyt. As Vaas walked into the room Buck smiled like the hungry predator Vaas knew him to be.

“Vaas,” Buck continued. “Good to see you mate. You hit your head?”

“What the fuck does it look like?” Vaas snapped. “I’ll hit you in the fucking head…”

Hoyt sat on the other side of the desk, hands steepled in front of him as he watched Vaas’s every move.

Buck was currently taking up the only spare chair in Hoyt’s office. Vaas moved to lean against an empty patch of wall instead and stared at Buck as soon as he was comfortable. Stupid fucking Aussie was going to know how unhappy his presence in Hoyt’s base was making Vaas.

“Care to tell us where you’ve been?” Hoyt asked. “Or should we guess?”

Vaas shrugged.

“We received word that your camp had been completely devastated,” Hoyt said. “One of your men told us that the Rakyat showed up and slaughtered everyone.”

“They didn’t kill me,” Vaas replied. “But I don’t fucking die easy. You know that boss.”

“Hmm… I suppose not. You were there when it happened though, yes? Perhaps you can tell me something. Are the ridiculous stories I’m hearing about this ‘Snow White’ person true?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about boss.”

“’Snow White’. It’s what they’re calling the oldest Brody brother. The white thing is obvious I suppose, but some of the more superstitious members of the local population have started to claim that he can’t be killed. I have heard that he is capable of taking down a dozen men without getting so much as a scratch. I personally think they might be exaggerating a little, but what can you expect from a bunch of uneducated savages? What do you think Vaas?”

Vaas contemplated Grant’s new nickname for a moment. It wasn’t the worst he had ever heard, but there was something about it that just didn’t suit the oldest Brody brother, and wasn’t Snow White supposed to be pretty?

“I think he’s just really good at killing people,” Vaas told Hoyt. “Anyone can be killed, including Grant fucking Brody. Just gotta make sure I get the first shot in next time.”

“Funny how he came for Jason on the exact day you were supposed to hand him over,” Buck added.

“And what the fuck is that supposed to mean?” Vaas shouted.

Buck didn’t reply, just gave Vaas a knowing smile.

“Seriously, you fucking Aussie motherfucker. You want to say something then say it to my fucking face!”

“Right then Vaas. I will. Is my property still alive or did you fuck that up as well?”

Vaas clenched his fists so tightly that they hurt. It was the only way he could stop himself from jumping on the other man and screaming at him. Jason was not Buck’s property.

“Wait no,” Buck continued. “Let me guess. He went running off into the jungle with his fucking brother, didn’t he? And now you show up, surprisingly not dead, and still Jason fucking Brody is nowhere to be found and that’s all just bad luck for poor old Buck, is that it?”

“Jason is gone,” Vaas hissed. “You want to go running off after Snow White to get him back then fucking go for it. I’m not going to fucking stop you. We’ll see which one of you has got the bigger balls, huh?”

“I believe Mister Hughes here is just trying to point out how inconvenient Jason’s disappearance is for him,” Hoyt said, possibly in an attempt to stop a fight from breaking out between two of his most reliable workers. “Had your sister’s men attacked a single day later then we would still have Jason Brody, wouldn’t we?”

“I suppose,” Vaas muttered.

“Right. You can understand how frustrating this must be for Buck right? How his head might fill up with all sorts of terrible, baseless accusations?”

Vaas heard Buck mutter something under his breath. Whatever it was the hitman did not sound happy.

“I for one am pleased that Vaas has returned to us without too many injuries. I’m sure you are upset by the loss of so many of your men though, isn’t that right Vaas?”

“Everyone else at my camp was killed?” Vaas asked.

“The Rakyat are not in the habit of taking prisoners,” Hoyt replied, leaning forward on the desk as he talked. “You know Vaas? I am truly curious to learn how you escaped.”

Vaas shrugged. He could tell Hoyt was still suspicious, but the other man didn’t press the matter further at least.

“This is bullshit,” Buck exclaimed. “I don’t fucking care what happened to Vaas or to his fucking men. I just want my payment. Where the fuck is Jason Brody, huh?”

“How the fuck should I know?” Vaas said. “His brother’s probably got him.”

“There’s still the other one,” Hoyt told Buck. “The blonde one. He’s the same age, and he’s not bad looking.”

“What, the stoner? Boy’s so out of his brains that he probably won’t even notice me fucking him.”

Hoyt shook his head at the other man.

“Look, I don’t care who you take, all right?” he told the Australian. “Just pick someone and we’ll settle up the difference later.”

Buck stormed out of the room, swearing as he did. He slammed the door shut behind him.

Hoyt waited for a few seconds after he had left and Vaas could feel each second as it ticked by. Hoyt was staring at him across the table, his eyes burning into Vaas, and Vaas knew that Hoyt’s curiosity was far from satisfied.

“So Vaas,” Hoyt began. “Now that Buck is gone, let’s have a nice long talk. You’re not having much luck lately, are you friend?”

Jason jumped over the top of the wall and dropped into the base. He heard someone call out to him and he cursed. There was a building in front of him, and Jason had thought no-one would be able to see him, but apparently one of the privateers had snuck behind the building where none of the other privateers, or Jason, was capable of seeing him. The privateer was holding a cigarette that smelled like it contained something a little more expensive and illegal than mere tobacco, and Jason grinned, knowing that the drugs might dull his opponent’s reaction time.

The privateer drew his gun and aimed it at Jason. He was well and truly out of Jason’s reach, but Jason thought quickly and threw his machete at the privateer. It plunged into the man’s chest before he could shoot, and Jason let out a sigh of relief.

It had been pretty close. If there was one thing Jason could not afford at that moment, it was for the privateers to know he was there and raise the alarm. He could probably sneak past all of them, but taking down the dozens of guards in Hoyt’s base with only his assault rifle and machete seemed a lot more unlikely.

The privateer had fallen to the ground a little closer to the open street than Jason was really comfortable with, so he retrieved his machete and started dragging the man’s body further into the shadows.

He heard someone else approaching and pressed himself against the wall. Jason could make out two voices and he tried to focus on them over the various other shouts and crashes that made up the bustling fortress. Hopefully their conversation could give Jason some clue as to where he might find Riley and Oliver. One of the men spoke with an Australian accent, and he sounded pissed.

“Vaas is full of shit,” he exclaimed. “The Rakyat took out that place two days ago. What the fuck was he doing until then, huh? Sitting around with his thumb up his fucking arse and enjoying the local’s hospitality? It’s probably his fault that I’m not back at my place right now, fucking Jason Brody into the fucking floor.”

So this was Buck, the man Vaas had warned him about. Jason took a deep breath and slid further along the wall, so that he could continue to listen in on their conversation.

The other man said something Jason didn’t catch, and Buck grunted in response.

“So what’s the name of this other one then?” There was a brief pause and the sound of ruffling paper before Buck continued. “Oliver fucking Carswell. Sounds like a rich tosser’s brat, doesn’t he?”

Buck was going to take Ollie. This might have been bad news, but Jason knew it meant Ollie and Riley were still somewhere in the base. Jason’s hands tightened around the weapon in his hands. Maybe if he followed Buck then the man would lead him straight to the prisoners. It was certainly worth checking out.

He followed behind Buck and the other man, who unsurprisingly turned out to be one of Hoyt’s mercenaries, as closely as he could, using the cover of buildings and vehicles to keep out of sight. Eventually the two men led him to a large warehouse at the edge of the camp.

Jason watched them open a large set of double doors at the front of the building. Buck immediately closed the doors behind him, removing any chance Jason might have had of following them inside and the privateer took up a guard position in front of the doors. Jason cursed, and looked around for another way inside the building. There was an open window near the top, one which he could probably squeeze through assuming he could climb the building next to it and make the jump over, and assuming that none of Hoyt’s other men spotted him.

Jason took another deep breath, slung his rifle over his shoulder and started climbing.

Ollie tried to be optimistic, tried to think of something, anything that would make his current situation okay. It was getting harder and harder though. The scar on his wrist had finally stopped hurting, but the pain in his heart remained, he was completely sober for what might have been the first time in months, and was more alone than he had ever felt in his entire life.

There had been people in the other cages until the previous day. Ollie had watched as one by one they were raped, beaten and ultimately dragged away to be sold to some sick pervert on the other side of the globe. Their captors hadn’t been too rough with him though, probably because he was worth more unspoiled or something messed up like that, and now he was the only one left.

He was still alive, and hadn’t been sold, or raped, or beaten too badly. That was something, right? Right. Totally something. He could be in way worse shit than this.

He could be Vincent, or Riley. Fuck… that poor kid. At least Ollie had gotten a couple of years with his soulmate. As far he knew Riley hadn’t even gotten to meet his.

He had just begun counting the cracks in the floor for what must have been the tenth time that day when the doors of the warehouse opened, letting light and the sound of footsteps into the building. Ollie looked up to see a man approaching the cage.

The newcomer crouched in front of the cage and smiled at Ollie. He had a scruffy beard and wore his shirt open to reveal an elaborate tattoo of a deer’s head that spanned almost the entirety of his chest. Something about the way the man smiled immediately put Ollie on edge.

“Hello mate,” the newcomer said. “The name’s Buck. You’re Oliver Carswell, right?”

“Yeah,” Ollie replied.

This Buck, whoever he was, had an Australian accent, and wasn’t covered in armour or weapons like the rest of Hoyt’s men, carrying just the one knife. He was being pretty friendly; that had to be a good sign, right?

“Well Oliver,” Buck continued. “It is a pleasure to meet you. I can already see that we’re going to be great friends.”

Ollie’s eyes flicked to the scar on his left wrist, where Vincent’s name had been until a couple of weeks earlier, nostalgia and loneliness gripping him for what had to be the thousandth time that day. Buck’s gaze followed his own, and he smiled at Ollie again.

“Your soulmate died on you, huh? Don’t worry mate. We’ve got that in common.”

Buck held his left wrist out so that Ollie could see the scarred mess present on Buck’s skin. It looked the same as his own, and there was no way of knowing what name might have been there before. Ollie tried to smile at the newcomer. After all, Buck was broken too.

“So, how did yours die?” Buck asked.

Ollie wasn’t sure that he wanted to talk about Vincent’s death, but Buck was trying to be friendly, so he gave it a try.

“He was captured at the same time I was. He stood up to Vaas and tried to stop him from hurting us, and Vaas killed him.”

“Shot him?”

Ollie shook his head.

“Stabbed,” he told the other man. He’d been trying to block out the memories, but now that he was talking to Buck about it he could see Vincent’s dying body when he closed his eyes. He could hear his screams.

“He grabbed Vincent,” Ollie muttered, “and he stabbed him over and over again man. Right in front of us.”

Buck’s eyes narrowed for a moment as he looked at Ollie, and then he shrugged, his mouth shifting once again to the almost gentle smile he had been sending Ollie’s way before.

“Well, not completely painless then, but quick. Shame really. It kind of pisses me off to think of Vaas wasting a perfectly good human being like that.”

Who was this man again? Whoever he was, he was being surprisingly sympathetic, especially for one of Hoyt’s men. Ollie began to hope that Buck was going to take him away from here, away from Hoyt and the mercenaries and the memories of Vincent, lying dead on the ground.

“Don’t worry Oliver,” Buck continued. “I’m not going to waste you like that. Your death is not going to be quick, and I’m sure I can come up with something more creative than the no doubt excessive amount of stabbing your mate endured. Who knows; if you happen to be really entertaining then we might even have years of fun to look forward to.”

Buck tapped at his scarred wrist.

“This little beauty here; we had three whole years together before he started begging me for death. It was fucking majestic Oliver. You should have seen it.”

Oliver pressed himself against the back of the cage. What the fuck? This guy was completely messed up. What the fuck was he talking about? Oliver knew then that he had completely misjudged Buck and he decided he did not want to go anywhere with him. No way. He’d take the cracked floor and the bamboo cage and the loneliness and beatings any day.

“Don’t worry though mate,” Buck said, leaning against the cage. “I’m not expecting you to live up to his memory, but I am looking forward to all the fun we’re going to have together. Ah Oliver, we’re going to make some beautiful memories together.”

Jason hoisted himself through the window and crept onto the wooden rafters of the warehouse. He was almost directly above Buck and Ollie, and thankfully Jason’s friend was still in one piece and relatively unharmed.

Jason could hear every word that the two of them said from his place above them, and he felt the scowl on his face growing with every word Buck said.

“Oh, please don’t fucking cry,” Buck said. “I fucking hate it when you little shits cry. That isn’t supposed to happen until at least a few days in.”

Jason’s hand tightened around the handle of his machete. He glanced around the rest of the building, making sure that no-one else would be able to see him when he dropped down on top of Buck and killed the son of a bitch.

“I guess that’s what happens when I get a fucking widow, huh?”

Jason pounced, landing on top of the other man. He brought his machete down, aiming straight for the other man’s chest, but Buck’s reflexes were too quick, and he shoved Jason away before the blade could find its mark.

By the time Jason had righted himself Buck had drawn a knife from his belt and was poised, ready to defend against any attack Jason might make.

“Jason!” Buck called to him, smiling as he did. “You don’t know how happy I am to see you. I should have known that you would come for me.”

Jason charged towards him, but Buck blocked his first attack, and then the second.

Jason sidestepped an attack from Buck, and as he did he realised they were probably making enough noise that someone else was bound to hear them soon and come to see what was wrong. He had to end this quickly otherwise he and Ollie might never get out alive.

“Don’t you see Jason?!” Buck called out. “This is fate. We were meant to be together!”

Jason practically growled in response, and threw himself at the other man. Buck blocked the attack, but this time Jason was ready for it, and moved just so, twisting the blade out of the other man’s hand and sending it clattering to the floor.

Buck glanced over at it for just a second, but a second was all Jason needed. He plunged the blade straight into Buck’s torso, shoving it as deep as it would go. He brought the blade up as he removed it, slicing through several inches of skin and flesh.

There was a look of shock and confusion on Buck’s face. His hands pressed to his stomach, perhaps to try and stop the massive amount of bleeding that had already begun. Jason pulled the machete out of Buck’s torso and slid it across the man’s neck instead.

Buck fell to the ground, still clutching at his stomach. Blood spread out from the two wounds and began to seep into the cracks in the floor.

Jason’s hands were shaking, and he couldn’t tell whether that was from fear or adrenaline.

“Holy shit Jason,” Ollie exclaimed from his place still in the cage, snapping Jason out of the trance he had fallen into. “You just killed him.”

“Come on,” Jason said, running to the cage and cutting it open with the machete. “We need to get out of here. Follow me, and don’t make a sound.”

“Vaas, is everything all right?” Hoyt asked, leaning forward and staring very closely at the younger man’s face. “You seem distracted.”

“Everything’s just fine boss,” Vaas replied. “I’m just sick of that fucking Aussie prick is all.”

“Ah, good!” Hoyt exclaimed. “I do so hate it when my employees are dissatisfied. As for Buck, you’ll goddamn work with him whether you like or not. He’s been of more use to me than you have over these past few weeks. How many prisoners have you lost again?”

Vaas stayed quiet, knowing that Hoyt would provide the answer for him.

“Two Brody brothers, two young women and one young man that was worth a fucking fortune in ransom money! I already had buyers lined up for two of them. I’m working hard Vaas. Meanwhile, you’re losing the fucking product and upsetting my customers. I’m not very happy with you right now, so I don’t give a fuck if you start bleeding from the eyeballs any time you’re near Buck, is that clear?!”

Vaas grit his teeth together and resisted the urge to yell at Hoyt. He had learned a long time ago that no good ever came from disagreeing with the other man.

“Sure boss,” Vaas replied. “Whatever you say.”

“Good,” Hoyt said, leaning back in his chair once more and appearing to relax. “Now, we’ve got to work together if we want to come back from all of these goddamn fuck-ups of yours. I don’t know about you Vaas, but I don’t like it when people start telling me that my enemies can’t be killed. So, can I trust you to bring me Grant Brody’s head?”

Vaas was just going to reply when a loud wail emerged from the middle of the town.

“Why the fuck is that alarm going off?” Hoyt yelled. “If that is your sister’s men trying to fuck with my organisation again then I am going to disembowel every single one of them, including you.”

Vaas jumped up from his chair and listened as the sounds of yelling and gunfire erupted outside. He didn’t know whether it was the Rakyat, wild animals, or an escaping prisoner, but he did know that Jason was still outside, and if Jason was in trouble then he couldn’t stay here with Hoyt.

“Whatever it is, I’ll take care of it boss,” he told the other man. Hoyt said something else as he left, but Vaas did not hear it.

His wrist did not hurt, and there was still plenty of shouting coming from outside, which meant Jason was still alive. He was probably right where Vaas had left him, but if Vaas’s fears were correct and his stupid soulmate had managed to get himself captured again then Vaas was going to be even more pissed off than he already was.

Jason had been feeling pretty confident. He’d killed the privateer in front of the warehouse doors with barely any sound at all, and he’d had the entire route back out of the base planned out. They had barely made it halfway though when the alarm went off.

Jason looked back to find the door to the warehouse open, a couple of privateers running out from inside the building. Someone had discovered the bodies of Buck and the privateer that had been with him, and more importantly, Ollie’s empty cage. They’d be looking for Ollie at the very least.

“God damn it,” Jason cursed. “Come on Ollie. We need to get out of here now.”

Jason kept as far away from open space as he possibly could, but the base was swarming with guards, and they didn’t make it far before one of the privateers spotted them. Jason charged towards the man, but he let out a shout before Jason could silence him. They grappled for a moment, but then Jason managed to slice the man’s neck open.

Hopefully they hadn’t been too loud, and the man’s shout and the sound of his death had not alerted the rest of the base.

Jason grabbed the semi-automatic that the privateer had been carrying and passed it to Oliver, knowing that the other man might need to defend himself.

“Here,” he told Ollie. “Hopefully I’ll just need my machete.”

“Holy shit Jason,” Oliver cursed as he adjusted his hold on the gun. “I don’t know if I know how to use this man.”

“You’ll be fine,” Jason hissed. “Just point and shoot.”

They made it all the way outside of the base before Jason had to kill anyone else, and this time he got the jump on the two privateers that were in their way, and his machete made short work of the both of them.

He and Oliver left the two bodies behind and ran from the base, Jason trying to calculate as they did where exactly it was that Vaas had asked him to wait, and how long it would be before it would be safe to return to that place.

After only a few seconds of trying to tell different cement walls apart Jason tried instead to work out where the shore and the boat that he and Vaas had commandeered was in relation to their current position. He struck out in the direction that felt right, even though he couldn’t be entirely sure it was the right way, and Oliver followed as closely as he could behind Jason.

Once they were under the cover of thicker forest Jason slowed down for a moment so that he and Oliver could catch their breath.

“Holy shit man,” Oliver said through panted breaths. “That was fucking intense. I would have been fucked if it wasn’t for you… probably literally. Man, I so owe you one.”

“It’s fine Ollie,” Jason said. “Let’s just get away from that place and back to somewhere safe.”

“Somewhere safe would be awesome, but are you sure that… Oh holy shit Jason. Someone is coming.”

Jason looked over to where Oliver’s eyes were fixed. Sure enough, a man was making his way through the thick jungle towards them. Jason readied his gun, but then the man drew closer and Jason realised the newcomer was the one person that had been in Hoyt’s camp that he was actually happy to see at that moment.

Jason breathed a sigh of relief and lowered his gun, walking towards the other man and smiling.

“Vaas,” Jason greeted his soulmate. Vaas did not smile in return.

“What the fuck did you think you were doing, huh?” he asked Jason.

“They had Ollie,” Jason explained. “I had to help him.”

He glanced over at Ollie, who looked as though he was two seconds away from running. Jason realised there were tears in his friend’s eyes.

“Hey Ollie…” Jason began, reaching out for the blonde man, but Ollie darted away from his touch. He brought the gun Jason had given him up to point it straight at Vaas.

“Woah, Ollie,” Jason exclaimed, grabbing the butt of Ollie’s gun and pushing it towards the ground and away from his soulmate. “Vaas is a friend. He’s going to help us get out of here.”

“I don’t want to go anywhere with that guy,” Ollie told him.

Jason hadn’t known Ollie to ever really show hate or anger, but the look he was currently giving Vaas was getting awfully close to both of them.

“Ollie,” Jason said, trying to reach out and grab Oliver by the arm again, “Vaas was the one who let me see you. He looked out for you and Riley, remember?”

“Yeah, but he still captured us in the first place man, and then he took me and Riley to that place back there, which was totally not looking after us. Besides he…”

Oliver froze and took a deep breath. He looked more upset than Jason had ever seen him before.

“He killed Vincent,” Ollie muttered, staring at Vaas. “You killed Vincent.”

Jason glanced up at Vaas, who was staring at the two of them with his arms folded and a distinct frown on his face.

“Not this fucking bullshit again,” Vaas muttered.

Jason leaned towards Ollie, clutched his shoulder and tried to think of the easiest way to convince his friend to accept Vaas. They needed to make their peace and get further away from Hoyt’s base while they still could.

Jason was doing his best to comfort Ollie when he was suddenly torn away from the other man. Vaas gripped him roughly by the arm. When Jason looked up at his soulmate he could tell Vaas was pissed.

“Jason!” Ollie yelled. “Let him go you jerk.”

“Shut the fuck up!” Vaas roared at Ollie. “I already said that I’m sorry about your fucking mate, okay? But if I wanted you dead then you’d already be fucking dead. Now, I’ve gotta have a word with Jason here, so you’re gonna be quiet.”

Ollie looked anything but happy, but he was quiet at least. Vaas then turned his attention to Jason.

“All right Jason. Now, what the fuck do you think you’re playing at amante?”

“Look,” Jason said, tearing his arm away from Vaas, “I’m really sorry about Buck, but I couldn’t just leave Ollie there. I had to save him. Now, can we please get the fuck away from that place before someone finds us?”

“You think I give a fuck about that Aussie piece of shit!? It’s you Jason. You! You were supposed to stay fucking hidden! But no, you had to go and save your fucking boyfriend here, and put yourself at risk. Do you have any idea how fucking worried I was?! Do you?”

“I’m sorry Vaas,” Jason replied, pressing their foreheads together, “but I made it out okay, so…”

“What the fuck?” Ollie exclaimed. He looked between the two of them and as his eyes grew wide Jason could tell that his friend had worked out at least some of what was going on between Vaas and himself.

“Ollie, Vaas here is my soulmate,” Jason explained.

Jason watched Ollie’s eyes grow wider.

“No fucking way,” Jason’s friend exclaimed. “You and this guy? That’s some fucked up shit man. I mean, I’m happy you finally found him, but couldn’t it have been… I dunno. Anyone else?”

“Hey fuck you!” Vaas yelled. “I fucking look out for you and this is the thanks I get? Jason, I told you your taste in friends really fucking sucks. This guy just fucking proved it.”

“Look, would the two of you both just calm down?” Jason shouted. “If we stand here arguing then they’re probably going to find us. Ollie, you and I need to get out of here right now.”

“You’re going to take him to that fucking cave with the rest of them, huh?”

Jason nodded.

“I need to make sure that Ollie’s safe.”

“Okay hermano. Okay. I’ll tell Hoyt that this was your brother and the Rakyat. I might be able to send them in the wrong fucking direction but you better still be careful, okay? I don’t want you getting yourself killed or captured over this fucking loser.”

Jason heard Ollie mutter something under his breath, but ignored his friend for the time being. He pulled Vaas close to him and pressed their foreheads together once more.

“I’ll be back to see you again soon, okay?”

“You better,” Vaas muttered.

Jason was about to pull away, but Vaas grabbed the back of Jason’s head, pulling him close for a passionate kiss that was so sudden and so intense that Jason almost collapsed against the other man. He pulled back, leaving one last bite on Jason’s bottom lip, and then turned away from the two Americans.

Vaas had left Jason with a lust-riddled brain that made leaving Vaas behind a lot harder than it otherwise would have been, but Jason forced himself to walk away, only looking back at the other man once. Vaas had been watching Jason leave, and nodded at Jason before also walking off in the direction of the encampment.

Jason struck off in what he hoped was the correct direction, and Ollie followed close beside him. For a long time Jason’s friend was unusually quiet. Maybe he was lost in thought, maybe he was just pissed off at Jason and Vaas. Jason didn’t really care which it was. He appreciated the quiet either way. It was a lot easier to listen for animals or potential human enemies when there wasn’t any pointless talking to distract him.

They eventually found their way to the shore. They were much further south than Jason had hoped, but a long walk on the beach lead them to the boat he and Vaas had used to get to the South island.

As they glided over the crystal clear water and towards sanctuary, Ollie’s silence continued and Jason began to worry. Out of all of his friends Ollie was the one that usually dealt with trouble the best, always keeping his cool and recovering from whatever troubles life threw at him quickly. This silent, bitter Ollie was one Jason had not seen for a very long time. Thinking about it now, the last time Oliver had been like this had probably been before he had met Vincent.

Jason sighed, wished that he didn’t have to deal with this right now, and turned to speak to Ollie.

“You okay?” he asked Ollie.

“Yeah,” Ollie replied, but he didn’t really sound okay. “I’ll be fine. Look, I’m sorry about that shit back there with Vaas, butI just… I mean, I’m kinda pissed that I’m not going to be able to do anything to avenge Vince, you know?”

Ollie leaned against the side of the boat and shook his head.

“What the fuck man. I probably wouldn’t have done anything about it anyway. Live and let live or some shit like that, right? So that guy, Vaas?”

“What about him?”

“He’s really your soulmate?”

“Yeah, he is.”

“Woah,” Ollie muttered, shaking his head. “That’s gotta be weird.”

“What do you mean?” Jason asked.

“Well, you know, he’s like a pirate, and he’s totally a fucking psycho Jason.”

Jason shrugged, and tried not to be angry with Oliver. After all, he had every right to hate Vaas after what he had done to Vincent. It didn’t make it any easier to listen to though, and he forced himself to concentrate on steering the boat towards their destination rather than on Ollie’s words. Why the hell did all of his friends have to hate his soulmate though? It didn’t seem fair when Grant and Oliver’s soulmates had both fit into the group so easily.

“What are you going to do?” Ollie continued. “Are you gonna go back to California or are you going to stay here with him?”

“I don’t know,” Jason replied.

“He’s not coming with us is he?” Ollie asked.

“I doubt it.”

“Oh. Awesome. No offense Jason but sharing a boat with that guy would not be cool. I need… man, I need to get stoned.”

“Well Ollie. I’ve got some good news for you at least. You are going to absolutely love the guy Grant’s got us hiding with.”

Chapter Text

After another couple of drinks Jason had volunteered to go and find Keith and Riley. Hopefully they were still in the club, but the truth was he had no idea where they had disappeared to. After a pretty thorough search of the dance floor and bar Jason ran into the club’s DJ, Doug, who Jason was lucky enough to have befriended earlier in their trip, and who pointed Jason in the direction of the men’s bathroom.

“He should watch out,” Doug told Jason. “Girl’s here overcharge.”

Well, that sounded great. Jason wondered what the hell Keith had gotten Riley into this time. If it really did involve hookers then Jason was going to be pissed.

As he approached the bathroom and heard the shouting though he realised that there was probably more to worry about then his younger brother getting ripped off by a Bangkok whore.

“… you think that’s supposed to make all of this better somehow?” Riley yelled.

“For fuck’s sake Riley! Why the hell is this any of your business anyway?”

“You know why!”

Jason walked into the men’s bathroom to find Keith and Riley yelling at each other, while an Asian woman in the corner tried to look as small as possible and two other men, probably the woman’s pimps considering what Jason already knew of the situation, looked backwards and forwards between Riley and Keith like they had something to say but couldn’t find an opening.

“Do I?” Keith shouted. “If it’s so fucking obvious then why don’t you tell me, huh?! Just what the fuck am I supposed to know Riley?”

“You can be such a jerk sometimes, you know that?” Riley said, shoving the older man.

“I’m a jerk. Really?! At least I’m not a little pussy like you! If you’ve got something to say to me then just fucking say it!”

Keith spread his arms out and leaned in to Riley like he was challenging the younger man. He stopped short of actually doing anything though, and for a moment the two men were just standing there, their glaring faces only inches away from one another. Jason wondered if he should step in between them and break up whatever it was that was going on, but the atmosphere was so tense that Jason was worried they would both just turn on him if he did.

The pimp didn’t seem to be able to sense the mood as well as Jason though, and he stepped forward, shoving Keith on the arm.

“You must pay!”

“Can’t you see we’re in the middle of something? Piss off!”

“Look, I’ll pay for him…” Riley muttered, his hand already searching in his pocket for whatever money Keith supposedly owed.

“No you fucking won’t Riley, now get the fuck out of this bathroom and go get me a beer. If you’re going to keep yelling at me about this then I am really going to need a fucking drink.”

“Big guy must pay!”

“Shut the fuck up! Nobody asked you!”

“Hey guys,” Jason said, placing a hand on Keith’s arm, stopping him just before he could lay into the pimp. The girl took the opportunity to sneak out of the men’s room, leaving the rest of them behind.

“What the hell has gotten into the two of you?” Jason asked. “No more fights, remember? You promised. And Riley... God. What the hell have I walked into here?”

“It’s none of your business Jason,” Riley snapped, folding his arms in front of his chest. He glared at Keith as though the older man had done something awful.

“Look Riley, if there’s something wrong…”

“I told you Jason, it’s nothing that you need to worry about,” Riley said, pushing past the two of them and heading out of the men’s room.

Jason looked to Keith, hoping that the other man might be able to explain what had happened. Keith just looked defeated now that he had apparently lost whatever fight he had been having with Riley.

“Come on,” Keith groaned, heading in the same direction as Riley. “I really need a drink.”

“Hey!” the pimp yelled. “You do not walk away! You must pay!”

“I’m not paying for shit!” Keith shouted back at him. “I barely fucking touched her before…”

Jason grabbed Keith by the arm and tried to urge him out of the bathroom.

“Hey, this our turf!” one of the pimps yelled after them. “Not yours.”

“Yeah,” Keith shouted over his shoulder, “well we’ll see about that.”

“Hey guys!” Jason called out as he entered the cave. “I’m back.”

“That was quick!” Grant called out from somewhere near the boat.

Jason was surprised that his older brother was still there. He would have thought that Grant would have charged off on some sort of mission. Or perhaps he had just gotten back from one. Either way he was there, wiping rust and grease off his hands as he approached Jason.

“Did Vaas fall off a cliff after all?” Grant asked. “Or have you just…”

Grant stopped short as he saw Oliver standing beside Jason.

“Look what I found,” Jason commented.

“Oliver?” Grant asked. He looked between Ollie and Jason and smiled. “Holy shit! No way. Hey guys, Jason brought Ollie back.”

The rest of the group came scurrying over one by one, and for a while there was nothing but hugging and smiling and relief.

“Hey guys,” Ollie said, hugging Grant and Daisy at the same time. “Man, it is so good to see you all.”

Daisy pulled back from the hug and smiled at Grant and then Jason.

“So, the gang’s almost back together,” she said. “We just have to rescue Riley now and then we can all go home, right? I’d better get to work and finish the repairs on our boat.”

“Yeah,” Jason said. “About that Ollie, you don’t know where they took Riley, do you?”

Ollie had been sharing a fist bump with Keith, but at Jason’s words he pulled back, his shoulders slumping.

“Oh shit man,” Ollie muttered. “Didn’t I tell you?”

“Didn’t you tell me what?” Jason asked.

“Ah shit.” Ollie looked to the ground, and then back up at Grant and Jason’s expecting faces. Whatever news Ollie had it obviously wasn’t good.

“Ollie, what did they do with Riley?” Jason prompted.

“Shit. This is… Shit. I’m sorry guys, but Riley’s gone,” Ollie said. “He tried to escape. He almost made it out and everything, but as he was running away they shot him.”

“Oh god…” Grant muttered. “Riley’s dead?”

The cave was silent for a moment. Liza looked like she was about to cry. Grant looked shocked. Jason could feel the blood rushing to his head. At his side his hands curled up into two fists.

“How?” Jason asked. “Who did it?”

His hands were clenched so tightly that they were starting to hurt. Jason imagined that his hands were wrapped around the throat of whoever it was that had killed Riley, and that made things a little better. Whoever it was that killed Riley was going to be in a lot of pain.

“I don’t know,” Ollie muttered. “One of those mercenary guys. I don’t know which one of them did it. I just know that Riley was running and then they all shot at him and he… he dropped to the ground and that was it. He wasn’t moving.”

Jason swore that whoever it was that shot Riley was going to die. He was just about to storm out of the cave and go straight back to Hoyt’s base and murder every single privateer there when Keith called out softly from his place beside Oliver.

“No,” Keith said. “Riley can’t be dead.”

“Look man, I know this is hard,” Ollie said, placing a hand on the other man’s shoulder, “but Riley’s fucking gone man.”

“No, you don’t understand,” Keith told them, pulling away from Ollie’s touch and starting to pace backwards and forwards across the camp. “Riley is not dead. I know he’s not dead.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Grant asked him.

Everyone’s attention turned to Keith. He looked backwards and forwards between the rest of the group, before letting out an audible sigh and rubbing the back of his neck, giving away exactly how nervous he was.

“I think…” Keith muttered, just loud enough for Jason to hear him. “I mean, I’m pretty sure Riley’s my soulmate.”

“What?” Jason and Grant called out in unison.

“Riley’s name is on my wrist,” Keith clarified, “and it’s still there. I checked and my brand hasn’t changed. Riley is not dead.”

“What the hell?” Grant muttered. “The two of you? Really?”

“You never,” Jason began, barely able to believe that Keith could be his little brother’s soulmate. “You never treated him like he was…”

“I know, okay!” Keith interrupted him.

Jason thought back to what Keith had said a couple of days earlier. Keith had sounded like he wanted nothing to do with his soulmate. It couldn’t have been Riley that Keith had been talking about.

As far as Jason knew the two had always gotten along pretty well, and ever since they had met the mere mention that Keith would be at a party would be enough to have Riley begging to come along with them. Jason had assumed that Riley looked up to the older man for whatever reason, but perhaps it was a little more complicated than that.

Why would Keith not want Riley? And why hadn’t either of them said anything about it before? They had known each other for years, and it wasn’t like Riley was too young for an adult relationship anymore. Any other couple would have been bare-wristed, displaying silver-white soulbrands after so long.

“You’ve known each other for years,” Grant pointed out, echoing Jason’s thoughts. “Why haven’t you said anything about this before now? Why hasn’t Riley said anything?”

“Look, I don’t want to talk about it,” Keith said. “Let’s just focus on getting Riley back for now, okay?”

“Okay,” Grant said, nodding slowly. “Okay, yeah. Let’s make sure he’s all right and worry about everything else later. So, we know he’s still alive. How the hell do we find out where they’re keeping him?”

“Well, how did you find everyone else?” Jason asked.

“It’s been different for all of you really,” Grant explained. “Daisy was here with Doctor Earnhardt, Dennis and the Rakyat helped me out with Keith. You, um… Well, that one… Point is, I don’t know how we’re going to find Riley, but if I talk to Dennis then he might be able to point me in the right direction.”

Jason had no idea who this Dennis was that Grant had mentioned, but if they could help Grant find Riley then he didn’t really care.

“Vaas might know where they’re holding Riley,” Jason suggested.

“Would he actually tell you if he did?” Grant asked.

“Maybe not, but it’s worth trying, and besides, I told him I’d go back as soon as I made sure Ollie was safe.”

“All right,” Grant said, nodding. “I talk to Dennis, you talk to Vaas, and then we get Riley back. Sounds like a plan.”

“And then we get off this island, right?” Ollie suggested.

Jason and Grant looked at each other, but neither of them responded to Ollie’s addition. After a long and slightly awkward silence Daisy came over and grabbed Grant’s hands in her own.

“Just stay safe okay,” she told him.

Her eyes glanced down to their intertwined hands. Jason’s eyes followed Daisy’s and he couldn’t help but notice that Grant was wearing a band around his left wrist. That was weird. Established couples like Grant and Daisy usually wore their brands open, didn’t they? Admittedly Vaas had continued to wear a band after their night together, but that was because it would be dangerous if Hoyt and the privateers discovered their relationship, and Jason’s brand had been out in the open ever since he had thrown his wristband off when fighting with Grant.

Oh well. It wasn’t his place to say anything. There was probably a good reason for Grant to have his brand covered.

Daisy pressed a kiss to Grant’s cheek. He pulled away, not doing anything to return the kiss or Daisy’s affection, and started walking towards Jason. Daisy stared after Grant for a while. She looked worried, but when she caught Jason looking at her she sent him a smile which Jason would have said was forced if it hadn’t been so bright and encouraging.

Jason smiled back and then turned to follow Grant out of the cave.

“Hey Jason, Grant!” Keith called out before either of them could leave. “If you two need me to help out with anything then I’m there, all right?”

Grant and Jason paused and looked at each other, and then back at Keith. Jason wasn’t exactly sure what Keith could possibly do that Grant and Jason couldn’t, but despite whatever was going on with Keith and Riley, their friend probably still wanted to look after his soulmate.

“Sure,” Grant told the other man. “We’ll let you know.”

“Right,” Keith said, looking around the cave and deliberately not meeting anyone else’s eyes. “Right. I’ll… I’ll just be waiting here for now, but I definitely meant that. I want to help you guys rescue him if I can.”

“You got it,” Jason said.

Jason tried to think back to his recent memories of Keith and Riley, still trying to make sense out of their relationship. They were usually pretty friendly, Riley especially, but there had been more than one fight in Jason’s recent memories of the two, and he had a hard time remembering even a single time when they had been affectionate beyond what a normal friendship would require.

He and Grant didn’t speak until they were well and truly out of the cave and away from Keith.

“What the fuck is going on with Keith and Riley?” Jason asked. “In a way I’m glad because we might not have known Riley is still alive otherwise, but seriously, what the fuck? How is this the first time any of us have heard about this?”

“Considering the mess you’ve gotten yourself into with your soulmate it’s not really your place to question them, is it J?” Grant replied.

“Hey, Vaas and I are working out pretty well,” Jason replied. “I mean, it may not make sense, and the situation we’re in isn’t exactly easy, but I know there’s a reason fate chose us for each other, and I know it’s all going to work out somehow. I just haven’t quite made sense of it all yet, but I will.”

“Still, don’t go getting too involved in Keith and Riley’s business. They can work this out for themselves, and they don’t need you playing matchmaker. All we can do is be there for Riley if things with Keith go to shit.”

“What makes you think it’ll go to shit?”

Grant didn’t respond, and when Jason tried to catch his eye he just frowned.

“Look, just go and talk to Vaas,” Grant told him. “The sooner we save Riley the better.”

It was night by the time Jason returned to Hoyt’s encampment. Luckily the privateers kept reasonable hours, so the majority of them were asleep, and those that were awake were easy to sneak past in the dark of night.

After some careful scouting Jason discovered Vaas asleep in a small building on the outskirts of town. Jason climbed in through the window and smiled when he realised Vaas was the only one in the room.

In Jason’s experience most people looked peaceful and relaxed while they slept. It was not so with Vaas, who frowned and occasionally twitched and moved around in his sleep. Jason knew from experience that Vaas had a habit of grabbing and clinging to things in his sleep as well, whether they were the sheets or furs he lay on, nearby objects, or Jason himself.

It had only been a few hours since he had seen Vaas, but it had been much longer since they had been in a situation in which they could get intimate. Vaas wore his usual singlet and pants in sleep, which allowed Jason to see Vaas’s muscular shoulders and a wide patch of his toned torso where the singlet had ridden up in his sleep.

Jason smiled as he continued to watch his soulmate for a few more seconds, before crawling into the bed behind Vaas and wrapping his arms around the other man. He ran one of his hands over Vaas’s exposed stomach and pulled him close until his back was flush against Jason’s body.

Jason leaned in and pressed his lips to a spot between Vaas’s shoulder and neck, hoping to wake his soulmate up with a long slow kiss and the feeling of a warm embrace.

Vaas woke up almost straight away, but Jason barely had time to register what was happening before Vaas had flipped them over so that he was on top of Jason. Vaas grabbed the nearest weapon to hand, which happened to be Jason’s machete, and sat perched on top of Jason with the machete pressed against the American’s throat.

Jason froze.

Vaas blinked a few times. When he realised who it was that he had just attacked he let out a string of curses and threw the machete to the other side of the room.

“What the fuck Jason!?” Vaas yelled. “Don’t you ever do that again you stupid fuck! I could have killed you.”

“But you didn’t,” Jason said, grabbing Vaas and pulling the other man down on top of him.

Jason pressed a kiss to the other man’s forehead. After taking a few seconds to calm down and remember how to breathe without cursing, Vaas shifted to rest his head on Jason’s chest.

“I could have though,” Vaas muttered. “Could have fucking sliced you to pieces. Fucking pisses me off thinking about it.”

“Then don’t think about it,” Jason told him.

Jason contemplated their positions for a moment. He felt as though Vaas might get up and move away from Jason if he wasn’t careful. Jason didn’t want that. He flipped them back around so that he was on top of Vaas and then leaned down to press another kiss to Vaas’s forehead.

Vaas breathed out loudly, and Jason felt the other man relaxing below him.

“Mmm… You came all the way back here to see me Jason?” Vaas moaned as he leaned into Jason’s touch. “I like that amante. I like that a lot.”

Jason leaned in for another kiss, this one on Vaas’s lips. Vaas growled and teased Jason’s lips with his teeth. It felt amazing, but it was also incredibly distracting, and Jason knew that if he allowed himself to become lost in the kiss then he might never actually get around to the actual point of coming to see Vaas.

He pulled away. Vaas tried following him for a moment, his mouth chasing the other man’s until Jason had sat up completely, so that he was perched on top of his reclining lover, his lips far out of reach of Vaas’s own.

“Come on Jason, don’t fucking tease me you bitch,” Vaas moaned, although the grin on his face told Jason that his soulmate wasn’t really annoyed.

“I need your help,” Jason told him.

Vaas had been writhing beneath Jason in a way that was far too seductive and distracting, but Jason’s words made him freeze.

“With what?” Vaas asked.

“Hoyt still has my little brother Riley captive,” Jason said. “You don’t know where they’re holding him, do you?”

“You need my help to find Riley? Of course,” Vaas said as he made a great show of flopping back on the bed. “Why would my soulmate want to fucking kiss me when we could be talking about his piece of shit brother!?”

“Come on Vaas. This is important.”

“Making out with me is just as important though, right?”

“Almost,” Jason lied. “Now do you know where they’re keeping Riley or not?”

The smile that had been on Vaas’s face before had all but disappeared. He crossed his arms and stared up at Jason.

“I might,” he said. “What’s in it for me? You bring me flowers? You gonna suck my dick?”

“Your soulmate won’t be pissed off at you?” Jason suggested.

“Fuck you,” Vaas muttered. “I should be the one that’s pissed off. You come here, fucking wake me up, make me think you’re here just because you love me and then you tell me it’s just because you’re worried about your stupid fucking brother. Why the fuck should I help you? So you and he can run away from here together? You’d fucking love that, wouldn’t you Jason?”

Jason sighed and chewed on his bottom lip for a moment as he thought.

“Please?” he tried.

Vaas lay there for a moment, staring up at Jason, but then his shoulders sagged, and his frown softened a little.

“Fine,” he said. “They moved your brother to a camp in the middle of the North Island, about a mile northwest of our old home. Hoyt’s got a buyer lined up, and they’re gonna keep your brother there until the buyer comes to collect. Hoyt’s got a lot of his men there Jason, so you better bring some decent fucking firepower.”

“Thank you,” Jason said, breathing a sigh of relief, “and don’t worry. I’ll have help for this one.”

“Let me guess. Your other brother? Snow fucking White. Fuck him.”

“Snow White?”

“Yeah. Don’t fucking ask me hermano. I think it’s a fucking stupid nickname.”

Jason contemplated the information Vaas had given him for a second, before leaning down and pressing another quick kiss to Vaas’s lips.

“Thank you,” he told his soulmate.

He made to roll off Vaas, but the other man’s arms reached up and kept him firmly in place.

“Uh… Vaas?” Jason asked.

When he glanced down at his soulmate’s face he found that Vaas was glaring at him.

“Come on Vaas,” Jason said. “I need to go save Riley.”

“No,” Vaas said, tightening his grip on Jason, his fingers digging into the other man’s arm and hips. “Stay here amante.”

“But Riley…”

“Isn’t going anywhere,” Vaas told him. “He’s not gonna get moved for at least another couple of days, so you are staying here with me.”

Jason looked around the room and then back at Vaas. It was pretty risky with all of the privateers nearby, but it looked like his soulmate wasn’t going to back down on this.

“Will it be safe for me to sleep here?” he asked. “What if one of Hoyt’s men walks in and sees us?”

“You think any of Hoyt’s men would be fucking stupid enough to walk into my fucking room in the middle of the fucking night?”

“Maybe not. Okay. Right. I guess I’m staying here for the night.”

“Fuck yes you are.”


They were both silent for a long time. Jason couldn’t remember the space between himself and Vaas ever feeling this vast or awkward before. Even when they had first met it hadn’t been like this. He wanted to lean forward and press another kiss to Vaas’s lips, but he was still sort of pissed off, and Vaas was still sort of pissed off, and even though their bodies were still pressed together it felt like they were worlds apart.

Jason looked around the room and tried to think of something to say.

“So… um, how have you been?” Jason began.

“I got shot, knocked unconscious, I’ve had to spend the entire day bullshitting Hoyt and now my soulmate is more fucking concerned about some little brat than about me.”

“So… about normal then?”

“Fuck you Jason.”

Jason shuffled on top of Vaas and wrapped his arms around the pirate’s shoulders. He leaned forward and pressed a kiss to Vaas’s neck, feeling the other man shiver beneath him as he did.

“You know,” Jason whispered, running his hands over Vaas’s skin, feeling the curves of his shoulder-blades and the tension around his neck. “You could do that if you wanted…”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Vaas asked, looking confused and more than a little pissed off.

“You er…” Jason coughed. This was proving to be a little more awkward than he had expected. He had thought he was being so smooth as well. “You just said…”

“Fuck you… Ohhhh…”

Jason watched as comprehension appeared on Vaas’s face.

“You want me to fuck you Jason?” Vaas asked him.

Jason grinned and leaned forward, but before his lips could meet Vaas’s he felt the other man’s hands on his chest, pushing him back and keeping the two of them apart.

“And then what?” Vaas hissed. “You go and save your fucking brother. You get all of your friends in one place and then you fucking leave.”

“I haven’t made up my mind about that yet,” Jason told him.

“Of course you haven’t, have you? And you came here just because you wanted to see me, not for a fucking booty call and for help with finding your brother.”

“Damn it Vaas,” Jason growled. “Can’t we just worry about me staying or leaving when I have to make that choice? Not right now. Right now I want…”

Jason shifted one of his knees, rubbing his thigh against Vaas’s groin and grinning when he felt the other man’s body react.

“I don’t give a fuck what you want Jason,” Vaas hissed.

“You are so full of bullshit,” Jason replied.

“Yeah?” Vaas muttered, and Jason couldn’t work out whether he was flirting or being confrontational. Maybe when it was Vaas it could be both at the same time.

“I think you’re the one that’s full of bullshit Jason,” Vaas hissed, right before surging up and latching his teeth to Jason’s ear. “I’m kinda thinking you wouldn’t have come to see me if you couldn’t get something out of it.”

“That isn’t true,” Jason muttered.

Vaas leaned up and ran his teeth over the skin on Jason’s neck.

“Yeah? Then fucking prove it,” Vaas whispered. “I’m fucking sick of doing all the work amante. You want me then you better fucking show it.”

Vaas wanted him to show it? Then fine. He fucking would.

“You want me to prove it?” Jason said as he pressed against Vaas, forcing their groins together.

Vaas wasn’t smiling, but Jason could feel how much his body was reacting, and he could hear the way Vaas’s breath had quickly turned into a short, needy panting.

“What do you want?” Jason whispered in Vaas’s ear. “Do you want me to fuck you Vaas? Is that what you want? You want me inside of you?”

Vaas’s eyes latched on to Jason’s own, challenging Jason without words.

Jason felt his throat go dry. For whatever reason, Vaas really wanted this.

Jason ground his teeth together and grabbed Vaas by the waist, flipping him over so that Vaas was face down on the bed. Jason leaned forward and pressed his groin into Vaas’s firm backside. He felt Vaas squirm beneath him and groaned.

“You want me to fuck you?” Jason hissed. “Then fucking stay still.”

He pressed one hand down on Vaas’s back, pinning him in place against the bed, and used his other hand to pull Vaas’s pants down, just low enough to leave his bare ass sticking out in the open. Jason took a moment to appreciate Vaas’s rear for a moment, running his hands over both cheeks and grinning to himself.

Vaas wriggled a little beneath Jason’s hands, and for some reason that pissed Jason off. He dug his hands into Vaas’s backside like they were claws trying to tear into Vaas’s flesh.

He leaned forward, his lips right next to Vaas’s ear.

“I said,” he growled, taking a moment to dig harder with his fingers, hard enough that he knew it would hurt. “Stay still.”

He leaned forward and bit down on Vaas’s ear, warning him gently. Vaas let out a low, needy moan which sent the blood rushing straight to Jason’s groin.

He returned to removing Vaas’s trousers, tugging them off roughly and depositing them on the floor. He stood by the bed, the sight of the half-naked man in front of him making him harden, so that it gave him more than a little relief when his pants joined Vaas’s own on the floor. The red, blood-stained singlet he had been wearing for the last few days joined the other clothes, and then Jason re-joined Vaas on the bed.

Jason pressed his cock against the other man’s rear, sliding in the cleft between his cheeks and rejoicing in the way Vaas shuddered and arched back against Jason.

The other man was muttering all sorts of wonderful things as Jason slid against him. There was a lot of Spanish that Jason didn’t understand, but he caught more than one plea for him to just hurry up and fuck Vaas, and if he hadn’t already wanted to do that more than he had ever wanted to fuck someone in his life then that pleading would have convinced him.

Vaas was still wearing his singlet which as far as Jason was concerned was a definite problem. He wanted to see the planes and arches of Vaas’s back, of his shoulders, of his spine as it arced beneath Jason.

He slid the fabric up Vaas’s torso, trying to lift it off the other man, only for Vaas’s arms to block any further progress. Jason tugged at the singlet, trying to get Vaas to lift his body up a little and assist Jason, but Vaas just stayed where he was.

“Come on Vaas,” Jason growled.

“But you said…” Vaas moaned, if anything pressing himself further into the bed below them. “You said to stay still.”

“Vaaaass…” Jason growled in warning.

“Can’t stay still if you want that to come off,” Vaas chuckled, before sending a sly grin back at Jason.

That did it. Something in Jason snapped, and he left Vaas’s singlet where it was, hitched up high on his torso and tangled around his shoulders. One of his hands moved to Vaas’s rear, stretching the other man as much as a single hand could, while the other one went straight to Jason’s cock.

He guided himself to Vaas’s entrance and then slammed inside the other man with no warning, and no preparation. It hurt, and judging by the howl that came from his soulmate Jason wasn’t the only one that was paying for his impatience.

He leaned down on top of Vaas, his hands moving to wrap around his soulmate’s chest and pull them closer together.

“Sshh…” he told Vaas as his hands snaked over Vaas’s chest and stomach. “We don’t want anyone else to hear us, right? No more screaming.”

He stayed there for a moment, feeling Vaas shake beneath him and letting the other man adjust to having Jason inside of him.

“Jaaaason…” Vaas called out in a sing-song voice, pushing back against Jason even though his body was still shaking. “You gonna fuck me or what?”

Jason growled again, slowly pulled back until he was almost all the way out of Vaas, and then slammed back in with just as much force as before. Vaas screamed again, almost as loudly as before, but Jason didn’t care.

He pulled out and slammed back in, again, and again, until Vaas was a moaning mess beneath him.

“Is this what you wanted?” Jason hissed. “You wanted me to fuck you?”

“Yes amante,” Vaas practically mewled, surprising Jason with just how needy and how sure he sounded. “Fucking needed this…”

Jason slid one of his hands down to Vaas’s cock, surprised to find that his erection hadn’t lessened at all because of the pain. If anything he was harder, and it was probably all sorts of messed up that it made Jason harden further inside of Vaas as well.

Something about the whole thing made him feel wrong, and yet as he fucked Vaas hard into the bed, and Vaas began clutching the furs beneath them and alternating between moaning obscenities and Jason’s name, Jason found himself getting lost in the heat and the rhythm of their bodies colliding.

He fucked Vaas like an animal, all sweat and hormones and teeth and claws. He ran his hands over Vaas’s hips and back, his nails leaving dark red trails that would mark Vaas’s skin for days. He sank his teeth into Vaas’s shoulder and neck. He growled and felt Vaas’s responding moans beneath his teeth.

Vaas screamed and his body shook beneath Jason as the other man reached his peak. Jason reached down to grab Vaas’s cock as he rode through the aftershocks, wringing a high keening moan from his soulmate.

The sound was enough to send Jason over the edge with very little warning. He came hard, his teeth digging into Vaas’s shoulder as he did. He clung to Vaas as tightly as he could for a long while after, pressing his body against that of the man below him.

Finally Jason knew they couldn’t stay like that any longer and he pulled out, moaning as he did. He collapsed on the bed beside Vaas, closed his eyes and tried to get his body to behave normally again. He felt a little guilty. When Vaas had been the one in control he had been so gentle and loving. Jason hadn’t. Whether Vaas had asked for it or not he had been too rough. He’d just fucked Vaas like he was nothing.

“Thank you Jason,” a breathy voice muttered from Vaas’s side of the bed.

Thank you? That couldn’t be right, and yet Jason was sure that’s what he had just heard. He opened his eyes and found Vaas staring at him. The other man looked exhausted, but not exactly angry. Jason couldn’t quite tell what Vaas was thinking or feeling, but it was a relief to know that at least he wasn’t pissed off anymore.

“Stay with me amante,” Vaas whispered so quietly that Jason wondered whether he had really heard it at all.

Jason closed his eyes again, and only opened them again when he felt Vaas’s hand touch the side of his face.

“Hey,” Jason murmured. “Don’t worry Vaas. I’m not going anywhere just yet.”

Vaas scoffed and shuffled closer. His arms moved to wrap around Jason’s waist and pull him close.

“I’m not going to let the others come between us Vaas,” Jason told him, before leaning forward and pressing a kiss to Vaas’s forehead. “You’re my soulmate.”

Vaas shook his head.

“You may not like it amante,” he told Jason, “but sooner or later you’re going to have to choose between us.”

“Not yet though,” Jason said, concentrating on wrapping his arms around Vaas and pulling him close rather than on the choice that lay ahead of him. “Not yet.”

Chapter Text

They’d all had way too much to drink. Someone had suggested dancing, and thanks to the thrum of the beat as it pulsed through the club and the surge of the alcohol that flowed through their bloodstreams they had all thought that it was a great idea.

Grant and Daisy had their arms wrapped around each other, and were swaying backwards and forwards roughly in time to the beat, even though the current song that ‘DJ Raiden’ Doug had pumping through the speakers was a long way from being a love song.

Ollie and Vincent were throwing their hands up in the air and dancing with a lack of co-ordination that gave away how high they really were. Riley was dancing beside them and throwing himself into the music as much as they were, although he actually seemed to have some idea of rhythm and how to move his body in time to it, so his dancing at least looked somewhat like dancing was supposed to. Keith had carved out his own spot at the bar and was getting absolutely trashed.

Half of them were having a blast. The other half, perhaps minus Keith, were doing an admirable job of pretending that they were.

Jason knew that he couldn’t dance, but he was forcing himself to not give a fuck. A little way away from him Liza was doing a much better job of dancing and looking like she was enjoying herself. Her eyes caught his, and she gave him an encouraging smile. He smiled back, and they both threw themselves into the music with renewed vigour.

“Woo!” Jason screamed.

And then the two pimps from the incident with Keith and Riley had shown up, thrown Keith off his bar stool and picked a fight with the whole group, one of them aggressively shoving Jason. Someone had yelled something about a dead hooker, and Jason had prayed that it had as little to do with Keith and Riley as possible. The next few minutes were a blur of fighting, and then running for the exit with the help of ‘DJ Raiden’ Doug.

They managed to catch a lift just in time to escape from the two angry pimps, and after a round of cheering, congratulating each other and fist-bumping, Doug had somehow gotten around to suggesting that they should go skydiving, and with the adrenaline and drugs flowing through their veins it had sounded like an awesome idea.

Grant had objected, but Jason and a couple of the others, Daisy included, had told him not to worry, and had eventually convinced him that it would be all right.

If Jason had been a little less drunk then maybe he would have noticed how shifty Doug looked when he had suggested the skydiving trip.

Later Jason would wonder whether he should kill Doug or thank him if he ever crossed paths with the DJ again. After all, there was little doubt in Jason’s mind that Doug had set them up, but on the other hand, if it wasn’t for Doug setting them up then Jason might have never met his soulmate.

Jason had snuck out of Hoyt’s encampment before the sun had risen, leaving Vaas asleep and half-naked in the bed they had shared. He told himself it was because he didn’t want to wake Vaas, although the truth was that he didn’t really want to face Vaas after what he had done the previous night. Not for the first time since meeting Vaas, Jason found himself terrified by his own behaviour.

Jason had intended to scout the location Vaas had spoken of by himself, work out whether or not Riley was really there, and then report back to Grant and the others, but when he arrived he heard a familiar voice call out his name. Grant was already hiding in some tall grass on a hill overlooking the camp, and he waved Jason over. As he grew closer Jason realised Keith had accompanied Grant as well.

“Where the hell where you?” Grant asked as Jason approached them. “We were just about to attack the camp without you.”

“Yeah, well, I needed to stay with Vaas for a little bit,” Jason responded as he crouched down on the grassy overlook with them.

Grant looked at Jason, one of his eyebrows rose and Jason had a feeling he knew exactly what Grant was thinking. It was probably closer to the truth then Jason wanted to admit.

“It was important,” Jason insisted.

“Uh huh,” Grant said, nodding slowly. “Sure. It must have been considering you were gone all night.”

Jason chose to ignore his older brother’s taunts, and glanced over at Keith. Grant looked confident and prepared for anything. Keith, less so.

“Do you have any idea what you’re doing with that thing?” Jason asked him, eyeing the rifle that Grant had given to the other man. Keith did not look comfortable holding it. While he was undeniably good in a fist-fight, Jason couldn’t remember ever seeing Keith hold a firearm before.

“Hey, shut up,” Keith snapped. “I’ll be fine.”

“Go easy on him J,” Grant said, taking his attention away from the camp for just long enough to calm the two of them. “You were just as inexperienced as Keith a few weeks back.”

“Yeah,” Keith agreed, “and I haven’t had a psycho step up and teach me how to use it yet, so give me a break.”

“All right. Calm down you two,” Grant said, intervening before Jason or Keith could take the argument any further. “We need to stay quiet remember? Now, Jason and I are going to scout ahead. Hopefully we should be able to pick them off one by one. Keith, you stay here. If a fight breaks out then you do what you can to take them out from a distance. You should be able to get a pretty good view from further up on that hill.”

“You got it,” Keith responded.

“Okay. Now remember everyone, no heroics,” Grant continued, “and no-one do anything stupid. The aim is to get Riley out alive. The last thing we want is for those pirates to realise we’re here before we’re ready to take them out. We go in quiet, we take our time, and we save Riley. You with me?”

Keith and Jason both nodded in response.

“All right. Let’s go.”

Grant led the way, creeping through the tall grass towards the encampment. Jason followed close behind him, occasionally glancing back at Keith as they moved.

“Are you sure it was wise to give him a gun?” Jason whispered. “I’m pretty sure he’s not going to be able to hit anything from back there.”

“Hopefully there won’t be any reason for him to use it,” Grant responded. “Honestly J, I’m more worried about you. Keith’s always had a violent streak, but you… Are you sure you’re ready for this?”

“Ready for what? Taking down a few slavers? Trust me, I’ve done worse.”

“That’s what I was afraid of,” Grant said, a strong frown marring his features. “Ollie told us all about how you rescued him.”

“And what did he say?” Jason hissed.

“He said you’ve gotten pretty good at killing people,” Grant replied. “Although I suppose that’s a good thing for now. Okay. You ready? I take out the guy on the left. You get the one on the right. Quickly. We don’t want to alert the others.”

“I get it,” Jason said.

“All right. On three. One… two…”

Grant counted down with his fingers and then gestured for Jason to go.

Jason crept towards his target and then pounced on the man. He clamped a hand over the privateer’s mouth to smother any noise he might make, and stabbed him straight through the heart. The privateer squirmed for a moment, trying to scream or pull away, but Jason stabbed him again. The man let out a moan and then went limp in Jason’s arms. Jason dragged him back behind the nearest building and left the body in a spot where it was unlikely to be spotted.

“Jesus J,” Grant exclaimed as he looked at Jason’s kill.

Grant had snapped the neck of his target. It had been a quick, clean kill. Perhaps Jason hadn’t disposed of his as elegantly, but at least the guy was dead, right?

Jason realised he had some of the man’s blood on his hands and wiped it off on his trousers, leaving smears of red all over them. Now they matched his blood-stained singlet. He made a note to try cleaning his clothes when this was all done.

“All right,” Grant muttered. “Now, I’m betting Riley will be in that big building over there.”

“What, the one that sounds like it contains a whole fucking zoo? Better hope the tigers and whatever the hell else is making those sounds haven’t eaten him.”

Grant shrugged.

“Makes sense to keep him with the animals Hoyt’s smuggling I guess, and stop it with the dark humour. That’s our little brother you’re talking about, remember? Now, let’s see if we can find an easy way in. I’m going to try and open the door. Watch my six.”

Grant crept towards the door. Jason followed him, keeping an eye on the other privateers. They were mostly guarding the perimeter of the base and didn’t seem too worried about anyone that might already be inside, but if any of them were to turn around and see Grant and Jason there then they would be in trouble.

“Damn it,” Grant hissed. “They’ve got a pretty large padlock here J. I don’t think I’m going to be able to pick it or break it, and destroying it will make too much noise.”

“There was a window at the back,” Jason said. “If you lift me up then I should be able to leap to it from one of the other buildings.”

“And how are you going to get Riley out once you’ve done that?”

“I’ll work that out when I come to it.”

“No,” Grant whispered. “We take down the rest of these bastards and search the bodies. One of them is bound to have the keys.”

“Okay. Tackle them together or split up?”

“Split up,” Grant said, “if you think you can handle it. It looks like we’ve both gotten pretty good at this whole sneaking and stabbing thing, but still, if we split up and they catch one of us then at least it doesn’t completely fuck us up.”

Jason nodded and the two set off towards different sides of the camp. Secretly he was happy Grant had suggested splitting up. It was easier to sneak when he was by himself, and it was easier to kill when he didn’t have to worry about Grant looking over his shoulder and subtly critiquing his technique.

Between the two of them they soon made short work of most of the privateers inside the encampment. Every so often Jason would look over to see how Grant was doing, but his older brother was stealthier than he was, and half the time Jason could only tell where Grant was when a privateer was suddenly brought down, their body dragged away somewhere Jason couldn’t see.

Jason worried that his kills were leaving too much blood on the ground, and that someone would soon become suspicious, but soon there were few enough privateers left that it wasn’t really a problem anymore.

And yet there was still no sign of the keys. He had checked the pockets and belts of every privateer he had taken down, and come up with some money, ammo and half a dozen other items of varying value, but there was no sign of any keys that looked like they would fit the large padlock on the warehouse doors. Jason knew that Grant would let him know if the older Brody brother had found the keys on one of his kills as well.

They were running out of privateers, and it was starting to make Jason restless, when there was a shout from the edges of the encampment. When no-one attacked him Jason thought that maybe one of the privateers had spotted Grant or one of their kills, but the privateers at the perimeter seemed to be focussed on something near the entrance to the camp.

Grant appeared from behind the back of the warehouse and gestured for Jason to join him. Jason crawled over to join his brother.

“What is it?” Grant asked Jason, knowing that the younger man had been in a position to get a better look at the scene. “Is it an animal attack?”

“I don’t know,” Jason admitted. “I don’t think so.”

Grant and Jason began sneaking around to the front of the building to get a better look, and as soon as Grant saw what was happening he let out a curse beneath his breath.

“I was on patrol when I found him,” one of the privateers said as he and his newfound quarry approached the warehouse. “He was sneaking about.”

When Jason peeked around the corner of the building he found that sure enough Keith had managed to get himself grabbed by the privateers, and was now standing between several of them with a cut on his forehead, a scowl on his face and a pair of AK-47s aimed at his back.

“Damn it Keith,” Grant muttered. “We leave you alone for two minutes…”

“No. Wait,” Jason exclaimed. “They’ll put him in with Riley, right? That means they’ll open the door. This could work in our favour.”

“We let them take him in there and we sneak in behind them?” Grant said, taking a moment to process the idea. “Sure, that could work.”

Jason slipped back behind the side of the building while Grant kept an eye on the three pirates and Keith. Jason heard the rattle of the door being unlocked, and then Grant signalled Jason to let him know it was the right time to move.

The two of them slipped around the corner of the building and scurried after the privateers. One of them had just begun to close the large doors to the building when Jason pounced on him, using one of his hands to smother the man’s screams while the other plunged his machete into the man’s stomach. He fell to the ground with minimum noise. They didn’t really need to be sneaky any more, but there was a certain satisfaction in knowing that he had taken down the pirate with so much precision.

A little way to his side Grant had taken down one of the other pirates, which just left the one that was holding Keith. Now that the other two pirates were gone Keith took the opportunity to shove his elbow back into the stomach of the man holding him. He squirmed out of the pirate’s arms and followed up his earlier attack with a couple of punches that soon had the man doubled up in pain.

Keith kicked the man until he was a writhing mess on the floor. He then bent down, picked up the pirate’s pistol and shot him twice in the head. It wasn’t nearly as graceful or precise as Grant and Jason’s kills had been, but it got the job done.

Jason began glancing around, looking for Riley, and found him pretty quickly.

There weren’t many cages in this particular building, and all but one of them had wild animals in them, some of them growling and barking as Jason made his way over to the cage on the other side of the room.

Not only had the pirates thrown Riley into another cage, similar to the ones that Jason had seen before, but they’d also tied him onto a chair, his arms bound behind his back and his feet tied to the chair’s legs.

He also looked to have been beaten up pretty badly, and Jason wondered how many times Riley had tried to escape to warrant such control and brutality.

“Hey Riley,” Jason called out as he grew closer. His younger brother didn’t respond, and Jason began to worry.

“Riley?” he called out a little louder.

He got to work opening the door with his machete, and with some help from Grant, and as the door fell off Riley finally seemed to realise that they were there.

Riley lifted his face and Jason cringed as they were finally able to see the condition he was in. Jason had been prepared for the bullet wound in his upper torso thanks to Ollie’s story, but Riley was also sporting a black eye and a split lip, and someone had given him a bloodied nose. His eyes widened as he saw the three of them. He blinked a few times, as though he couldn’t believe what he was seeing, and then, despite his injuries, he smiled widely at Jason and Grant.

“Oh my god,” he exclaimed. “Grant! Jason! You’re still alive!”

Grant pushed past Jason and threw the cage door open. He ducked behind Riley and began untying his hands and feet. Jason joined Grant in the cage, hoping to help, but his older brother just waved him away.

As soon as Riley’s arms were free he threw them around Jason, hugging him with all of his strength. Jason patted Riley on the back, hoping to comfort him and feeling a little awkward as he did. He parted from Riley and stepped back so that the others could greet him as well.

Riley quickly turned to Grant and embraced him as well, the oldest Brody brother looking a lot more capable when it came to comforting Riley.

“Hey,” Keith called out softly, from where he still stood outside the cage. Jason half expected Riley and Keith to hug as well, but instead they both hung back and just stared at one another.

Riley looked surprised to see the other man there. Keith looked nervous, which was unusual for him to begin with.

“It’s uh… it’s good to see you’re okay,” Keith muttered. “Well… you know. Okay considering the circumstances. Obviously you’re not…”

“What are you doing here?” Riley asked.

“I wanted to help rescue you,” Keith said. Riley did not look convinced.

“Huh,” Riley murmured softly, then he moved away from Jason and Grant and made his way out of the cage.

He stood in front of Keith for a moment and tilted his head as he observed the other man, almost as though he was still confused.

“I was worried,” Keith continued.

“Sure you were,” Riley muttered.

Riley looked down and rubbed at his wrists. Jason knew from experience how sore they’d be. Riley glanced back up at Keith for a moment and then walked straight past him, looking down at his feet as he made his way to the door of the building, where he stood and waited for the others.

Jason looked over at Grant, who shrugged. He looked like he was feeling just as confused and awkward as Jason was. The two older brothers made their way over to the entrance of the warehouse, where Riley was waiting for them and looking more than a little tired. Keith followed just behind them, but Jason couldn’t help but notice that Keith’s hands were in tight fists by his side as he walked with downcast eyes towards the younger man.

“Daisy, Liza and Ollie are all okay too,” Jason told Riley, hoping to lift the mood a little bit and remove some of the awkwardness.

“And Vincent’s dead,” Riley muttered, “so that’s everyone, right? We can go home?”

“Soon,” Grant said. “I think Jason still has some unfinished business to attend to.”

Grant stared pointedly at Jason. Jason rolled his eyes at the unspoken question. Out of all the possible times to bring up his relationship with Vaas and the choice that Jason knew lay ahead of him this had to be one of the worst. Events were moving a lot quicker than Jason would have liked. For all Jason knew they could be leaving the island tomorrow, and he still had no idea what he was going to do about Vaas.

Jason was just debating whether or not it was a good time to tell Riley about Vaas when Keith made the decision for him.

“Jason found his soulmate,” Keith explained.

“On this island?” Riley asked, looking genuinely surprised and happy as he turned around to face Jason.

“Yeah,” Jason replied. “You know that guy that was making sure you and Ollie were okay?”

Riley glanced down at Jason’s wrist, where Vaas’s name was displayed in white for all the world to see. Riley smiled at Jason, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes.

“It’s that guy? Really?”

Jason nodded.

“I’m happy for you,” Riley told him.

He glanced over at Keith as he finished speaking. Their eyes met for just a moment, but then they both quickly looked away and refused to meet each other’s eyes after that.

What the hell had happened there? Jason knew it wasn’t his place to ask, but he hoped that whatever it was could be mended. He wanted his little brother and his friend to be happy, and if their soulbrands said that they could find that happiness together then that was probably a good thing. Admittedly he couldn’t actually be sure that it was a good thing where the two other men were concerned. Even looking at Keith seemed to bring Riley pain.

Grant had been looking around the encampment anxiously, and interjected now that the others were done talking.

“Come on,” he said, gesturing to the camp’s exit with his gun. “You can leave the talking for the car or back at the camp. We should get out of here before any of the other privateers show up. Riley, will you be right to travel? None of your wounds are bad enough that we need to see to them right now, are they?”

Riley nodded, assured Grant that he would be fine, and then the small group began to move. Grant led them to the outskirts of the encampment, where they hijacked one of the privateers’ small trucks. Grant took the driver’s seat, and Jason immediately claimed the front passenger seat, wanting to leave Riley and Keith at least some semblance of privacy in case they wanted to talk.

Riley and Keith glanced at each other as they both climbed into the back seat, both of them quickly looking away again. Jason’s younger brother shot him a panicked look, but Jason pretended he didn’t see it, and didn’t know how awkward this was going to be. It might be uncomfortable in the back of the truck for a while, but whatever Keith and Riley’s issues were, Jason was going to make sure that they worked them out.

Grant rose an eyebrow at the determined smile on Jason’s face, shifted the truck into gear, and started the drive back to Doctor Earnhardt’s.

Keith didn’t know whether or not he was glad that the two older brothers had left him alone in the back of the car with Riley. After all, they did need to talk, but having your soulmate’s two older brothers sitting just feet away from you when it was time to lay your emotional cards down on the table was more than a little intimidating.

For the first few minutes neither he nor Riley said anything. Riley seemed to be more interested in what was happening outside of the car, but then he eventually took a deep breath, turned around and looked straight at Keith.

“So…” Riley said, sounding nervous.

“I’m glad you’re all right Riley,” Keith said, clasping his hands in front of him. “I mean that. Really. I don’t know what I would have done if anything had happened to you.”

“Thanks,” Riley muttered.

Keith glanced over at Riley, hoping for a blush or a smile. Not so long ago a comment like that would have been guaranteed to inspire at least one of them, but Riley wasn’t smiling at all.

“You know, I had a lot of time to think in there,” Riley said, “and I told myself that if I ever got out then I would stop being such a… such a pussy, and talk with you about this for real.”

“Here? Now?” Keith asked, glancing at the two men in the front of the car. Grant was concentrating on the road, and Jason was doing his best to pay as little attention to the two men in the back of the car as possible, or at least give the impression of not paying them any attention.

“Well,” Keith muttered, looking down at the floor of the car, up at the roof, at Jason and Grant where they sat in the front of the car, and at anything that wasn’t his soulmate on the seat next to him. “It can’t go any worse than the last time, right?”

Hopefully this time there wouldn’t be any shouting, and their ride may have been a little bumpy, but at least it wasn’t a men’s bathroom in Bangkok, and there wouldn’t be any hookers or pissed off pimps to deal with. Besides, Keith had done some thinking of his own, and even though he was so nervous that he felt like he might throw up (or perhaps that was just because of Grant’s rather aggressive driving) he felt it would probably be better if they both just said their piece and got on with it.

“Right,” Riley agreed. “At least it can’t go any worse.”

Keith forced himself to look over at the younger man. Riley’s eyes seemed to be fixed on his clenched hands where they sat on his lap, but then he turned to look Keith straight in the eye, took a deep breath and began to speak again.

“Look, I know you’ve never wanted me.”

“Riley, that’s not…”

“It’s okay. Like I said, I’ve had time to think about this, and I’ve decided that if you want to ignore our soulbrands then…”

Riley took another deep breath, and it was obvious that he was finding the next part hard to say.

“Then… that’s okay. We wouldn’t be the first couple to just pretend our soulbrands aren’t there,” Riley continued. “I’m just asking that if… if that’s what you want then please let me know. Please, just tell me that we’re never going to be together.”

“Riley, it’s not like that,” Keith said. “It’s not… it’s not that simple.”

“It’s okay. I can take it.”

“Riley…” Keith tried again, but he had no idea what he was supposed to say, and before long Riley filled the silence between them.

“You know, for a long time I just wanted to impress you,” Riley said. “I thought maybe if I was nice enough, or cool enough then you’d finally say something, and then I thought you might not be saying anything because I was too young and you were waiting until I grew up a little. But then I turned eighteen and you still didn’t say anything, and you know, when I turned twenty-one a few months back a small stupid part of me thought ‘maybe it’s going to be today.’”

Riley did not need to say anything else about his twenty-first birthday. He had emailed Keith an invitation, and Keith had stared at it on the screen of his phone every day for the two weeks leading up to it, warring with himself and then ultimately spending the night of Riley’s birthday alone in his condo, getting as drunk as humanly possible and trying his hardest not to think of how disappointed Riley would be that he wasn’t there.

“So when you… when you didn’t show up I thought that maybe I’d made a mistake and you were the wrong Keith after all, and my Keith was still out there somehow, and I’d just brushed against him or something.”

Keith knew that he should let Riley talk, but he wished that Riley would stop. Riley wasn’t blaming him for anything that had happened, and he wasn’t crying, but Keith still felt like a piece of shit because he knew he was the reason there was so much pain in Riley’s voice. Not for the first time he wished that fate had given them both different names, for Riley’s sake as much as, perhaps even more than, his own. Riley deserved better than this.

“But anyway, the point is, I’ve waited and hoped for long enough,” Riley continued. “I’m an adult now. Please, just tell me that you don’t want me as your soulmate and I promise I’ll never bug you again.”

There was a time not so long ago when Keith would have taken the opportunity, but a lot had changed in the last few weeks alone, let alone in the years since they’d first met.

He could still remember turning up at the Brody household and being introduced to his friend’s younger brother. Riley had only been sixteen, all bright eyed and optimistic, and Keith was freshly out of college, ambitious and eager to prove himself. He had been picturing his soulmate as a young woman, and together they’d have a couple of kids and get a house and a dog and a stupid fucking white picket fence and everything else that came with the lie Keith had bought into. There hadn’t been a place in his life for Riley, or at least that’s what he had told himself.

“It’s not that I don’t want you Riley,” Keith began, trying to put the complicated mess of thoughts inside of his own head into words.

“What then? You’ve known about this for a long time, right?” Riley asked him.

Keith nodded in reply.

“My mark changed the first night we met,” he told Riley.

“The same as me then,” Riley said. “Then why… why haven’t you…?”

“You’re,” Keith fumbled, searching for the right words and hoping that he wouldn’t come across as the horrible douchebag that he felt like at that moment. “You’re not what I expected.”

“Let me guess; you were expecting a woman, right?” Riley said. He sounded like he was trying to make a joke out of it, and his smile was pretty damn convincing, but Keith could tell it was only skin deep.

“I guess,” Keith admitted.

“Well, I’m not a woman, and I’m never going to be one,” Riley said. “Sorry, but I’m me, and that’s never going to change, so we might as well deal with it.”

“For god’s sake Riley,” Keith muttered, leaning back in the car and holding his head in one hand. “Please do not apologise. You’re making me feel like shit already.”

“Sorry,” Riley said again.

“Just stop it,” Keith moaned. “Look, I had no idea what to fucking think when you turned out to be my soulmate, okay? It kind of messed with my head. I thought I was straight.”

Riley was finally quiet, and Keith took a moment to gather his thoughts before turning to look straight at Riley again.

“The thing is, lately I’ve had some time to think too, and shit like what we’ve been through? It makes you think about what’s really important, about what you’d miss, and what you take for granted. And I mean, at least you’re… well…”

Keith glanced to the front of the car. He couldn’t be sure that Jason wasn’t listening in. It would be pretty easy to hear every word they had been saying even if the other man wasn’t trying. It was probably safer to avoid any comparisons to Vaas, if possible.

“You’re nice,” Keith settled for, “and smart, and if I have to have a guy for a soulmate then you’re… well, you’re pretty fucking cute for a guy I guess.”

There it was; the blush that he had been hoping for earlier.

“What I’m trying to say is, well, I’ve decided that I want to try doing this… this soulmate thing properly,” he told Riley. “No ignoring it anymore, being open and maybe doing, you know, boyfriend stuff. I’d totally understand though if after everything that’s happened you didn’t want to have anything to do with me.”

Riley was watching him closely, his eyes slowly widening at Keith talked.

“I think I just needed some time to work this all out in my mind,” Keith continued.

“Five years worth of time?” Riley asked him, and Keith couldn’t tell whether or not the younger man was joking.

“If you also want to pretend that the last five years never happened then that is totally fine with me,” Keith suggested, relieved and amazed that somehow they’d gotten this far without any yelling or crying or either of Riley’s brothers threatening to kill him.

“No way,” Riley replied, taking Keith by surprise.

“They may have been five years of us being stupid at each other,” Riley continued, a smile slowly working its way onto his face as he spoke, “but I don’t want to forget them. We had a rocky start; so what?”

Keith felt Riley’s fingers brush gently against his own, asking permission without words to link his hand with Keith’s. Keith reached out just a little across the torn leather seat that lay between them, and smiled as Riley’s hand immediately latched onto his own and squeezed so tightly that his palm hurt.

Keith heard Riley inhale deeply and then exhale with even more force. The younger man looked nervous. Keith smiled at his soulmate. For a second Riley still looked unsure, but then their fingers sorted themselves out so that they were comfortably linked together, and Riley smiled back.

By the time they reached Doctor Earnhardt’s place the talk from the back of the car seemed to have ceased completely, and when they stopped and began to pile out Jason couldn’t help but notice that his younger brother had been struck by a sort of blissful daze, despite the bruises and other small wounds that still marred his body.

He had tried not to listen in on their conversation, but some of it had been audible even above the roar of the engine. They seemed to have worked everything out, but what Jason had heard had also made him decide that he would have to keep an eye on Keith. If the other man ever broke Riley’s heart then Jason was going to kick his arse for sure.

“Go on,” Grant said, waving at Riley and Keith. “We’ll join you in a moment. Jason and I just have some things to take care of.”

Jason smiled and nodded at Keith and Riley. Keith nodded back and Riley smiled at him and then the two began walking into the cave. Jason smiled as he realised they were still holding hands.

“So, what are we going to do about those two?” Grant asked him almost as soon as Keith and Riley were out of earshot.

“What?” Jason asked. “Why do you think we need to do anything at all? They seem to have worked it all out on their own.”

“I don’t like it,” Grant muttered. “It seems like Keith’s been a total jerk to Riley.”

“You shouldn’t have been listening in,” Jason said.

Grant scoffed.

“You were listening too,” Grant said. “So don’t start with me.”

Jason shrugged.

“Well, it seems to me that Riley has forgiven Keith, so we should be supportive of our little brother wanting to be happy with his soulmate.”

“And you really think that the two of them still have any chance of a happy relationship together?”

“Of course,” Jason growled, getting the distinct impression that this conversation wasn’t just about Keith and Riley anymore. “Why would they be soulmates if they couldn’t?”

“So, you and Vaas are going to be able to work it all out too? You’re going to live happily ever after? You really believe you’re destined to spend the rest of your life on an island in the middle of fucking nowhere with a murderous drug addict?”

“Vaas really cares about me,” Jason said, “and if you keep being an asshole about our relationship then maybe I will fucking stay here with him.”  

Grant took a step back and shook his head.

“Look Jason, that got out of hand,” he said. “We do need to talk about that stuff for real though. You know that, right?”

“I guess,” Jason said. “Fine. You wanna talk? Let’s talk.”

Jason had no idea what Grant wanted to say or hear that hadn’t been said already, but as Grant started walking down the path and away from the entrance to the cave Jason followed him anyway.

They continued on down the path until Grant stopped at a seemingly random spot. There was a good view from here, and Jason paused beside him, looking out at the smaller islands that hugged Doctor Earnhardt’s tiny sanctuary, and the endless blue ocean beyond.

“So,” Jason said. “What do you want to say? I promise I’ll listen but I can’t promise I won’t hit you afterwards.”

“Don’t worry,” Grant replied. “You won’t be able to hit me.”

“What?” Jason asked, whirling around to look at his brother.

The word had barely escaped from his mouth when a sharp pain connected with the back of Jason’s head and everything went black.

Chapter Text

Jason was on a boat; a large one that carried all of his friends; they were travelling away from Rook Island as fast as the boat could take them, and everyone was happy except for him.

He had forgotten something. Something important. He was sure of it. They had to turn around so that he could go back to the island and get whatever it was or he was sure he would never see it again.

Daisy and Grant were slow-dancing and looking in each other’s eyes, despite the fact that there was no music, and when Jason tried to talk to them they seemed too enamoured with each other to even notice he was there.

Keith and Riley were curled up together, laughing and taking turns throwing back shots from a single bottle of what smelled like bourbon. There was something slightly off about it, and the fact that he couldn’t quite work out what it was pissed Jason off.

Oliver and Vincent seemed happy as well as they passed a joint backwards and forwards between them. Jason wouldn’t be surprised to find out that they were both already high.

No, something about that was wrong too. Vincent was…

Vincent was dead. Vaas had killed him.

Vaas. Vaas was still on the island. He needed to go back. He couldn’t leave Vaas. Not yet.

He tried to throw himself overboard, thinking that he might be able to swim back to the island, but the hands of his friends and brothers held him back.

“Vaas,” he screamed his soulmate’s name as he tried to pull away from the clutching hands. “Vaas! Vaaaaas!”

“Vaas?” Jason murmured as he started to wake up.

His eyelids felt heavy, and his vision was blurred, but as it cleared he began to make out a figure in front of him. The colour of their skin was right, and those eyes, and that hair…

Jason’s eyes flew open only for him to be met with disappointment. It was not Vaas, but the woman in front of him did bear a striking resemblance to his soulmate.

She smiled at him when she realised he was awake.

“You’re not Vaas,” Jason muttered.

“No,” the woman said. “I am not.”

Jason realised that his arms and legs were bound to some sort of wooden frame. He looked around to discover they were in the ruins of on old stone temple, and as far as Jason could see they were alone.

Jason looked closely at the woman in front of him. She was shorter, her hair was longer, and she was definitely female, but nevertheless her resemblance to Vaas was unmistakable.

“You’re Citra,” Jason realised. “You’re Vaas’s sister.”

Citra nodded in reply and smiled at Jason.

“What did he tell you about me?” she asked.

Jason frowned immediately when he remembered how broken Vaas had been after visiting this woman, the rage in his voice and the way his body had shook as he clung to Jason.

“He was not kind then?” Citra guessed, not needing any more than the frown on Jason’s face for an answer. “Vaas and I were close once, but now he is full of hatred, both for me and for the man he has become. Please do not believe whatever lies he has told you about me.”

She reached up and caressed the side of Jason’s face. Her hand slowly made its way down his neck and then came to rest lightly on his chest.

“If you’re such a good person then why am I tied up?” Jason asked her.

There was the sound of footsteps approaching, and Citra withdrew her hand quickly and turned around to meet the newcomer. Jason looked up and wasn’t surprised when he recognised Grant in the dim light behind Citra. He caught his brother’s eye, hoping that Grant would be outraged when he saw how Citra was treating him but Grant seemed to be completely unfazed by Jason’s current predicament.

“Grant,” Jason called to his brother.

Grant nodded at Jason, but did not acknowledge him any further, instead making a beeline for Citra. He kneeled before her and kissed one of her hands. The two of them smiled at each other before their attention became fixed on Jason once more.

Jason had hoped that Grant hadn’t been involved in whatever events had led to him being tied up in front of Vaas’s sister, as unlikely as he knew it was. Grant had been the one that had knocked him unconscious after all. What had his brother used? Probably the butt of his gun if the pain in the back of his head was any indication. He was pissed off at Grant, whatever the weapon turned out to be. His older brother had dragged him here for an undoubtedly stupid or awful reason that Jason had yet to identify, and now he was tied up with Vaas’s potentially insane sister looking at him like he was a shiny new plaything.

“Grant, I don’t understand,” Jason muttered. “What the fuck is going on? Why did you bring me here?”

“Don’t worry Jason,” Grant told him. “Citra’s not going to hurt you. She just wants to help you, like she helped me.”

“Help me?” Jason repeated, not as comforted by Grant’s words as he would have hoped. “What do you mean help me?”

“I am going to show you the truth,” Citra told him, “so that you can see things for what they truly are. I can help you to be free.”

“Free?” Jason muttered, glancing between Citra and his brother Grant. “Free from what?”

Citra reached up and grabbed Jason’s wrist.

“You think that this mark on your arm is absolute, don’t you?” Citra whispered into his ear. “That you have no choice but to obey it. That you must stay with Vaas. It is not so.”

Jason tried to pull back as far away from Citra as possible, but she just leaned in closer, pressing her cheek against Jason’s for a moment before pulling back.

“It is not so,” Citra whispered in his ear.

Jason tried to recoil, but there was no way for him to retreat.

“Get away from me,” he hissed at Citra instead, but his words had very little effect on the woman.

“You should listen to her Jason,” Grant said. “She knows what she’s talking about. It may seem strange now, but once you’re free you’ll understand.”

“You knocked me unconscious and brought me here for this?” Jason yelled at his brother. “Why are you following her? Why would we not want to be with our soulmates? She’s not making any sense. Think about it.”

“I have thought about it,” Grant replied, and Jason was stunned to see how much conviction there was in his brother’s eyes.

“So, what then? I’m just supposed to forget about Vaas and join the two of you? I’m not going to give up on Vaas just because you’ve fallen for Citra’s bullshit.”

“Come on Jason! I’ve seen how that guy acts. Do you really expect me to believe that you’d have anything to do with each other if it wasn’t for those stupid names on your arms? It’s ridiculous!”

“What the hell are you talking about? Vaas is…”

Jason wasn’t sure what to say. Vaas was unbalanced, dangerous and spent at least half of his life stoned out of his fucking mind. Even Jason wasn’t completely blind to that. His soulmate definitely wasn’t what Jason had expected, or anything like what he would have said he wanted in a soulmate.

“Vaas is what?” Grant demanded.

“He’s my soulmate,” Jason replied, and then, after a moment’s more thought. “Vaas loves me.”

Sure Vaas had yet to actually say those words, but Jason knew that it was true nonetheless. Vaas may have been far from perfect, but no-one had ever made him feel as safe and as loved as Vaas managed to, and that had to be worth something.

“I’m sure he does,” Grant said, shaking his head at Jason. “He loves you so much that he’d happily kill all of us and lock you up if it meant he could keep you here with him.”

“You don’t know that.”

Grant shrugged.

“You don’t know that he wouldn’t though, do you? Admit it J, you can’t predict what Vaas might do any more than I can. You barely know him.”

As much as he didn’t want to admit it, Jason knew that Grant was right. He grit his teeth and concentrated on trying to break his restraints rather than on his brother, knowing that if he had to listen to Grant badmouth Vaas for much longer then he might just snap.

It was then that he thought of something completely different, but no less worrying than Grant’s opinion of his relationship with Vaas.

“What about you and Daisy?” Jason asked Grant.

Grant frowned.

“What about us?”

“You love her, don’t you?” Jason pressed. “You’ve always been happy together. Do you really think that the two of you aren’t supposed to be soulmates?”

Grant stared at Jason as though he thought his younger brother was being a foolish child again. God damn it. If Jason’s arms had been free then he would have been really tempted to punch that stupid, patronising look off Grant’s stupid patronising face.

Grant took a couple of steps towards Jason. As he moved he fiddled with the band around his left wrist. Once it was removed held his bare wrist up for Jason to see.

Jason froze, wide-eyed and mouth open. Where Daisy’s name had once been emblazoned in bright silvery white upon Grant’s wrist, there was now nothing but a horrible scarred mess.

No. There was no way. Daisy couldn’t be dead.

“You didn’t…” Jason breathed. “Daisy’s not…”

“No, she’s not dead,” Grant snapped. “I wouldn’t let anyone kill her. Citra just helped me burn her name off my arm. Don’t you see J? I’m free.”

Through Jason and Grant’s discussion Citra had just simply stood back and listened, an amused expression on her face, as though she didn’t care what Jason might say against her. She stepped up, draping herself over Grant and smiling as she did.

“You see?” Citra said, running her hands over Grant’s chest and staring up at him as though Jason’s older brother was the finest specimen of man known to humanity.

“Your brother is truly free,” she continued, hands running over Grant’s body in a way that made Jason decidedly uncomfortable.

“Free to choose for himself. You could be free too. Free from Vaas. Free to love whoever you might choose. You want that, don’t you?”

Jason scowled at the woman.

“Vaas is my soulmate,” Jason hissed at her.

“So that means that you have to love each other?” Citra asked him. She stood with one hand on her hip, one of her eyebrows raising, letting Jason know just how much she doubted his words.

Jason didn’t reply, but a small part of him did begin to wonder if maybe Citra had a point. He could still remember the terror he had felt when hearing Vaas’s name for the first time, when he had realised that the one he was destined to love and the psycho that had captured them were one and the same person.

Then he remembered the feeling of Vaas in his arms, the look that Vaas would occasionally give him, as though he was drowning and Jason was the only thing that could save him and he found it all too easy to hate the woman in front of him. He would not allow her words to have any effect on him.

“Vaas thinks he loves you,” Citra said, detaching herself from Grant and slowly strutting over to Jason, “and the brands on your arms are the only reason he thinks this.”

She reached up and grabbed Jason’s left arm, yanking it out from its bindings, fingernails scraping against his skin as she did.

“If it wasn’t for this,” she yelled, digging her nails in further, “he would want nothing to do with you. But you took him from me, didn’t you? Before he even knew you he loved you more than he ever loved me.”

Jason grit his teeth against the pain. By the time Citra’s claws finally stopped digging into his skin he had decided that he didn’t want to listen to another word this madwoman had to say.

“Fuck you,” he muttered. “You pathetic, jealous bitch.”

Citra and Grant both frowned at him.

They walked a few steps away from Jason and spoke in hushed voices for a while. Grant glanced back at Jason a couple of times as they spoke, and he knew that they were talking about him, but Jason could not make out a single word of what they were saying. As they talked he tried to untie his right hand, with very little success.

Finally Citra turned back to him. She yelled out a command in a language Jason didn’t know and could not place, and within seconds one of the Rakyat had appeared, holding a small earthenware bowl that he handed to Citra. The liquid within it steamed, and had a decidedly unpleasant smell. The warrior also handed her a thick cloth.

Citra advanced towards Jason, holding the bowl in one hand and the cloth in the other.

“What are you doing?” Jason asked her.

She didn’t answer, so Jason turned to Grant instead.

“What is she doing?” he asked his older brother.

“She’s helping you,” Grant told him. “Don’t worry. You’ll thank us one day.”

Citra dipped the cloth in the pot.

“This will remove Vaas’s name from your wrist,” she told Jason. “It will hurt, but if what your brother tells me is true then you are strong and will barely feel it.”

“You want to burn Vaas’s name off?” Jason muttered. “No, no, no. Fuck no!”

Citra reached up with the cloth, and Jason tried to shove the woman back. Grant frowned at his younger brother, and held Jason’s left arm down so that Citra could work.

“What the fuck Grant!?” Jason shouted. “You can’t let her do this.”

“It’s for the best Jason,” Grant said.

“Fuck you it’s for the best!” Jason snapped.

The cloth brushed against his skin, and Jason screamed. It felt like acid, and for all Jason knew it was. He lashed out, bringing his knee up to push Citra as far back as he could.

She stumbled, and some of the liquid splashed out of the bowl and onto the rocky ground. It bubbled as it hit the stony ground, and Jason wondered, not for the first time, what the hell the liquid was.

Grant ran over to help Citra up off the ground, and Jason took the moment of inattention as the opportunity it was. He glanced up at his brand. The liquid, whatever it was, had removed part of the ‘s’ in Vaas’s name, but that seemed to be the extent of the damage.

He pulled against the ropes around his right hand one more time. There was a loud crack and Jason grinned as he realised he had broken the stone wall his hands had been tied to. It was easier to slip his bonds now, and he did so quickly.

He glanced around, looking for the easiest way to get away from Grant and Citra. His brother and Vaas’s sister were blocking the most obvious way out, and who knew how many of the Rakyat would lay between him and escape if he went that way. Luckily the stone he had torn out of the wall gave him a good hand and foot hold behind him, and he hoisted himself up and over the side wall of the dilapidated temple.

“I want his head!” Citra screamed. This command was followed with a few more words in the strange language she had spoken in before, this time shouted at the top of her lungs.

Jason heard a commotion inside the temple, and realised that Grant and all of the Rakyat would soon be after him.

He would need to be careful if he was going to escape and get back to Vaas in one piece. Unfortunately Grant and Citra had taken his weapons away from him.

He pressed himself against the wall as he heard someone approach. He pounced, grabbing a knife from the Rakyat warrior’s belt and killing him with it before the other man could even make a sound. He grabbed the old rifle that the man had been carrying as well. It would be loud and probably wouldn’t shoot very straight, but it was better than nothing. He took a moment to check how many bullets he had, before making a run for a nearby patch of thick forest.

He turned a corner, ducked just in time to avoid a round of bullets fired from nearby the temple, and came face to face with Grant.

Grant’s gun was pointed straight at Jason, but he did not fire. Jason brought his own gun up to point at Grant as well.

“Come on Jason,” Grant told him. “I don’t want to do this. Just surrender. Please.”

Citra appeared behind him, strolling up to Grant with the same reptilian swagger that Jason had noticed on Vaas.

She placed a hand on Grant’s shoulder.

“Go on,” she told him. “Kill him for me.”

“I can’t,” Grant told her. “He’s my brother. We can still help him.”

For just a moment a look of rage appeared on Citra’s face, but she quickly hid it and began clinging to Grant’s arm and tugging at it.

“Please Grant,” she begged. “Can’t you see that Vaas has poisoned him against us?”

Grant’s face hardened into a frown, and Jason realised his older brother was at least contemplating it.

“Don’t you love me?” Citra asked Grant.

There was at least a moment of hesitation, and Jason used it to his advantage. He charged at Citra and Grant, knocking his older brother to the ground and shoving Citra aside before either of them could stop him.

He heard Citra shouting again behind him, but he didn’t look back, concentrating instead on running and getting as far away from the temple as he could.

One of the Rakyat appeared in front of him, but he shot the other man without a second thought, pausing for a second afterwards to grab the man’s pistol.

He continued to run, not really knowing where he was headed, and not really caring, until he burst through the trees and realised there was nothing in front of him but another ruined temple, this one barely more than a pile of overgrown stones carved into the side of a steep mountainside. It was practically a dead end, unless he wanted to venture into the ruin in front of him and potentially become even more trapped than he already was.

He glanced around, wondering which way he should go. He was just about to head back into the trees when Grant emerged from them. He had been running, but slowed to a stop as he saw Jason, bringing his gun up and aiming it at his younger brother once again.

Jason brought up his rifle as well. It looked like they were at a stand-off again, but at least this time Citra wasn’t with them.

“We don’t have to fight,” Grant told him. “I’m sure I can convince Citra that you don’t have to die. All you have to do is surrender and come back to the temple with me.”

“Come on Grant!” Jason yelled. “I’m not going back there. Just let me go!”

“Let you go?” Grant scoffed. “And then what? You go back to your soulmate? I’m not going to let that happen Jason. He’s not good for you.”

“You’re in between me and escape right now Grant,” Jason said. “You let me go or I’ll shoot you.”

 “Shoot me?” Grant replied. “I’m your brother Jason. You’re not going to shoot me!”

Jason’s finger itched to pull the trigger. Part of him knew that Grant was right. No matter what he had done and what he and Citra had tried to do to him, Grant was still his brother. The other part of him didn’t care.

He lifted the gun so that it was pointing straight at Grant’s head rather than his chest.

“Damn it Jason!” Grant roared. “What has he done to you?”

Jason glanced at the name on his left wrist. It glinted white in the light of the setting sun. No, he told himself. No, this was not Vaas’s fault.

“You’ve changed J!”

“I’ve changed?!” Jason roared back. “Can’t you see what Citra’s done to you? What was the big plan once she’d taken Vaas’s name off my wrist, huh? Was I supposed to just leave the island and forget all about him?”

“No, that wasn’t it,” Grant told him. “Not straight away.”

“What then?”

“You would say goodbye to Vaas. In time both of you would see that you’re better off without him, and then we could tell all of the others. Think about it Jason. How much better off would Riley be if he didn’t have to worry about Keith? How much happier would Ollie be if he knew that he didn’t have to spend the rest of his life mourning Vincent? How much happier would you be if you learned to love someone that isn’t completely broken?”

“You were going to bring everyone to Citra, weren’t you?” Jason muttered.

“Of course,” Grant told him. “And then you and I and everyone would be free to go home, or to stay here with Citra. She knows what she’s talking about Jason.”

“And let me guess, you’d be bringing them all here with or without their permission? Knocking them unconscious and dragging them here like you did with me?”

“You were unusual Jason,” Grant told him. “Citra knew that with everything Vaas has put you through then you wouldn’t come to see her willingly. We’d just talk to the others. Show them how much better off they are without their soulmates.”

“What the hell has she done to you? You sound like some crazy cult member Grant.”

“I sound crazy?!” Grant shouted back at him. “Have you looked at yourself lately Jason? Can you see how much you’ve changed since you met Vaas? He’s turning you into a monster like him! Why won’t you listen to me!?”

Grant frowned and focussed once again on lining up the shot. Jason could see it in his eyes; Grant meant to shoot him. His own hand trembled on the trigger of his rifle.

He could see it now. They weren’t going to be able to settle this peacefully. Grant was too lost in Citra’s lies for that to be a possibility now. He was going to die, or Grant was.

Jason looked down the sights of the rifle, keeping Grant in his view and making sure that he didn’t look away, even for a second.

The cave was surprisingly peaceful considering the chaos that Riley knew was waiting outside. A lot of his wounds still hurt a little, but Daisy and the slightly mental old guy she had introduced as Doctor Alec Earnhardt had done what they could, and considering how much better his life was now than it was just a single day before Riley was feeling pretty optimistic.

He had done what he could around the camp, helping out with cooking and gathering supplies, but Daisy seemed to have most of it, including the now almost-working boat under control, leaving Riley with nothing that he needed to do, and after being in a cage for so long the last thing Riley wanted to do was to sit still.

Keith was sitting near the back of the cave, and Riley approached the other man with a smile on his face. He had been afraid that their conversation in the car might only be a temporary fix, and that Keith would go back to denying that they were soulmates as soon as they were safe, but luckily that hadn’t been the case. Admittedly they hadn’t kissed or anything like that yet, but Keith had let Riley hold his hand and curl up against his side as much as Riley wanted. Keith had initiated a few hugs since they had arrived back at the camp, and had been right there beside Riley when Doctor Earnhardt and Daisy had attended to his wounds. It wasn’t that much, but it was more than he’d had with Keith previously, and Riley was grateful for every little touch and smile.

“Hey,” Keith greeted him as Riley sat down beside him.

“Hey,” Riley replied with a grin. “Watcha doing?”

Keith gestured to the fishing rod that he was holding. Riley had seen it. He wasn’t stupid, but there was also a significant lack of fish beside Keith or in their camp anywhere.

“I was being polite,” Riley said. “You haven’t caught anything. You sure there’s actually fish in this lake?”

“There’s fish,” Keith said. “I’ve seen them. They’re just being stupid and not biting.”

“Right,” Riley said, crossing his arms and raising an eyebrow at his soulmate. “Blame the fish.”

“Screw this,” Keith growled, throwing the fishing rod away. It landed in the shallows of the water with a rather unimpressive ‘plop.’

“Fuck it,” Keith said, folded his arms in front of him. “Fuck the stupid fucking fish and this stupid fucking cave.”

“It’s just fish,” Riley said, trying not to smile at the way-too-serious frown on the other man’s face. “It’s not like we don’t have enough food.”

“Yeah I know,” Keith sighed, dropping his arms and sighing. “It’s just that you’re all contributing somehow and I can’t even catch a goddamn fish.”

Riley shuffled a little closer to his soulmate and nudged him gently.

“It’s no big deal,” Riley told him. “We’ll go hunting later and catch a goat or something, all right?”

Keith still wasn’t smiling, and as far as Riley was concerned this was definitely a problem. He leaned forwards and pressed one finger to each side of Keith’s mouth, pushing the corners up and forcing the other man to smile.

It was a gamble. It would probably just make Keith more pissed off than before.

“You can worry about being all alpha male and providing for the rest of us when you drag its bloody corpse back here,” Riley said.

Keith waved Riley’s hands away from his face, the frown on his face growing as he looked at the younger man.

Riley tried to keep a straight face, but it was impossible when Keith looked so fucking upset over something so small, and they were both alive and Keith had actually acknowledged him and everything was going to be all right, and before he could stop himself he burst into laughter.

“Stop that you little shit,” Keith said.

His soulmate looked embarrassed, which just made Riley laugh harder.

“Seriously Riley. It’s not funny.”

“Yes it is. I don’t know why, but it is.”

The frown on Keith’s face slowly began to change to a smile. Riley had just been starting to get control over his laughter when he suddenly found himself being shoved into the shallow water of the lake.

He yelped as the cold water began to seep into his clothes, and looked up to find Keith standing triumphantly over him, a smug grin on his face.

“You…” Riley hissed, the smile quickly returning to his face.

He pounced on Keith, dragging his soulmate into the water beside him. Keith let out a yelp just as undignified as the one that had emerged from Riley’s mouth and then began to swear as he shook the water from his hands and long sleeves.

Keith looked over at him for a moment, then down at the water, and then back up at Riley. Keith launched himself at the younger man, and the two of them began tousling in the water like a pair of children in the middle of summer, each trying to splash the other with as much water as possible, or pin the other one down in the shallows.

“Ha!” Keith cried out happily as he succeeded in pinning Riley’s arms against the rocky bottom of the shallow pool. “I’ve got you bitch. Try squirming your way out of that one.”

Riley had been laughing for most of their wrestling session, but his laughter slowly began to fade as he became aware of the feeling of Keith’s hands on his arms, and the press of the other man’s body against his. Keith was hovering over him and as they both lay there in the shallow water Riley could have sworn that Keith’s face was slowly getting closer.

Riley’s breathing slowed, his heart began to beat faster, and his eyes began to flutter closed. He could feel Keith’s breath against his mouth. They were so close, so very close, and any second now Keith’s lips would press against his and they would have their first kiss and…

“Jason! Amante!”

Riley’s eyes flew open when he heard the screams. Keith had pulled back from the almost-kiss as well and looked as dazed as Riley felt. They both looked to the front of the cave where a very pissed, and very familiar looking pirate had entered their camp and was now screaming at the top of his lungs.

Riley dragged himself out from under Keith, dripping water all over the ground as he leaned down and picked up his hat, which had been thrown off very early in their tousling, placed it back on his head and started to make his way over to the rest of the camp.

“Jason!” Vaas yelled at the top of his lungs. Riley heard splashing behind him, and realised that Keith had also gotten out of the water and was following him back towards Vaas and the others.

Riley’s heart sank a little as his thoughts caught up to him and he realised that if it wasn’t for Vaas then he and Keith would have kissed. He smiled and shrugged at Keith, hoping that Keith would understand he was sorry the moment had been interrupted. Keith rolled his eyes in Vaas’s direction. Well, at least Keith seemed to be as annoyed with the pirate as Riley was.

“Jason!” Vaas screamed at the top of his lungs. “Where the fuck are you amante!?”

What was happening? Why didn’t Vaas know where Jason was? Daisy and Liza were trying to calm him down with very little success.

“Where the fuck is Jason!” Vaas demanded. “Where are you hiding him?”

“He’s not here,” Daisy told him. “We don’t know where he is.”

“That is bullshit!” the man roared. He took a step back and brought his hands up to his face. He took a couple of deep breaths and turned to face Daisy with a smile on his face, as though he was trying to be patient with the others.

“I haven’t seen him for almost two whole fucking days,” Vaas revealed, “and for whatever reason he fucking loves you guys, so where is he gonna be if he’s not with you? One of you fuckers has got to know where he is.”

Riley took another step closer towards the rest of the group, hoping that he could do something to calm Vaas and get him to stop yelling at Daisy.

A hand clamped down on Riley’s shoulder before he could take another step, and Riley glanced back over his shoulder to see Keith, who shook his head at the younger man, obviously disapproving of Riley wanting to get involved in any way.

Riley shrugged Keith’s hand off. He had no idea what he could do to help, but he had to be able to do something, right?

“I just need to see him okay?” Vaas said, his voice somewhere between yelling and moaning. “Something is very fucking wrong here and I just need to…”

Riley stepped forward and approached the pirate, his hands held in the air.

“Hey,” Riley greeted the other man. “Look, I’m sorry, but Daisy already told you that we don’t know where Jason is.”

Vaas drew the pistol and pointed it at straight at Riley. Riley kept his hands up in the air and swallowed nervously. He had hoped that considering Vaas had looked after them before that the pirate leader would be less likely to be violent with them now, but it didn’t look like that was going to be the case.

“I’m sorry,” Riley said, trying not to make any sudden movements or do anything that might piss off Jason’s soulmate. “It’s true. We don’t know.”

“Hey!” Keith yelled, and Riley glanced over to realise his soulmate had joined him and was now glaring at Vaas.

“Back the fuck off!” Keith roared as he leaned forward and shoved Vaas’s gun away from Riley. “I know you’re worried about Jason but pointing a fucking gun at his little brother isn’t going to accomplish anything.”

Vaas glared at Keith, but lowered the pistol.

“Look, I remember that you tried to help us. You seem like an okay guy,” Riley told Vaas. “If we knew where Jason was I swear I’d tell you but well, we don’t.”

“Okay, okay,” Vaas muttered, one hand lifting up to comb through his Mohawk as he thought. “So, when did you last see him? Where the fuck was he planning to go?”

“Grant said he needed to talk to Jason,” Riley murmured. “That was yesterday though, and neither of them have returned since then.”

“Grant is always disappearing lately,” Keith added, “and I kind of assumed Jason had gone to see you. Obviously not though.”

“What the fuck?” Vaas murmured, shaking his head back and forth. “I never should have left him with you motherfuckers. So you have no idea where Jason’s stupid tough-guy brother is either?”

“Who, Grant?” Keith asked. “No clue.”

“FUCK!” Vaas roared, so loudly as so suddenly that it made half the group jump. “No, no, no, you did not fucking let that son of a bitch…”

“What’s wrong?” Riley asked.

“Your oldest brother, that stupid asshole, he’s working with my fucking sister,” Vaas said, shaking his head. “If Citra has Jason... Fucking Snow White! Of course now I have to go and fucking save Jason…”

Vaas turned to leave, muttering to himself as he did. Riley called out after him.

“Wait! What do you mean if Citra has Jason? Are my brothers in some sort of trouble?”

Vaas frowned and opened his mouth as though he was about to answer Riley when all of a sudden Daisy let out a cry of pain. Everyone looked to her to find that the blonde woman was clutching her wrist as she dropped to the ground. She screamed as though her very skin was on fire.

“Hey Daisy,” Liza called out as she ran to the other woman’s side and attempted to help her. “Daisy, what’s wrong?”

“Oh shit,” Ollie muttered from where he was, still curled up in front of one of the tents. “Oh no. Oh no. Oh fuck no… Grant…”

“What the hell is going on?” Riley asked, glancing up at Keith and hoping for an answer. Keith looked as confused and worried as Riley felt, so he looked to Vaas for answers instead. The pirate was staring at Daisy with fear, but not with the same confusion and doubt as the rest of them.

As Riley returned to staring at Daisy he began to realise what had happened. After all, Daisy had been clutching her left wrist. She clung to Liza as tears sprang from her eyes and trickled down her face and she began to wail as though her very soul was being torn apart.

“Grant,” Ollie murmured. “Grant just fucking died, didn’t he?”

No. It couldn’t be true. Grant couldn’t be dead. But then again, it made sense that Ollie would understand what was happening. Out of all of them, he was the only one that had already felt the pain of losing a soulmate.

“No,” Riley muttered. “No… Grant…”

His brother was dead. Grant was dead, and who the hell knew where Jason was? Riley glanced up at Keith, hoping that the other man might be able to provide some sort of clarity or comfort. Out of them all Keith seemed like the one that would give a damn the least, but Keith seemed to be just as shocked by the news of Grant’s death as the rest of them.

“What about Jason?” Riley mumbled. Keith had been staring blankly at nothing, but at Riley’s words he looked over to Riley, his eyes widening.

“What about him?” Keith asked. “Grant’s dead, Riley. Dead.”

Across the room Daisy was wailing. Liza was doing her best to try and comfort the other woman, but any time she tried to touch her Daisy just screamed like some sort of wild beast.

Vaas alone among the others seemed to be on the same page as Riley.

“Jason,” Vaas muttered, his eyes full of fear.

The pirate was gone without another word, running from the cave as fast as his feet would carry him.

“What the fuck?” Keith muttered. “What the fuck is happening?”

“I don’t know,” Riley said, “but I think Jason might be in danger.”

“What do we do?” Ollie asked. The stoner had curled in on himself and was watching Daisy and Liza but not doing anything to help them.

“We don’t do shit,” Keith said. “We stay here where it’s safe. Jason and Vaas can take care of whatever’s happening out there, and once it’s all over I’m sure Jason will come back here.”

The shot had echoed across the island. Jason stood and watched as a red spot grew on Grant’s chest, quickly becoming a large red patch that soon covered most of his torso. Jason was too stunned to move.

Grant reached up and pressed his hand against the bullet wound, seemingly as shocked and unable to believe it was there as Jason was. He stared at Jason for a second, before falling to the ground, his blood spreading on the ground beneath him.

Jason didn’t know where the shot that had killed Grant had come from, but it had not been from him. He whirled around, looking for any sign of another gunman, gun at the ready. He didn’t know whether the shooter would kill him too, or whether they were trying to help Jason, but he wasn’t about to take any risks.

The sound of someone clapping came from the nearby forest. Jason turned around to face the direction that the noise had come from, and after a few seconds a man emerged. He was wearing a finely tailored suit and was completely unarmed. Jason recognised Vaas’s boss Hoyt and grew even more unsure and nervous than he had been before.

Another man stepped out of the forest just behind him. He was wearing the yellow and black uniforms of Hoyt’s privateers, and had a bald head, blonde beard, and what little of his skin Jason could see was covered in tattoos. This man was holding a sniper rifle, and Jason realised it was the privateer who had shot Grant. The gun was not pointed at Jason though, at least not yet, and Jason lowered his own gun in response, deciding that he would wait and see what the two newcomers were after and what exactly he was up against before he made any rash moves.

“What a show that was!” Hoyt exclaimed as he approached Jason. “Brother against brother. So much drama! And then Sam here finished it with such a perfect shot. Thank you for that Sam. Very well done.”

Sam, the privateer at Hoyt’s side nodded in response.

Jason realised with no small amount of panic that the soulbrand on his wrist was completely visible should Hoyt choose to look. How much did this man know about his relationship with Vaas? He moved his left hand a little so that the gun would obscure Vaas’s name, at least for now.

“Oh, how rude of me. I haven’t told you my name, have I?” Hoyt continued when he realised that Jason wasn’t going to say anything without further prompting.

“My name is Hoyt,” the other man said, thrusting his left hand out as though he was waiting for Jason to shake it.

Unlike Jason’s, Hoyt’s left wrist was covered by the thick leather band of his watch. Jason stared at the outstretched hand for a moment, before staring up at Hoyt. If it was a deliberate move on Hoyt’s part then it was a crafty one, but Jason wasn’t going to fall for it that easily.

Hoyt smiled to himself and let his hand fall back to his side.

“Hello Jason,” he continued. “It was Jason, wasn’t it?”

“What do you want with me?” Jason asked.

“What was that?” Hoyt replied. “Thank you for saving my life? Show some goddamn manners!”

“You just killed my brother!”

“And he was just about to shoot you,” Hoyt pointed out. “I do like that you didn’t want to kill him though. It shows character. Now, where is our mutual friend Vaas?”

Jason wished that he knew where he stood with Hoyt. How much did this man know? Had Vaas told him, or had Hoyt managed to figure out something about the two of them without Vaas telling him anything at all? Jason was careful to keep his expression neutral as he replied.

“Why would I know where he is?”

Hoyt stared at Jason. Jason stared back.

“Don’t give me that look,” Hoyt snapped at him. “You think I don’t know what the two of you have been doing behind my back?”

Hoyt’s eyes narrowed as he stared at Jason. Jason tried to keep his expression blank, but had a feeling that it wasn’t working anymore, or rather, that it hadn’t been working to begin with. Apparently Hoyt was a hard man to bluff.

 “What, you think I’m fucking stupid or something?” Hoyt yelled at him. “Now, where the fuck is Vaas?”

“He’s not here.”

“Of course not. You’ve only got his name on your arm and out in the open where everyone can see it and you’ve just been spending some time with his sister. Why would he be here with you?”

Jason cursed beneath his breath and shifted the grip that he had on his rifle so that it was more comfortable. He should have known that Hoyt and Sam had already seen his brand.

Hoyt turned to the man beside him.

“Sam, bring him with us,” he told the privateer.

Sam nodded and approached Jason. Jason brought the rifle up to point it straight at the privateer. Sam’s eyebrows rose and he froze. He glanced back at Hoyt and then back at Jason.

Hoyt sighed loudly and then waved a hand in the air. At this signal about half a dozen other privateers emerged from where they had been hiding in the forest.

“Don’t make this any more difficult than it has to be,” Hoyt told him. “If you come with us without a fight then my men won’t have to get rough with you, you’ll see Vaas again, and you won’t have to deal with all of the disgusting locals.”

Jason lowered his rifle, but he wasn’t happy about it.

Sam snatched the rifle from Jason’s hands and grabbed him by the shoulder, shoving him towards Hoyt.

“Come on,” Sam said, speaking in a thick German accent. “Get moving, ja?”

Jason frowned at the privateer, but took comfort in the fact that he still had the pistol he had snatched from one of the Rakyat tucked into the side of his pants, where he could easily grab if it turned out that he needed it after all.

Hoyt gestured for the group to move, and Jason followed, Sam close behind him. He could feel the German’s eyes digging into his back, but chose to ignore the privateer.

“Where are you taking me?” he asked Hoyt.

“Somewhere safe,” the drug lord replied. “I think it’s in my best interest to make sure that you’re properly taken care of, don’t you? Why, I can only imagine how upset Vaas would be if something were to happen to you.”

For some reason Hoyt’s words did very little to comfort Jason.

They soon reached the road, and Hoyt gestured for his men to climb into the two jeeps that were parked there.

“Come on,” Hoyt said as, at his instruction, Jason climbed into the back of one of the vehicles. “Back to the South island and back to civilization. I’ve had enough of this fucking jungle.”

Sam climbed into the back behind Jason. He smiled at the young American and clamped a hand on Jason’s shoulder in what was probably supposed to be a friendly manner. Jason had a hard time appreciating the gesture when the man in question had fired the shot that had killed Grant only a few minutes earlier.

Hoyt climbed into the passenger seat in the front and another privateer took the driver’s seat. The engine sputtered to life, and soon they were driving down the path, away from Citra’s temple and towards Hoyt’s main base.

After a few moments Sam leaned over to talk to him.

“Do not worry ja?” the German told Jason, quietly enough that the rumble of the engine would not allow his words to carry to the front of the vehicle.  “My partner, he is an American too.”

“I’m happy for you,” Jason muttered. He glanced out the back of the vehicle as they drove off, knowing that they were leaving Grant’s body behind.

He should have been sad. His brother was dead. He should have felt like his heart had been torn out, but after everything that had happened with Grant and Citra and Vaas Jason just felt numb.

“We will make sure nothing happens to you,” Sam told him.

Jason realised the man was whispering, and wondered if Hoyt knew about this man’s American friend. Partner: did that mean soulmate or something a little less intimate? Jason made a note to ask him later.

“My name is Sam,” the other man muttered.

“I heard, and you already know who I am,” Jason said, not ready to trust this man, no matter how many Americans he claimed to be associated with. “So there’s really not much point in introductions right now, is there?”

Sam chuckled and clapped him on the shoulder.

“I suppose you are right,” Sam admitted.

They fell into silence, and the cars continued on towards the Southern island, and towards whatever else Hoyt had planned for Jason.

Chapter Text

There were bodies everywhere. The smell of blood soaked the air around the temple. Vaas screwed up his nose and stepped over the body of one of Citra’s warriors. There was a bullet wound right through the man’s forehead.

“Stupid idiot,” Vaas muttered, giving the dead Rakyat a small kick before walking on.

The remaining Rakyat were taking care of the bodies, moving them inside where they could presumably be buried in peace. Vaas glanced at the bodies, searching for a red singlet and pale skin, knowing even as he did that he was being completely irrational. He would know when Jason died.

He went to step inside the temple but a dark-skinned man with glasses held out an arm in front of him, stopping the pirate in his tracks. Vaas vaguely recognised the man as one of Citra’s lackeys, and glared at him.

“Let me through you stupid fuck,” he growled. “I’m gonna talk to my fucking sister. You really gonna try and stop me?”

The man glared back at Vaas from behind his thick glasses.

“You think I am just going to let you in?” the man said, gently pushing Vaas back with one of his hands.

“No, no, no,” Vaas replied. “But I do think that if you don’t get your fucking hand off me then I’m going to cut all your fingers off.”

The man just shook his head, his hand moving to the knife at his side. Vaas chuckled and grabbed the man’s hand before it had drawn the knife from his belt and twisted it back hard enough that he knew it would hurt.

The other man barely flinched. Vaas looked down at the other man’s bended hand and chuckled again as he spotted his sister’s name. It was tattooed on both of the man’s wrists in a grey font that was probably as close as the tattoo artists on the island could get to looking like a soulbrand.

“You fucking tattooed her name on your arms?” Vaas asked the other man, twisting his hand back further as he spoke. “You stupid fuck. My sister played you good didn’t she? What did she tell you? That she fucking loves you? Answer me motherfucker!”

“Vaas!” a female voice cried out from somewhere just behind Citra’s devotee. “That is enough.”

Citra appeared, pushing her way past Vaas and her follower. Vaas glared at his sister as she moved closer to him, but eventually lowered his eyes and let go of the other man’s arm.

“Thank you Vaas,” Citra said. She smiled at her older brother, but Vaas knew that the gesture was hollow. She wasn’t any happier to see him than he was to see her.

Vaas stepped closer to his sister, staring down at her as though he actually stood any chance at all of intimidating her. Her pet… follower… whatever the hell he was supposed to be, stepped towards Vaas as though he needed to protect Citra from her brother.

Citra waved for him to be still, and the other man stepped back, although he kept watching Vaas as closely as possible, as though waiting for an excuse to attack the other man.

“There was really no need for you to hurt Dennis,” Citra told him.

“Yeah, well he was in my way,” Vaas replied. “Fucker tried to stop me from seeing you.”

“Oh?” Citra said, her eyebrows rising in what Vaas knew was mock surprise, “and why have you come to see me Vaas? Don’t tell me you miss your little sister?”

“You know why I’m fucking here,” Vaas replied. “Where is he?”

Citra laughed.

“Where is who?” she asked him.

“You know who,” Vaas spat back. “Jason.”

Citra just continued to smile at him. They both knew Vaas wasn’t buying it, but that didn’t stop her from taunting him. For just a moment Vaas contemplated attacking her, killing her right then and there like he had thought about doing so many times before, but he knew he couldn’t, or rather he knew that he wouldn’t. Citra may have been a complete bitch, and was possibly the person that Vaas hated most in the world, but she was still his sister.

Vaas frowned to himself. Fuck the world and fuck coincidences. He and Jason probably had more in common than either of them realised. At least Jason’s pain in the arse sibling appeared to be dead now.

“And why would I know where Jason is?” Citra asked Vaas, continuing to taunt him.

He’d had enough. Vaas stepped right up to Citra, so that there was barely inches between them, and drew his knife, pressing the tip of it against Citra’s exposed stomach.

“You know where he fucking is,” he hissed. “I know that you do, so stop bullshitting me. Where the fuck is Jason!?”

Citra shrugged.

“You are wrong,” she told him. “I do not know where Jason is. He is probably dead.”

“Don’t give me that bullshit. I’d fucking know if Jason was dead. But you wouldn’t fucking know that, would you? Poor little Citra with no name on her arm.”

Citra crossed her arms and frowned at Vaas, heedless of the blade that was still pointed at her torso.

“I think I know what happened to Jason,” she said. “He realised you were worthless. He left the island and left you behind.”

“You bitch!” Vaas screamed, bringing the dagger up to Citra’s throat.

Dennis moved with more speed than Vaas would have thought, lunging towards him and pulling his arm away from Citra with enough force that even Vaas was caught off guard.

“Okay, okay,” Vaas said, lifting his hands in surrender towards the dark-skinned man. “You’re an angry little guard dog aren’t you?”

He turned to Citra once again.

“You should get a muzzle for your bitch,” he told her.

Citra frowned, clearly not amused.

“Perhaps you are lucky that I did not let him bite you,” she said.

Vaas chuckled and shook his head.

“Why are you still here?” Citra asked him. “I have already told you that I do not know where Jason is.”

“Yeah, but have you thought that maybe I don’t fucking believe a word that comes out of your mouth?”

“Have you thought that maybe you should have taken better care of Jason?” Citra retorted. “It is not my fault that you cannot keep an eye on him.”

Vaas frowned again, his hand clenching on the knife once more. Both Citra and Dennis caught the movement.

“See that Vaas leaves,” Citra told her follower. “I am tired of talking to him.”

Dennis’s idea of making sure that Vaas left was to point his gun straight at the pirate’s head.

“Okay,” Vaas said, lifting his hands in surrender once again. “Fine. Fine. I’m going.”

Citra had turned to head back inside the temple once again, but she paused, looking over her shoulder at Vaas as he slowly backed away. Their eyes met and held each other, and it was only the sound of Dennis snapping some sort of command at Vaas that broke him out of the trance he had slipped into.

“Okay!” Vaas shouted at the other man, “I said I’m going! I hope the two of you are very happy together. You’re perfect for her, huh? You’ll do whatever she fucking says, won’t you? Have fun being my sister’s bitch.”

Vaas stormed away from the temple. He had no idea where he was going as he trudged through the jungle, feeling leaves and sticks crack and crunch beneath his feet. His brain always felt fried after talking to his sister, and this time was no different. It was as though Citra could somehow crawl inside his head and mess it all up.

He was sure that Citra had seen Jason. Between the dead bodies around her temple and the way she had smiled at him, as though she had an amazing secret that she knew she could torture him with, he had absolutely no doubt of it. He was also pretty sure that she was telling the truth about not knowing where Jason was. He was pretty good at being able to tell when Citra was lying to him. He’d spent plenty of time listening to her lies, after all.

Vaas tugged at the short hair of his Mohawk and tried to think. If Jason had managed to get away from Citra then he probably would have gone back to his stupid friends, or he would eventually. Back to the cave then. Hopefully he’d have more luck there than he had the last time he had shown up at the cave.

He was just considering which route to take back to Doctor Earnhardt’s place when his phone rang. One look at the screen revealed that it was Hoyt, and he swore quietly to himself. Hoyt always got really pissed if Vaas missed a call, so he had to take it even though he was a lot more worried about where his soulmate had disappeared to.

“Yeah boss?” he answered.

“Where the fuck are you Vaas?” Hoyt asked him. Despite the question Hoyt sounded like he was in a pretty good mood.

“North island boss.”

“Hmm. Well, I need you to get your arse back down here. We’ve got important matters to discuss.”

“Sure thing Hoyt. I’ll be there soon. I just gotta…”

“Snow White is dead.”

Vaas knew that, but Hoyt didn’t know that he knew that. Come to think of it, how did Hoyt know about Grant’s death? That probably meant he had something to do with it, right? That couldn’t be good, but it was something Vaas would have to worry about later, once he knew Jason was safe.

“Congratulations boss. Look, I’ll be there as soon as I can, okay? I just gotta take care of something.”

“No. I need you here as soon as possible. Trust me; whatever else you’re doing can wait.”

“Okay. Okay… I’ll be there.”

Great. This was exactly what he fucking needed. He wanted to find Jason. He needed to make sure that his soulmate was all right, but there was no way to keep searching for Jason without simultaneously pissing off Hoyt and raising the slaver’s suspicions. He would have to resume the search once he had talked to Hoyt about whatever the fuck it was that his boss thought was so fucking important. Hopefully by then Jason’s friends would have found him, and Vaas wouldn’t have to worry too much.

“Oh and Vaas?” Hoyt continued, and Vaas could practically hear the other man smiling on the other end of the phone call. Great. More complications and mind games. This was either going to be good news for Vaas, or really, really bad.

“Yeah boss?”

“Jason Brody says hello.”

Vaas had almost dropped his phone when Hoyt had mentioned Jason, and on his way back to the South island he had almost crashed the boat he had ‘borrowed’ twice. If its previous owner ever managed to track it down then they would find a few long silver tracks in its previously immaculate paint job.

He’d run after that too, and only when he arrived at the destination Hoyt had specified did he realise that showing up out of breath and ready to tear Hoyt a new one let the other man know just how much he cared. That probably wasn’t good.

He paused and took a second to catch his breath before striding into the building, trying to look confident but keeping one hand on the pistol at his side, just in case.

Hoyt had assembled a large group of his privateers. They all looked at him as they let him pass. Vaas saw a couple of embarrassed or even frightened looks, but mostly they were all smiles and raised eyebrows. Fuck, this could not be good.

As the privateers parted Vaas could see through to the other side of the room, where Hoyt stood on a small stage, raised a couple of feet higher than the rest of the assembled men, and right beside him was Jason.

Vaas felt his heart skip a beat. Jason was kneeling on the floor beside Hoyt, his arms tied behind his back and an armed guard standing at either side of him, pointing their guns straight at his head. Jason was sporting a few more cuts and bruises than he had the last time Vaas had seen him, although whether they had been caused by the privateers, Citra and her men or something else Vaas could not tell.

Jason glanced up, glaring at one of the guards, and then he spotted Vaas and his eyes went wide. Vaas had to bite down on his tongue to stop himself from crying out.

“Look who’s here!” Hoyt exclaimed, arms stretched out as though he was welcoming Vaas. “So good of you to join us Vaas.”

“I’m here,” Vaas replied. “So what the fuck was it you wanted?”

Hoyt grimaced and shook his head at the pirate.

“Now that wasn’t very polite, was it Vaas? To think, I invited you here and yet you show me such disrespect.”

A couple of the privateers laughed. Vaas frowned.

“Fuck you boss,” he told Hoyt before he could stop himself.

Hoyt shook his head again and then smiled at Vaas.

“The two of you really need to learn how to be more polite,” Hoyt told him, “especially when someone like me has the upper hand. After all, it would be a terrible shame if anything were to happen to your friend here.”

Hoyt smiled again. Vaas wanted to grab Hoyt and the two men keeping Jason down and tear each of them to pieces, but it was an impulse he knew he had to suppress. He wasn’t suicidal enough to go attacking Hoyt right in the middle of his own camp. At least, not right then. If those stupid fucks dared to lay another hand on Jason then it might be another story, but for now he would be calm.

“You think I care about that white boy huh?” Vaas asked Hoyt, although he found that he couldn’t stop glancing at Jason, checking with every moment that passed that Jason was still all right. “I don’t give a shit about him.”

Hoyt laughed.

“It’s too late for that Vaas,” the slaver said, waving his finger at the other man.

He drew a knife and slashed it towards Jason. Jason flinched, clearly ready to attack the other man at any second, but then the knife began to cut into the ropes around Jason’s hands, and both he and Vaas relaxed a little.

The slaver hoisted Jason to his feet and grabbed his left arm. Hoyt pulled it up over Jason’s head so that the entire room could see Vaas’s name, glowing bright white on Jason’s skin.

“Look at that,” Hoyt said, smiling as he did. “What a lovely shade of white, and if I’m not mistaken that’s your name on there, isn’t it Vaas?”

Vaas clenched his fists, feeling his nails dig into his skin. He focussed on the pain that caused, hoping it would stop him from wanting to charge straight at Hoyt, aiming to kill.

“Don’t worry Vaas,” Hoyt said as he dropped Jason’s arm. “I’ve got no interest in hurting the boy. I can be a kind boss, and I have decided to let you keep him.”

Vaas waited for the catch. He wasn’t stupid enough to think that Hoyt would just let them be happy together without asking for something in return, or twisting the situation to his advantage in some way.

“All he has to do is prove he can be useful to me,” Hoyt continued, glancing backward and forwards between Vaas and Jason as he spoke. “He helps you bring his friends back here and then the two of you get to live happily ever after together. Sound good?”

“Sounds easy boss,” Vaas muttered.

“Good!” Hoyt muttered, clapping his hands together gleefully.

The two privateers looked less than happy to be letting Jason go, and they practically shoved him towards Vaas, Jason stumbling and righting himself just in time to avoid falling face first onto the ground.

“I do love a happy ending, don’t you?” Hoyt commented as Jason made his way over to Vaas.

Vaas wondered if Jason would run to him, embrace him or at least grab Vaas’s hand in his own, but he just stopped beside Vaas, their eyes meeting and holding each other’s for a long time. Jason probably should have been terrified after his encounter with Hoyt, but he clearly wasn’t sane enough to be scared. He just looked pissed, and maybe a little tired.

“Go on,” Hoyt called out to the two of them. “I’m sure the two of you are itching for some time alone together.”

The privateers chuckled again. A couple of them wolf-whistled. Vaas frowned, grabbed Jason by the wrist and dragged the other man out of the building with him.

“You still sleeping in the same place?” Jason asked.

He pulled away from Vaas and began to lead the way, heading towards the building he had crept into the last time he had been in this base. Vaas didn’t try to correct him or change the way that they were walking, so Jason guessed his assumption had been correct.

They reached Vaas’s room, with its boring walls and its normal bed with normal blankets. Jason missed their old room, the neon lights, the fur covered bed and the piles of weapons and drugs. This room was too boring for Vaas, but it had a bed and at that moment it was good enough, even if it didn’t feel like home.

He fell onto the bed and buried his face into the pillow. It smelled like Vaas, which was surprisingly comforting, and that helped him to relax.

Vaas sat down on the bed beside him, his weight making the old bed creak. Jason rolled over, making space for the other man and allowing him to look at his soulmate. Vaas looked worried, which was unsurprising really considering what Jason had just been through, and reached out to gently press a hand against one of the bruises on Jason’s face.

“Did they do this to you amante?” Vaas asked him.

Jason could practically see what his soulmate was thinking, and if there were only a couple of privateers to blame then perhaps Jason would have let him. As it was there was Hoyt and his entire fucking organisation and Jason had absolutely no hope of matching each wound to a specific privateer. He only knew that the oddly friendly Sam had stayed out of it, choosing instead to lurk in the background and shout oddly menacing encouragements at the other privateers.

“If they fucking did this to you then I am going to walk straight back in there and…”

“And what?” Jason asked him. “You’re just going to take on all of them at once?”

Vaas didn’t reply, but he didn’t look any happier.

“You’re good Vaas, but you’re not that good,” Jason said, shifting on the bed so that he was sitting up a little. He got the feeling that he wouldn’t be resting for some time yet. “Some of them had mini-guns and body armour, and besides, they’re just bruises. Some of them probably weren’t even caused by the privateers.”


“It’s been a big day for me Vaas. Not a very good one either, and watching Hoyt’s men kick your arse wouldn’t make it any better.”

Vaas sighed.

“Your fucking brother is dead, right?”

“Right,” Jason said, “but how did you know that?”

Vaas moved so that his forehead was resting in one of his hands.

“I saw your fucking friends. Snow White’s soulmate started screaming like a fucking banshee.”

“Is Daisy okay?”

“I don’t fucking know, do I!?” Vaas yelled. “I didn’t stick around to look after your fucking friends. I ran off to find you!”

Jason wondered if he should say sorry, but then he remembered that none of that bullshit had ever been his fault, and decided that he definitely wasn’t going to apologise for Grant, Citra and Hoyt making his and Vaas’s lives so fucking difficult.

“Where the fuck were you through all of that anyway?” Vaas asked. “I haven’t fucking seen you since you went off to save your little brother, and according to your friends and Citra and every other person on the island you just fucking disappeared into thin air! Would you believe that? No-one had fucking seen you.”

“Well, Citra definitely saw me,” Jason said. “Grant dragged me to her, and then the two of them started ranting about burning your name off my arm, and then I managed to escape but then your boss showed up and killed Grant and… I think I just need to rest for a bit.”

Vaas looked at Jason for a moment, took a deep breath and then leaned over to ruffle Jason’s hair.

“That’s okay amante,” Vaas said. “That’s okay. We’ll fucking rest.”

Jason breathed a sigh of relief and lay back down on the bed.

“We don’t need to fucking move for now,” Vaas told him as the pirate reached down to start undoing his belt. “We can just lay here and pretend nothing fucking exists except you and me. That’ll be good, right?”

He kicked his boots off and then lay down on the bed beside Jason, throwing an arm around his soulmate’s shoulders.

“Missed you Jason,” Vaas said, leaning closer and pressing a kiss to the other man’s neck.

“How long has it been?” Jason asked him. “I lost track of time for a while there, and I don’t know how long I was with Citra or Hoyt.”

“It’s been almost three days since you left here.”

“Three days? Oh god.”

“Yeah, and the last time you didn’t even stick around to say goodbye, you heartless bitch.”

Jason was too busy trying to line up the events of the past few days in some sort of order that made sense to worry about Vaas’s complaints, so he ignored them.

“I must have been out for a whole day after Grant knocked me out,” Jason thought out loud. “God damn it. When did you see my friends?”

“Yesterday, and even though I didn’t fucking stay for a chit-chat I can tell you that they’re fucking fine amante.”

“Good. What with Grant and Citra and everything else I was starting to get a little worried.”

“Stop worrying about them hermano. Did you not just fucking hear what Hoyt said before? We have to go and get your friends and bring them back here or Hoyt is going to be pissed.”

“You can’t seriously expect me to go along with that.”

“It’s not like Hoyt’s asking us to kill them. They’re just going to be slaves Jason. That’s not so bad, hey amante? Who knows; they might get nice owners.”

Vaas held Jason’s chin for a moment, but Jason pulled away.

“What, like Buck?” he snapped.

Vaas frowned and brought their foreheads together with enough force that it was almost like a head-butt.

“Don’t talk about that fucking asshole, okay Jason? He’s fucking dead. No-one’s gonna get bought by a dead guy.”

“Can you promise me that none of their buyers will be just as bad?”

Vaas pulled back from Jason. He didn’t frown, but his mouth set into a straight line and his eyes narrowed, and Jason knew that from Vaas that was worse.

“Vaas,” Jason muttered. “I can’t just…”

“Yes you fucking CAN amante!” Vaas yelled as he jumped to his feet. “Fuck them! What the fuck have they ever done for you? They’re fucking pieces of shit, every one of them. Your own brother tried to hand you over to my bitch of a sister!”

“Fuck you Vaas! They’re my friends. Riley is my little brother! Why is it so hard for you to understand that I have to protect them?!”

Could Vaas not understand, or did he just not want to? Jason thought of the hatred Vaas held for his sister, and began to wonder. Had Vaas ever really had a true friend in his life, or a family member that really cared for him?

“I have to help them,” Jason continued, “especially now that Grant’s gone.”

“What the fuck am I going to do with you, huh Jason?” Vaas muttered, shaking his head. He moved over so that he was sitting beside Jason and brought their heads close together once more. “I can’t let you help them to escape. You know that, right?”

Jason would have usually moved to nuzzle into Vaas, or at least lean in to his touch, but this time he didn’t even move. He just felt numb, like there was too much happening inside of his own brain and heart and they’d both just overloaded, leaving nothing but this horrible sinking feeling in his stomach. Why the hell did this have to be so difficult?

One of Vaas’s hands moved to caress Jason’s neck and shoulder.

“Of course you know,” Vaas continued. “You’re not fucking stupid. I know you’re not fucking stupid Jason, but you make it really fucking easy for me to forget that sometimes, acting all fucking crazy over your stupid friends and your stupid brothers.”

Vaas pressed a kiss to the side of Jason’s face, and then another. Jason allowed the kisses, but found his mind was in no place where he could return them.

“I just got you back amante,” Vaas muttered as the kisses began moving slowly down to Jason’s chin. “I couldn’t find you and it scared the shit out of me, you know that?”

Did Vaas really mean that? He’d only been gone three days. How the hell was Vaas going to cope if Jason ever left the island?

“Hey,” Vaas called, turning Jason’s face so that he was forced to look Vaas in the eyes.

Jason’s soulmate stared right at him, as though he was trying to bore down deep into Jason’s soul with his eyes alone.

“What the fuck is wrong with you amante?” Vaas muttered. “You’re sad because your brother died? That’s it, right? That’s all it fucking is. I can make you feel better. I can. Fucking forget about that for now, okay?”

That wasn’t it, or rather, that wasn’t all of it. Jason was worried about a lot of things at that moment, Grant’s death being only one small part of it.

“I’m going to make sure everything’s okay amante,” Vaas told him, leaning forward and running his thumb over Jason’s lips. “You’ll see. I’m gonna make sure you’re happy and safe.”

Jason finally responded, pressing a kiss to the tip of Vaas’s thumb. Vaas’s mouth opened and his eyes widened in fascination as Jason ran his lips and then teeth over Vaas’s bitter-tasting skin.

Jason knew what he had to do, or at least what he had to try and do, and he fucking hated it. He cared about Vaas, and he cared about the friends and little brother he had left behind at Doctor Earnhardt’s place, and having to choose between the two was total bullshit.

Vaas lowered his hand, and leaned forward, pressing his mouth against Jason’s. Vaas’s kisses were hungry, almost desperate, and Jason soon found himself returning them, wrapping his arms loosely around Vaas’s shoulders if only because he didn’t know what else to do with them.

“Mine,” Vaas muttered when their lips parted once again. “My Jason. You want to stay right here with me, isn’t that right amante?”

Jason didn’t reply, and pretended he couldn’t see the hurt on Vaas’s face that came with his silence.

Vaas began removing Jason’s clothes, covering the skin on his neck and shoulders with kisses and bites as he did. Several of them would leave marks, and Jason supposed that was okay. Vaas had branded him already, after all.

“You’re going to stay here with me,” Vaas continued to murmur as he worked on Jason’s clothes and skin, “and everything’s going to be okay Jason. It’s just going to be you and me, and nothing that Hoyt or Citra or all those other fuckers do will ever hurt us again. You’ll see amante.”

Maybe Vaas actually believed what he was saying, but Jason got the feeling the pirate found it just as unlikely as Jason did. Vaas pressed Jason down on the bed, hovering over him and looking over his face as though he was searching for something there.

“Vaas,” Jason muttered, cupping the side of his soulmate’s face.

There was so much that he wanted to say and absolutely no idea how he was supposed to say it, or whether he even should.

Vaas stared at him, and Jason stared back, hoping that somehow Vaas would understand what he wanted to say without him needing to say the words. Vaas had even stopped moving, stopped trying to kiss or touch Jason, and as he continued to stare his teeth and face clenched tightly together, and his breathing started to get heavy.

Jason’s heart ached. He was having trouble remembering any other time in his life when he had felt this strongly about anything, and yet Vaas had him entranced and all twisted up inside without any effort at all.

“Amante,” Vaas breathed, bringing his hands up to run over Jason’s chest as though he was worshipping the man beneath him. “We could be so perfect together Jason. So fucking happy.”

They could. Jason could see it, just out of reach; the two of them, violent and broken, with maybe only half a decent human being between them, but happy together nevertheless, or something close to happy.

Vaas returned to kissing and touching Jason, with even more desperation behind every touch than before. His hands slipped inside Jason’s clothes and ran over his skin, simultaneously caressing the man beneath him and pulling him closer. Jason tried to lean into every touch, but it was impossible when it felt like Vaas’s hands were everywhere, slowly pulling him apart and leaving him as a broken, whimpering mess. He was too raw and too vulnerable at that moment, and every touch felt like it was setting him on fire.

Within minutes Vaas had made sure that they were both naked, and then the touches stopped. Jason lay flat on the bed, staring up at Vaas and wondering why the other man had stopped moving. Vaas was hovering over Jason, staring down at him with so much intensity that Jason was afraid to move.

“I love you Jason.”

Jason wasn’t sure that he had heard correctly. Vaas hadn’t mumbled or spoken particularly quietly, but there was still no way Vaas had said what Jason had thought he’d said. It was too emotional, too normal, too everything that they weren’t for Vaas to actually say those three little words out loud.

“Fuck it. I love you, you stupid fuck,” Vaas repeated as he fell against Jason’s body, nuzzling into the curve of his neck and removing any hope Jason may have had of denying his words. “Even if every one of your stupid shitty friends abandons you or betrays you, I’m always going to love you. Don’t you fucking forget that.”

Jason wrapped his arms tightly around the other man and clung to him as closely as possible, hoping that if he smothered himself in Vaas enough then he might be able to forget the sorrow that the next morning would bring.

Chapter Text

When Jason woke up one of Vaas’s arms was still thrown over his chest, pinning him in place. He squirmed out from beneath the other man’s hold as carefully as he could, not wanting to wake Vaas.

The pirate stirred a little once Jason was gone, but did not wake. Jason hesitated for a moment, knowing that Vaas was going to be pissed when he realised that Jason had left without saying goodbye again, and then leaned down and pressed a kiss to his soulmate’s forehead.

He got dressed as quickly and quietly as he possibly could, strapped a knife to his belt and an assault rifle to his back, and lifted the latch on the door.

He peeked outside. The sun was just making its way over the horizon, bathing Hoyt’s camp in a silver twilight. There were a couple of Hoyt’s mercenaries making their rounds, but apart from that it appeared to be too early for most of the men to be up and about.

Jason crept through the camp, sticking to the shadows and avoiding the line of sight of Hoyt’s men where possible. He did not want to kill any of them if he could avoid it. He and Vaas would be in enough trouble as it was once Hoyt realised Jason was missing without a body count to add to their names.

There was a hole in the fence nearby, and Jason slipped through it and into the jungle beyond. He was careful to remain quiet until he was well and truly away from the camp, and even then he stuck to the cover of the jungle when he could. He would have rather faced a tiger right then than come face to face with any of the Rakyat, or Hoyt’s mercenaries, and he had a long way to go if he wanted to make it back to Doctor Earnhardt’s place.

“You should have let me kill him.”

Citra smiled at Dennis. He was loyal and eager, and both of those things made him useful to her, but he was no Brody, and definitely no Vaas.

“It would have been easy,” Dennis continued. “We had him right there. If you would have just allowed me to kill Vaas then you would be safe now. You would not have to worry about him.”

“If I wanted Vaas dead then he would be dead,” Citra told him. “We have other things to worry about.”

“Yes? What do you need me to do? You know that I would do anything for you. Just say the word Citra.”

She knew. When he had come to her Dennis had only had scars on his wrist, where the name of the soulmate he had never had the chance to meet would have once been. She had told him not to be afraid, had shown him that even though his soulmate had died before they had met one another, he could still find a place where he could belong and where he could be happy. When he had come to her later and shown her the new tattoos on his wrists she had smiled, partially because it was a sweet gesture, but also because it was cute how blinded by hope the man was. She appreciated his devotion, but if the man thought that he would ever be anything but her pawn then he was deluded.

Perhaps Vaas’s assessment of the other man hadn’t been completely off the mark. Her bitch, was it?

“We have lost Grant Brody,” she told Dennis. “Without him freeing the islands will be much more difficult.”

“Do you wish for me to take his place?” Dennis asked her. “I would.”

Citra smiled and placed a hand on the man’s shoulder. It was always best to reward her pawns after all. She saw the hint of a smile begin to form on Dennis’s face.

“I know you would,” she told him. “But I do not mean for you to continue his work.”

She stood tall, one of her hands running over the painted stone in front of her.

“We need someone to replace him,” Citra told Dennis. “Another Brody would be good.”

“He had two younger brothers,” Dennis pointed out.

Citra nodded. It was good to know that her pawn had been thinking along the same lines as she had.

“Vaas has poisoned Jason,” she murmured. “He will not listen to anything that I have to say.”

“The younger one then?” Dennis suggested.

“Perhaps,” Citra said, smiling softly to herself. “We will have to see if he is worthy of me, and of the Rakyat.”

Vaas awoke to find the other side of the bed empty. There was no sign of Jason, and the small bed felt too empty and too cold without him.

He stared at the place beside him where Jason had been when they had fallen asleep, his frown steadily growing with every second that passed.

On the one hand he was quite impressed that Jason had managed to slip out without waking him again, but on the other hand he was pissed off that Jason had thought to do that. Jason had gone. He had left, perhaps for good this time, and he hadn’t even had the fucking decency to wake up Vaas before he left.

If that wasn’t enough to piss Vaas off, Jason had also taken some of Vaas’s weaponry when he had left, leaving just Vaas’s pistol and one of his knives behind.

Vaas swore as he got out of bed, got dressed and rummaged around for something to replace the weapons that Jason had taken, but there was nothing. He strapped the knife and pistol on, cursing Jason, Hoyt, Grant Brody and every other stupid fucker he could think of as he stumbled out of the building. Fate may have decided to give him the biggest pain in the arse of a soulmate that it possibly could, but at least he knew where Jason would be heading.

He stepped outside, still pissed off, but at least feeling like he had some chance of salvaging everything.

“Good morning Vaas. Sleep well?”

Hoyt was standing right there in front of the building, his arms crossed, looking way too fucking smug as he watched Vaas flounder. He was flanked on either side by a couple of the privateers, one of which looked just as amused by Vaas’s obviously panicked state as Hoyt was.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” Vaas asked Hoyt before he could think to censor himself.

“I’m checking on you and Jason,” Hoyt said, smiling in a way that made Vaas incredibly uncomfortable. “You both had a rough day yesterday. How is he?”

Vaas glanced around, searching for some way out of this. He had known that he would have to deal with a pissed off Hoyt sooner or later thanks to Jason,  but he had absolutely no idea how he was supposed to get out of this.

“Jason’s fine,” Vaas said, hoping that for once Hoyt wouldn’t realise that he was lying. “He’s just tired.”

“Tired, was it?” Hoyt said, smiling once again. One of the privateers grinned at Vaas as well, and Vaas was incredibly tempted to pounce on the man and punch him until that stupid fucking grin disappeared.

“Yeah,” Vaas said.

“Well, you’d better wake him up then,” Hoyt said. “Or I can have one of my men do it if you’d prefer?”

“No!” Vaas yelled, moving to block the path of the smug privateer before he could walk into the building and discover the empty bed.

“He’s not in there,” Hoyt said. “Is he Vaas?”

Vaas glanced between Hoyt and the privateers. He didn’t have to say anything for Hoyt to know that he was right.

“Did you help him sneak out?” Hoyt asked.

“No,” Vaas said. “I don’t know where the fuck he went either.”

“I find that hard to believe,” Hoyt said. “After all, who is going to know where we might find Jason Brody if not his own soulmate?”

Vaas scratched nervously at his arm, trying to look as calm as possible. The truth was he was terrified of what Jason might do, and more than that, what might be done to Jason while he was far away, where Vaas could do nothing to protect him. He couldn’t let Hoyt know how worried he was though. The fucker already knew too much.

“I don’t know,” Vaas said with a shrug.

“Well, you’d better start thinking very hard Vaas,” Hoyt snapped, “because I get the feeling Jason Brody doesn’t want to co-operate with us. In fact, I would almost swear that he’s gone to help his friends leave the island. Do you know how angry I will be if they manage to leave?”

Vaas winced. He knew all too well how angry Hoyt would be. He and Jason would be lucky if Hoyt let them both keep their lives.

“Should I elaborate?” Hoyt asked. “Do I need to tell you what I will do to Jason Brody if you don’t deal with this?”

“You won’t touch him!” Vaas snapped, his anger spilling out of him as soon as Hoyt directly threatened Jason.

“Won’t I?” Hoyt said, the smile he usually wore slipping into a much more dangerous frown, “because the last time I checked, I still have an army Vaas, and you, you my old friend, do not. So I will do whatever the fuck I want to Jason Brody, and if you’re not careful I’m going to make sure you’re there to see it.”

“No! Fuck, no, that’s not what I meant,” Vaas said, trying to get control of himself. “I just fucking meant that you won’t have to touch him because I’m gonna deal with his friends and bring him back here just like you want, and I’m gonna make sure he fucking behaves himself, right?”

“That’s good,” Hoyt said, rubbing his hands together. “That’s very good. That’s what I like to hear Vaas. I do like it when we can work together. Now, at this rate I don’t really care whether you bring back the others or just kill them. I’d say they’re almost more trouble than they’re worth.”

“All right boss,” Vaas said, hanging his head and all the while trying to work out exactly what he was going to have to do to get both himself and Jason out of this.

“The next time I see you it better be with good news,” Hoyt told him. “Now go on. Go get your soulmate Vaas. I’m sure he misses you already.”

Everyone in the camp was tense. They had been ever since Vaas had shown up, screaming for Jason, and it definitely wasn’t getting any better. With every hour that passed with no sign of Jason returning they began to fear for Jason’s life more and more.

Riley wondered if he would ever see either of his brothers again. It seemed unlikely that they would suddenly get any good news where Grant was concerned, but just getting word from Jason would have made everything so much better.

They had all wordlessly agreed to stick close to one another, at least until Jason returned, or they learned more about what had happened outside the cave. Currently they were all curled up around the fire, Doctor Earnhardt included.

Daisy was coping about as well as they could have expected, and Doctor Earnhardt had insisted upon spending more time with the young woman as soon as he had found out about Grant’s death, and was doing what he could to comfort and help the younger woman.

“My poor, poor dear,” Doctor Earnhardt muttered for what must have been the dozenth time in the last hour. “I had hoped that you would not have to experience the same pain I did Agnes. I am sorry that I could not protect you from this.”

Riley wasn’t sure that Doctor Earnhardt’s attempts to comfort Daisy were actually helping, but she hadn’t done anything to discourage the older man yet, so Riley hadn’t said anything. Maybe Doctor Earnhardt’s understanding and vague ramblings were exactly what Daisy needed.

“Does it get better?” Daisy asked. “Does the pain stop?”

Ollie looked over to Doctor Earnhardt as well, looking like he was hoping for a positive answer just as much as Daisy.

Doctor Earnhardt did not reply, and Ollie soon hung his head, knowing what his silence meant as well as any of them.

Riley looked over at Keith, suddenly finding himself very glad that his soulmate was still alive. He would have gladly gone through ten times the heartache and pining he already had if it meant that he could keep Keith alive and safe.

He shuffled closer to his soulmate and reached out to place his hand on top of Keith’s. Keith looked down at their hands, exhaled loudly and then turned his attention back to Daisy and Doctor Earnhardt. He didn’t grab Riley’s hand, but he didn’t move his hand away either, and perhaps it was sad that Riley still considered that progress, but he did. Keith was probably just as worried as the rest of them, and the things he was probably worrying about were undoubtedly more important than potentially holding hands, or the kiss they had almost very nearly shared.

Doctor Earnhardt was still muttering and attempting to comfort Daisy when they all heard footsteps by the entrance of the cave. Riley looked up, hoping and expecting to see Jason returning, or maybe Vaas, but instead it was a group of Rakyat, being led by a woman shorter than any of them, but who walked with more confidence and power than the rest of them put together.

She paused when she was just inside the cave and had a quick look around, pursing her lips as she did.

“So this is the cave Grant Brody spoke of,” the woman said. She screwed up her face as though she found something distasteful or amusing, and then leaned over to the dark-skinned man with glasses who stood beside her, and muttered something that Riley and his friends could not catch.

The woman stepped forward, extending her hands as if welcoming the small group, even though it was her that had entered their campsite.

“Hello,” she said. She smiled at them, but there was something about her smile that left Riley feeling nervous. He had a feeling that whatever this woman wanted, it wasn’t anything good.

The newcomer stepped closer to the group, smiling warmly as she did.

“Please stay seated and do not worry,” she said. “I have no intention of hurting any of you unless I must.”

She walked into their little circle without asking permission of any of them, and looked around at the small group. She kept her arms folded in front of her chest as she looked at them each in turn, very clearly judging them and finding something about them to be unsatisfactory.

“Oh, you poor thing,” the woman muttered as she looked down at Daisy. “You don’t know, do you?”

She knelt down in front of Daisy and placed a hand on the side of the other woman’s face. Doctor Earnhardt moved to stop the newcomer but Daisy waved the concerned older man away.

“You are so normal and safe,” the newcomer continued. “It is no wonder that he found the choice to live without you to be easy.”

“What are you talking about?” Daisy hissed, the newcomer’s implications becoming all too clear. “Grant was a good man.”

“Yes, he was,” the woman said, “but he was also a smart man. You should ignore that scar on your wrist. Forget about Grant Brody. He was mine in the end anyway.”

“What the hell!?” Daisy snapped. “What the fuck do you mean; he was yours!?”

Riley had been willing to trust the group that had entered the cave, but now he was pretty sure he didn’t want anything to do with them. He looked over at Keith, who seemed to be just as concerned about the situation as he was. He nodded at Keith and then at the newcomer, hoping that they were on the same page. If the woman set off Riley’s alarm bells one more time then he had every intention of throwing her and her entourage out.

“You have done well considering your situation,” the newcomer said as she looked around the rest of the cave. Her eyes brightened as she spotted the boat. She walked over to it, two of the armed men close behind her.

“Does this work?” she asked no-one in particular.

“Yes,” Liza replied, her voice a little shaky. “It didn’t when we first came here, but we managed to fix it.”

The woman turned to two of the men accompanying her and muttered something in a language Riley couldn’t understand. One of the men immediately wandered back over to the camp and picked up one of the logs on their fire by the unburned end, carrying it over to the boat and throwing it onto the deck. The log continued to crackle as the flame began to spread over the wooden decking.

“What the hell are you doing?” Keith demanded, jumping up from his spot on the floor and approaching the new group moments before Riley was going to do the exact same thing.

Riley jumped to his feet and followed his soulmate.

“You will not need it,” the woman told Keith. “You are all going to come with me.”

“Woah. No way,” Riley said. “We’re not going anywhere with you.”

“I think its okay,” Liza told them. Riley had a hard time believing that, especially considering that two of the men still seemed to be entirely focussed on making sure that their boat caught on fire.

“These people were working with Grant. That man there…” Liza pointed to the dark-skinned man that had been standing close beside the woman the entire time. “I remember him. I think he helped Grant save me.”

The woman muttered something else to the men under her command, and one of them pulled an explosive charge from his belt and set to work placing it on the hull of the boat. Apparently the fire wasn’t destroying the boat quickly enough for the woman’s liking.

“You are right. We were helping Grant Brody before he died,” the woman told Liza. “And I have every intention of helping the rest of you as well.”

The woman paused for a moment as the explosive was detonated. Riley and Keith both turned away from the blast, but the woman just stood there, confident that none of the shrapnel would hit her. The fire quickly spread across the hull of the boat, and then there was a second explosion as the heat reached the fuel tank.

Riley was having a hard time believing that this woman was really there to help them. No matter how she intended to help them there was no reason to destroy the boat that unless she had absolutely no intention of letting a single one of them leave the island.

“Unfortunately Grant is dead now,” the woman said as she gazed at the fire in front of her. “He was killed by his own brother. It is very sad.”

The rest of the group gasped and swore and muttered that it couldn’t be true, but they all sounded like they were ready to believe the words of this stranger. Riley however was not going to believe it; not until he had proof at the very least.

“What the hell are you talking about?” Riley yelled. “Jason would never kill Grant. You’re lying!”

The woman turned around, the flames still flickering over the boat behind her as she smiled at Riley.

“You must be the youngest brother,” the woman said. “You have the same eyes as Grant, and the same disbelief as Jason. I am afraid that my own brother Vaas has turned Jason into something awful. Please. You must come with me so that you will be safe.”

“No. Jason wouldn’t hurt us,” Riley said, speaking to the rest of the group as well as the strange woman, just in case any of them were still doubting Jason. “We need to stay here so that he can find us.”

The newcomer sighed loudly.

“Why do you not listen to me? I am not going to hurt you. I am trying to help you.”

“Why do I have a hard time believing that?” Riley said.

The woman shouted another command to her group of bodyguards. They all leapt into action, drawing their weapons and surrounding the small group. Keith and Riley started edging closer together, while back in the centre of the camp Doctor Earnhardt tried his best to keep the men away from Daisy, but was brushed aside like he was nothing more than a piece of paper.

“You are going to let me help you,” the woman said. “One way or another, you will all come to see that I am right.”

Jason was only an hour or so away from Doctor Earnhardt’s place and was feeling pretty optimistic when he heard the roar of a car engine from a nearby road. He pressed himself against the back of a tree, hoping that whoever it was would pass by without seeing him. The Rakyat would attack him on sight because of the singlet he wore. The privateers and pirates would attack him because of who he was underneath that singlet, and he had a hard time imagining that Hoyt and the others wouldn’t have noticed he had gone missing by now.

He listened as the car came to a stop, mentally cursing as it did. He clutched the rifle he had stolen from Vaas and readied himself for a fight.

“It’s no fucking good amante!” a pissed off sounding Vaas called out from the car. “I fucking saw you! Now are you going to stop hiding or are you going to make me storm in there and fucking drag you out from behind that tree?”

For a moment Jason considered running, but Vaas had a car, better knowledge of the island, and a pretty decent reason to be pissed at Jason. Besides, as much as Vaas’s presence was going to complicate things, he was still better than nearly all of the alternatives.

Jason stepped out from behind the tree, putting his hands up in the air if only because he wasn’t sure exactly just how pissed off at him Vaas was.

“What the fuck amante!?” Vaas screamed as he appeared. “Did you really fucking think you could just up and fucking leave without saying a fucking thing? Did you think I wouldn’t track you down and fucking find you?! Fuck you Jason!”

“Maybe,” Jason replied, lowering his arms. “What are you going to do about it? Drag me back to Hoyt in chains? Kill my friends and my brother while I watch? Of course I fucking left!”

“Fuck you!” Vaas screamed again.

“Yeah, well fuck you too!”

“You want to see your fucking friends, then get in the fucking car! Stupid fucking white boy. I don’t know why the fuck I put up with you sometimes you stupid, selfish, fucking…”

“You are not fucking helping me!” Jason screamed, even though he wasn’t even sure why he was yelling anymore.

“Yes I fucking am! Amante, get in the fucking car or I’ll get out and drag you into it with my own two fucking hands and tie you to the fucking seat!”

Vaas looked completely serious about that last part, so Jason supposed there wasn’t really much point in arguing. He frowned at Vaas as he stormed over to the passenger side of the vehicle, climbed in, and then slammed the door shut with as much force as possible, causing the whole vehicle to rock.

Vaas slammed his foot down on the accelerator and they took off towards Doctor Earnhardt’s at a dangerous speed. Jason continued to frown, and Vaas looked just as pissed off as Jason felt.

“Are you really going to help me?” Jason asked when the angry tension in the car grew to be too much.

“I don’t know so much now amante,” Vaas said. “I was definitely going to help before, but now you’ve pissed me off so much that I might kill all of your fucking friends or bring them back to Hoyt just because I’m so pissed off at you.”

The corner of Vaas’s mouth twitched just enough that Jason knew he was probably joking, but it didn’t do much to help him relax.

“What would you have done,” he asked Vaas, “if I wasn’t your soulmate?”

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

“If I wasn’t your soulmate you would have captured and killed every one of my friends and brothers without so much as a second thought.”

“Shut the fuck up Jason. I’m trying to concentrate on driving, and you’re talking about nothing right now.”

“Wouldn’t you? Tell me I’m wrong and I’ll apologise and then I’ll shut up.”

Vaas didn’t say anything, and Jason knew that he was right. The marks on their wrists, their bond as soulmates; that was the only reason Vaas was even considering helping him right now, and what’s more, Vaas wasn’t even willing to deny it.

Vaas’s hands gripped the steering wheel a little tighter as they drove, and Jason knew that they were a long way away from resolving the issue.

As they grew closer to Doctor Earnhardt’s place Jason saw the plume of smoke that was rising up from the hill and began to panic. Growing closer only confirmed his fears. Even from the bottom of the hill they could see that part of Doctor Earnhardt’s house had been completely destroyed.

“What the fuck?” Jason asked. “Did Hoyt find them? Did you tell Hoyt where they were you son of a bitch!?”

“No I did not fucking tell…” Vaas let out a wordless cry of frustration, threw his arms up in the air and jumped out of the jeep without even opening the door. “Why the fuck would I tell Hoyt and then drive you here Jason!? Fuck you amante. Fuck you!”

Jason ran the rest of the way to the cave. One look inside told him that it was about as bad as he had been fearing. At least there was no blood and no bodies, but the camp was almost completely destroyed, and there was only a smouldering wreck of metal where the boat had once been.

“God damn it!” Jason cursed. “Where the fuck are they?”

There was no sign of them. The tents and what few belongings they had left had been ransacked or destroyed. After frantically searching around the camp Jason heard a weak cry from one corner. He ran over to the source of the voice, lifted up one of the collapsed tents and found Doctor Earnhardt lying underneath it. Vaas had mostly just watched Jason scurry frantically around the camp, but when he saw Doctor Earnhardt he slowly made his way over to join Jason and the old doctor.

“It’s you…” Doctor Earnhardt croaked, opening his eyes slowly and looking up at the two of them.

The Doctor didn’t look well. Whoever had destroyed the camp had also beaten him bloody, and there were bruises and tears all over Doctor Earnhardt’s skin. He coughed, and red blood welled up on his lips.

“It’s me,” Jason told Doctor Earnhardt. “Look, do you think you can tell me what happened? Where are my friends?”

“The Rakyat,” Doctor Earnhardt murmured. “Vaas… your sister… she came here, started babbling nonsense about Jason killing Grant. They took your friends… They took the girl… I couldn’t stop them…”

Doctor Earnhardt coughed again, and more blood appeared on his lips.

“God damn it!” Jason cursed again.

“Citra… Of course it was my fucking sister,” Vaas growled. “Fucking bitch!”

“Vaas, do you think you could get some of your men on the line?” Jason asked. “I’m pretty sure Doctor Earnhardt is going to die if he doesn’t get proper medical attention.”

“Sure, sure,” Vaas said, waving at Jason with one hand and grabbing his phone with the other. “Although I dunno if he’s gonna get the pretty white boy medicine you’re used to. You sure you can trust me enough? You sure I won’t get him killed instead?”

“Vaas, now is not the time. Let’s go kick Citra’s ass, get my friends back, and then we can worry about us, all right?”

“All right? That’s the first fucking thing you’ve said today that makes any fucking sense.”

Well, that had gone well. Riley’s head hurt, his hands hurt and well… it was probably easier to list the parts of him that didn’t hurt. He’d kicked and fought like a caged animal to resist being dragged here, and had charged straight at the first Rakyat to lay a hand on Keith, and they’d ended up bound and dragged to wherever the hell this was anyway. Riley sighed and hung his head, thinking that maybe he should leave the rescuing to his older brothers. They seemed to be a hell of lot better at it. He’d just ended up being beaten to a pulp by half a dozen men a head taller than him.

“Hey Riley,” Keith called from his place tied to the wall a little way away from the younger man. “You doing okay?”

“Yeah, I guess,” Riley replied.

He wasn’t okay though. Not really. He was pissed off. He felt like Jason, Grant and Keith had just broken him out of captivity only for him to end up as someone else’s prisoner almost straight away. He had really wanted to protect Keith and the others too, to prove that he could be more than the useless little brat that he knew Keith saw him as.

The woman that had captured them appeared in front of the group again. She was carrying a small pot of something that looked and smelled awful, and the dark-skinned man that Liza had said they could trust was following close behind her.

She stopped in front of Riley, and he frowned both at her and at the man behind her.

“I am sorry that I must tie you up like this Riley,” she said, and Riley’s frown grew deeper, “but you really left us no choice.”

“What, you think I’d just let you drag us here without putting up a fight?” Riley said. “You raided our camp and destroyed our ship. Now how do you know my name?”

“Your brother Grant had many good things to say about you,” the woman told him. “You know that we were working together yes? Perhaps he did not tell you about me after all. My name is Citra.”

“Citra,” Riley repeated, tasting the sound of the name on his lips.

That name was familiar, and only after a few moments of searching his memories did Riley remember that was the name of Vaas’s sister, and the last time he had heard it had been right before his older brother Grant had died.

“Why have you brought us here?” Riley asked her. “What are you going to do with us?”

The man behind Citra stepped up, drew his knife and pointed it straight at Riley.

“You do not question Lady Citra,” he barked. “Hold your tongue.”

Citra snapped at the man in her native language, and he stepped back, lowering the blade even though he didn’t look happy to be doing so.

“Ignore Dennis,” Citra said. “He does not understand that you are our guests here.”

“Guests?” Riley questioned. “Sorry, but I kind of don’t believe you.”

“Why do you think I want to harm you?” Citra asked, looking hurt even if she didn’t quite manage to sound convincingly so. “What lies have Jason and Vaas told you that you would distrust me?”

“Jason and Vaas didn’t need to tell us anything!” Keith yelled from his place beside Riley. “You dragged us here against our will, and your men beat the crap out of him. Six grown men against a guy barely old enough to drink is bullshit you fucking cowards! Now let us go!”

Dennis slammed his fist into the side of Keith’s face. The punch was brutal enough that it would definitely leave a bruise.

“Be silent!” he yelled at Keith. “Lady Citra was not talking to you. You will not speak to her unless spoken to.”

The time Citra did not object. She just kept smiling at Riley as though what was happening between Keith and her follower was absolutely no concern of hers.

“Stop it!” Riley screamed, struggling to get free and find a way to protect Keith. “Leave him alone you son of a bitch!”

Citra smiled at Riley and then said something in her native language to Dennis, who punched Keith straight in the stomach. Keith let out a groan and doubled over.

“Leave him alone!” Riley roared.

Citra smiled again and gestured for Dennis to stop. Riley looked over at Keith. His soulmate clearly wasn’t doing well, but he was probably still better off than Riley. Keith’s eyes met his for a moment and then he quickly hung his head and looked down at the floor. Keith had never coped very well with being helpless, or with being on the losing end of the fight, and right then he was experiencing both.

“You care about him,” Citra said to Riley, nodding at Keith. “Don’t you?”

“Of course I do,” Riley growled.

 “You would kill me and every single one of my men if it meant protecting him?”

“Of course,” Riley replied.

“Why?” she demanded, her tone changing and her hand pulling back from touching him, as though she had been bitten by a snake.

“Because, he’s…”

“Because he is your soulmate,” she finished for him, “isn’t he? If he is then I understand why you do not wish for us to hurt him. I feel sorry for the two of you, but I understand. You think it is your duty to protect one another.”

“It’s none of your business, but yes. Keith is my soulmate.”

Citra smiled at him like she thought he was an idiot.

“It is my business,” she told Riley, “because I want to help you.”

She passed the pot of liquid she had been holding to Dennis, and reached up to untie the band around Riley’s wrist. He struggled against it, but considering his hands were tied in place it didn’t take much effort on Citra’s part to remove it.

She pursed her lips as the band fell away.

“Grey?” Citra commented. “Your soulbrand is still grey but your soulmate is right over there. Are you really twenty-one Riley?”

“Yes, and fuck you,” Riley hissed. “The colour of my brand is definitely not your fucking business. I don’t care what you say you’re going to do.”

“Your bond is not complete. The two of you are not happy together, are you?”

“We’re happy,” Riley growled. “We’re so fucking happy. Now let me go!”

“Are you really? Do you think you are better off because of your bond with him? Your bond did nothing to stop us from taking you, and it did not stop you from ending up in this situation. I find it strange that two beautiful young men like the two of you would not make love at the first opportunity. Are you sure that you would not be better off without Keith?”

“What the hell do you mean ‘better off without him?’ If you’re threatening him then…”

“I am not threatening him,” Citra told him. “I am just asking you to imagine what your life might be like without this.”

She placed her hand against Riley’s soulbrand and Riley shuddered.

“I wonder, would you have chosen each other if you had been given a choice?” she asked Riley. “But no, instead of choosing for yourself you have let fate choose for you.”

Citra leaned in closer to Riley, until almost all that he could see was the woman’s face, and then her hand as she reached up to caress his cheek. He tried to move away from Citra’s touch, but with the bindings keeping him in place it was impossible.

“Fate in my experience is a fool, as is anyone who decides that fate’s rule is absolute,” Citra continued, even though Riley had decided not to listen to her pointless rambling a while back. “Why not choose for yourself? Maybe you would be happier with someone else? Someone young and beautiful, who will see you as more than a mark on their arm? Someone who will love you because they want to, not because they consider it their duty?”

“Why the hell are you even asking me this?” Riley asked, rolling his eyes at the woman in front of him.

“Because I can make it so that you are free to choose,” Citra told him. “I can remake you so that you are unclaimed, just like me. You will be bound to no-one. Free to find love for yourself!”

Citra held up her arm so that Riley could see the smooth blank skin where most other people would have their soulmate’s name. He suddenly felt very sorry for the woman in front of him, but that didn’t mean that he was about to listen to her.

“Think of it!” Citra continued. “You could feel free to love whoever you like, and no-one could tell you that you are wrong. No-one could say that you are theirs, or that you should be bound for the rest of your life to someone that will only hurt you.”

“Maybe you should listen to her.”

Riley looked over in shock as he realised that the comment had come from Keith.

“What?” Riley shouted over at his soulmate.

“I’m just saying that maybe she’s got a point,” Keith said. “I mean, I think you’re great and all, but I feel like a real soulmate would have loved you and thought you were amazing from the start. I ignored you and sort of wished that I had someone else for a long while there, and I’m sure you’ve thought the same at some point. Maybe we’d both be better off if you didn’t have my name on your arm.”

Riley felt like he couldn’t breathe. Keith couldn’t be saying what Riley thought he was saying. He had known that he was a disappointment, but he’d really thought that after that conversation in the back of the car that everything had been worked out, and then they’d almost kissed and he’d really hoped… He’s just hoped so badly that he and Keith…

“What… What are you…?” he muttered. He slammed his eyes shut and deliberately bit down on his bottom lip. He would not cry. Not in front of Citra. Fuck that. Not in front of Keith. No fucking way.

He took a deep breath, and the pain quickly turned to anger.

“Why would you say that you jerk!?” Riley yelled, struggling against his bindings, wanting to attack Keith and Citra as much, if not more, than he wanted to escape.

Citra looked between the two of them and smiled, before walking over to join Keith instead.

“Well,” she said as she approached Keith. “I am glad that one of you can see reason. So, you wish to join me? You want me to remove the mark from your wrist?”

Keith didn’t reply. He just looked over at Riley with sad eyes.

“Do you wish to be free?” Citra asked Keith. She leaned in and placed her hand lightly on Keith’s chest. “The solution only hurts for a little while, and I’m sure that a big strong man like you will barely feel it.”

“I…” Keith stammered. “I don’t know…”

Riley had no idea what his soulmate was thinking, but he wasn’t about to give up his bond with Keith without a fight. He strained against the bands keeping him in place, and when that proved to have little effect he returned to shouting at the two of them instead.

“Fuck you Keith!” he screamed. “If you say yes then I’m going to make your life a fucking misery, you hear me?”

Keith stared at Riley and Riley glared back. Keith opened his mouth to speak, but before he could say anything someone near the front of the temple let out a scream, and that caught all of their attention. Riley looked over to the other side of the temple, and caught a flash of red that quickly disappeared from sight.

Citra backed away from Riley and her other captives, slowly moving towards the safety of the temple’s deeper reaches with Dennis at her side. She barked out a series of commands to the Rakyat as she moved.

There was another scream, and then the sound of gunfire, and then suddenly Jason was at his side, using some sort of blade to cut Riley free.

“Oh my god Jason!” Riley called out. “Thank you!”

Jason muttered some sort of variation of acknowledgement as the ropes fell from Riley’s wrists, and then he turned and pointed the machete he had used to cut Riley free straight at Keith.

“I heard what you said you dick,” Jason growled at Keith, “and don’t think you’re not going to pay for that later.”

He handed Riley his machete.

“Free the others,” Jason said. He paused for just long enough to whirl around and hit an attacking Rakyat with the butt of his rifle, before continuing. “Although if you want to leave Keith there then I wouldn’t blame you.”

With that Jason was gone again, charging through the temple with the assault rifle firing in front of him.

Riley wasn’t quite angry enough to leave Keith tied up, but he was angry enough that he decided to free everyone else first and let his soulmate sweat a little. He moved away from Keith and towards Liza and then Ollie and Daisy. He was just about to free Keith as well, but when he turned around to face his soulmate he found that Citra had already cut Keith’s bindings.

“There, I have freed you,” she told him, “and now you must protect me from Vaas and Jason.”

She moved to stand behind Keith, but Keith was not going to let her manipulate him so easily. All around them the Rakyat were being slaughtered thanks to Vaas and Jason, and Keith could see it just as well as Riley could, and knew that Citra was just trying to save her own skin and would have never let Keith go otherwise. He turned around and tried to shove past Citra so that he could get to Riley and the others.

“No,” Citra said, clinging to Keith’s arm. “You must protect me from Vaas and Jason. They will kill me unless you fight for me!”

“What the fuck? Are you crazy?!” Keith said, trying to shake the woman off his arm. “I said that you might have a point. I didn’t say anything about taking on two blood-thirsty killers, one of whom is supposed to be my friend!”

“Please! Fight for me and I will show you such pleasures!”

“I’m not fighting for you!” Keith shouted at her, “and I don’t want to have sex with you either you crazy bitch! Now get the fuck away from me!”

Citra’s face went straight from downcast eyes and a mild pout to an outright scowl. She drew the knife from her belt and it was clear that she meant to attack Keith.

Riley had heard people talk about time slowing down during really intense moments. It was something to do with adrenaline or something like that, but he had never experienced it until this moment. He could see Citra about to stab Keith. Keith would have no chance of getting away with the woman still clinging to his arm. Vaas was a little way away, grappling with Dennis, Citra’s right hand man, and Jason was nowhere to be seen.

Riley charged straight at Citra and Keith. Keith may have been awfully close to betraying Riley and the rest of them, but Riley still didn’t want his soulmate to be hurt, and the idea that Keith might die was one he didn’t even want to think about.

Riley jumped on Citra and pulled the knife back and away from Keith just in time to stop his soulmate from being stabbed, and then time sped back up as he and Citra grappled with each other, both of them trying to grab the knife and get it away from the other person’s grip.

“Why do you defend him?” Citra yelled as they fought. “He does not love you!”

“That doesn’t mean I want him dead!” Riley yelled back, putting all of his strength into one movement as he yelled, trying to twist the knife out of Citra’s hands.

The sudden movement caught her off balance, and she stumbled forward. The woman’s eyes widened for a moment and they both froze as they realised the knife had stabbed Citra right in the middle of her chest. Their hands had both been on the weapon when it had plunged into Citra’s flesh, but then Citra relinquished her grip on the knife and looked straight at Riley.

Citra’s blood was beginning to spill out from her chest, and Riley realised that it had already spread out and onto his hands. He pulled back in horror, taking the knife with him. Citra brought her hand up to her own chest, where the patch of blood there was rapidly growing, and stared at her blood-stained palm.

Riley was vaguely aware of Keith cursing behind him, and of the silence that quickly took over the rest of the temple. The knife dropped from his hands and fell to the floor with a loud clatter. Citra stumbled forwards and then followed the knife’s lead, falling first onto her knees and then onto her side on the ground as the blood continued to flow from the wound in her chest.

Vaas and Dennis had stopped fighting completely, both of them stunned to see the woman brought down.

“No!” Dennis cried out. He immediately ran over and knelt beside Citra, taking her hand in his own as her eyes slowly fluttered closed for the last time. “Citra! No, please, Citra!”

“I’m sorry,” Riley said. “I’m sorry. I… I didn’t mean to. She was just there and…”

“You killed her!” Dennis shouted. He pulled Citra’s now limp body into his arms and held her close.

Riley felt like he couldn’t move. He looked down at his hands. He was still holding the knife, and both it and his right hand were still covered in Citra’s blood.

He dropped the knife and just stared at his hands, horrified by what he had done. He had never meant to kill anyone. He really hadn’t.

Dennis was still holding Citra and wailing, begging for the dead woman to come back to him.

“I’m sorry,” Riley said again, but Dennis wasn’t listening to him.

Riley felt a hand come to rest on his shoulder, and he looked back to discover Keith standing there, looking very worried as his gaze travelled over Riley’s face.

“You okay?” Keith asked him.

Riley wasn’t sure. He didn’t know what to feel, but part of his brain was suggesting he should still be annoyed at Keith for listening to Citra, while another insisted he should just be grateful because Keith had declined Citra’s offer and was now what; attempting to comfort Riley? Something like that.

“Riley, come on man,” Keith said, leaning down a little to look Riley in the eye. “I know that was intense and all but now isn’t really the time for you to be spacing out.”

Keith was probably right. Riley could still hear the sound of gunfire, but it sounded like it was coming from very far away.

“Oh man, you’re in shock, aren’t you?” Keith muttered.

Riley looked up at the other man. He was still looking concerned as he looked over Riley, but then Keith’s eyes darted behind Riley and widened in surprise.

“Holy shit. Riley, move!” Keith yelled, throwing Riley to the ground and covering the younger man with his own body in an attempt to protect him.

Riley looked up just in time to see Dennis, who had tried to attack Riley and judging by the scowl on the other man’s face and the fire in his eyes, he had been aiming to kill. Riley had dropped the knife when Keith had thrown him to the ground, and he scrambled to try and grab it now, but it was just out of reach.

Dennis was approaching the two of them, and it looked like he still wanted to kill Riley.

“Oh fuck, oh fuck,” Keith swore, trying to simultaneously scramble away from Dennis and drag Riley along with him.

Dennis had almost reached the two of them when a blur of red appeared from behind, tackling the dark-skinned man. Vaas pinned the other man to the ground, effectively stopping him in his tracks and saving Riley and Keith.

The pirate paused for just long enough to nod at Keith and Riley, and then he grabbed the knife off Dennis’s belt. He lifted it high above the other man, and Riley could see that at any second the knife was going to come down and plunge into the other man’s chest or throat.

“Stop!” Riley yelled. “Don’t kill him.”

Vaas paused for a moment, which was hopeful, and gave Riley a look that said all too clearly how stupid Vaas thought he was.

It made sense that Vaas would want Dennis dead, seeing as he was one of Citra’s followers. Riley probably should have wanted him dead too considering Dennis had just tried to attack him, but as far as Riley was concerned there had been too much blood shed already, and it wasn’t as though Dennis’s anger was unjustified. Citra may not have been his soulmate, but Riley had still killed the person Dennis loved most.

Besides that Riley had a feeling that Dennis wasn’t a terrible person. After all, hadn’t Liza said that he had helped Grant save her? Maybe once this was all over then Dennis would be able calm down and grieve properly without trying to get revenge for Citra.

“Can’t we just tie him up?” Riley asked.

Around them the battle was slowly coming to a close, and it looked like they’d won. The Rakyat had lost all sense of co-ordination now that Citra was dead. Surely amongst all of that one man couldn’t be enough of a threat that they had no choice but to kill him.

“Are you fucking crazy?” Vaas asked Riley.

“I know you probably don’t give a shit about my opinion right now,” Keith added as he stood up from his place on the ground, “but I kind of agree with Vaas on this one. He just tried to kill us Riley.”

“I know,” Riley said, “but he’s not a threat now, right?”

Vaas rolled his eyes at Riley, but climbed off Dennis anyway, hauling the other man to his feet behind him. Riley picked up some of the rope that had been used to keep himself and his friends in place, and moved to help Vaas. He may have been responsible for one death today, but he had stopped another one, and that had to be worth something, right?

Jason stood on the temple steps and surveyed the carnage around him. Now that the high of battle was slowly receding it was time to check and make sure that all of the people he cared about had survived and were still okay.

Ollie was standing a little way away from him, holding a gun in his hands and looking more than a little shell-shocked. He’d picked it up some time into the battle and had managed to take out a couple of the Rakyat himself, although Jason was pretty sure that if he hadn’t been there to protect his friend then he probably would have been killed pretty early on.

“Hey,” Jason said, nodding over at his friend.

“Holy shit man,” Ollie said, shaking his head and then smiling over at Jason. “That was all sorts of fucked up. It’s over now though, right?”

“I hope so,” Jason said, although that wasn’t entirely true. He could do with some more fighting; he was really starting to appreciate the high that came with it; but having to concentrate on killing, staying alive, and having to protect his friends all at the same time was a bit of a pain.

“I am so fucking glad that you and Vaas showed up when you did,” Ollie said, flopping back against the nearest stone wall and taking a breather. “That bitch was fucking crazy man. She was spouting all sorts of fucked up shit before you two showed up.”

Jason raised an eye at Ollie. He had a feeling that he knew what sort of things Ollie might be talking about. He had experienced Citra’s ramblings first hand, after all.

“Like, she kind of told us that Grant had been cheating on Daisy with her, but there’s no way that Grant would do that, right? That’s crazy.”

“I don’t know about that,” Jason said, thinking of the way Citra and his brother had interacted when they had Jason captive. “I think Citra might have gotten into Grant’s head.”

“What the fuck man?” Ollie said, shaking his head. “That’s messed up. You know that she was trying to get Keith and Riley to burn their soulbrands off too?”

“I know,” Jason said, scowling when he thought of what Keith had almost done. “I heard.”

“Oh shit,” Ollie said. He was smiling, despite how worried he sounded. “This entire day is fucked, isn’t it? Maybe we should go check on the others; make sure Riley and Keith haven’t killed each other and all that.”

“I’ll go,” Jason said. “You stay out here and guard this entrance, in case any of the Rakyat show up again.”

“Okay man. Okay,” Ollie said, nodding at Jason and bringing the gun in his hands up so that he at least looked a little like he was on guard.

“God, I need to get fucking high,” Jason heard Ollie mutter to himself as Jason headed inside the temple.

Liza and Daisy were curled up together a little way inside the entrance. Daisy had a new gash on her arm, and they both looked like they either needed to get drunk or have a nice long sleep, but otherwise the two girls seemed to be okay.

Jason looked around for Vaas, Riley and Keith, and he didn’t need to look for long. The three of them soon emerged from the back of the temple, Vaas half-guiding and half-shoving one of their defeating enemies in front of him. The man had his arms tied behind his back, and kept frowning over his shoulder back at Vaas, Keith and Riley.

“What the fuck?” Jason muttered as the four of them grew closer. “Why isn’t this guy dead?”

“I don’t know,” Vaas replied. “Ask your fucking brother.”

“Riley?” Jason asked the younger man.

“I don’t think we should kill Dennis,” Riley said. “Maybe he can give us information?”

“What information?!” Jason snapped, perhaps a little more loudly than he had meant to. “We’ve won this battle, and I’m pretty sure that whatever our next move is going to be, it’s not going to involve him or the fucking Rakyat.”

“Please,” Riley said. “I don’t want you to kill him.”

Jason rolled his eyes, completely unmoved by Riley’s plea. He didn’t know why his brother was so set on keeping this man alive, but he had a feeling it was going to needlessly complicate matters.

“Look, I don’t really understand Riley’s reasoning either,” Keith said, stepping forward, “but if this is what Riley wants…”

“I didn’t ask for your fucking opinion,” Jason snapped at Keith. “We don’t have any reason to keep him alive.”

Vaas shrugged, and had already drawn his gun and pressed it against Dennis’s head, ready to kill the other man, when Liza called out.

“Please don’t kill him,” she cried out. “He helped Grant save me, and… well… hasn’t there been enough blood for one day?”

“I vote no too,” Daisy said as she got up from her place on the ground, clutching her arm as she did.

“You’re all voting now? When the fuck did this turn into a democracy?” Vaas muttered, shaking his head as he did. “Look Jason, I’m gonna leave this fucker to you and your friends. You guys do whatever you want with him. I don’t give a fuck anymore.”

“Where are you going?” Jason asked him.

Vaas looked back at the deeper reaches of the temple. Jason caught just a moment of vulnerability there, before Vaas shook himself out of the melancholy that had gripped him.

“My sister’s dead,” Vaas said simply. “Gotta… You know… Gotta fucking deal with it…”

“Say goodbye to her,” Jason told him. “I’ll still be here when you’re done.”

Vaas nodded and headed back inside, leaving Jason and the others to take care of Dennis. Before long they had him tied up in one of the smaller chambers of the temple, although Jason still didn’t know what they were supposed to do with him, or why Riley had wanted to keep him alive in the first place.

“So, what now?” Daisy asked them all when they had taken care of Dennis and managed to regroup. “We’re all here, so we’re leaving now, right?”

She looked at Jason as she finished speaking, and he knew that he was the one she was most concerned about. He was the only one who might have any desire to stay on the island, and they all knew it.

“They destroyed the boat,” Liza pointed out.

“Don’t worry,” Jason said. “I’m sure that Vaas or the Rakyat will have one that we can steal. It might not be as big or as sturdy as the old one you had at Doctor Earnhardt’s place, but it should work at least.”

“Is he alive?” Daisy asked. “The Rakyat didn’t kill him, did they?”

“Doctor Earnhardt?” Jason asked, and Daisy nodded. “Yeah, he should be fine. We got some of Vaas’s pirates to look after him. They’re not trained professionals or anything, but most of them have had some practise taking care of wounds.”

“I guess that’s okay then,” Daisy said.

No-one was saying anything, but they were all looking at Jason, as though waiting for him to speak. He knew what they wanted from him, but he also knew, had known since he had left Hoyt’s camp that morning, that he was going to have to piss off a few people today, no matter what choice he made.

“So, what are you going to do Jason?” Daisy said, finally asking what she and all of the others had obviously been thinking.

“You’re coming with us, right?” Ollie asked.

Jason didn’t answer.

“Come on Jason,” Keith added. “You can’t seriously be thinking about staying here with him.”

Jason still didn’t answer, so Keith kept talking, even though Jason wished that he wouldn’t.

“Look Jason, your brother did a lot of shitty things, but I think he was right about Vaas. Maybe you can’t see it, but he’s changed you man, and I’m not sure he wouldn’t just shoot all of us if it meant keeping you here with him.”

Jason glared at his supposed friend. How dare Keith badmouth Vaas after what he had just put Riley through? He had been willing to give Keith a chance; had wanted Riley and Keith to be happy together, and then Keith had to go and fuck it up. Vaas may have been deeply flawed, but at least Vaas loved him. Vaas would never sell Jason out, of that Jason was sure.

“Like you have any right to criticise him,” Jason snapped at Keith. As far as he was concerned Vaas was ten times the soulmate Keith would ever be.

Jason would have continued, but a sharp look from his younger brother Riley made him keep his mouth shut.

“Jason, please,” Daisy begged him. “I know Vaas is your soulmate, and I know this must be hard, but it’s dangerous for us to stay here for any longer than we already have. Once the Rakyat find out what we’ve done…”

“I know.”

“Jason?” Daisy asked again. “What’s it going to be?”

“I need…” Jason muttered, finding himself unable to keep looking at all of his friends’ expectant faces and hanging his head instead. “I need to talk to Vaas.”

“Hey,” Jason called out as he entered the inner sanctum of the temple.

Vaas glanced back at him, but didn’t do anything more than shrug in response. He looked exhausted, and defeated. Jason looked around the temple but he couldn’t see Citra’s body anywhere.

“I’m sorry about your sister,” he offered, wondering what Vaas had done with her body but knowing it wasn’t his place to ask. Some things should be kept private, even between soulmates.

“Don’t be,” Vaas replied. “She was a fucking bitch.”

“Right,” Jason muttered.

He glanced around the temple and realised he had started rubbing at his arm. He knew that certain parts of this would be hard, but he hadn’t expected to be nervous about this part. He had stared down Buck without flinching, but looking at Vaas right now was almost impossible.

“So that’s it then, huh Jason?” Vaas began. “You and your stupid fucking friends are just gonna sail away from here like nothing ever fucking happened?”

“My friends are going to,” Jason began, feeling the butterflies in his stomach pitch a fit as he spoke. “But I’m not. I’m staying here.”

Vaas just stared at Jason for long enough that Jason began to wonder if Vaas had heard him properly. He knew that the news must have come as a surprise. Deciding to spend the rest of his life on an island in the middle of nowhere, potentially killing and dealing drugs for a living wasn’t exactly the sanest thing he had ever done, but he had been thinking about it for a long time now, and was sure that he had come to the right decision.

When he had left Vaas that morning his plan had been to help his friends escape and then return to Vaas anyway. He had just wanted to keep Vaas as far away from his friends as possible while that happened. After all, he had known that it would be hard for Vaas to let his friends leave, but Vaas had surprised him on that front as well by not only letting Jason help them, but by helping as well, even though it might mean more problems with Hoyt for both of them. That fact alone had helped Jason realise that he had made the right choice.

Riley and his friends could go back to their normal lives in California, back to jobs and families and safe lives, and after a while they probably wouldn’t even miss Jason. Vaas on the other hand; Vaas needed him. If Jason left then Vaas would have no-one, especially now that Citra was gone.

Besides, Vaas was his soulmate, and Jason had begun to think that maybe, just maybe, fate had gotten it right this time.

“I’m staying,” he repeated, smiling at Vaas as he did. God, this had to be one of the craziest fucking things he had ever done, and yet it still felt right somehow.

After a second Vaas reacted by shaking his head at Jason. His shoulders were trembling, and soon Jason heard the other man chuckling.

Vaas’s chuckling grew louder until it was a full on laugh that echoed throughout the ruined temple. At first Jason had thought that the laughter was a good sign, but as it grew louder he became less sure.

Vaas’s eyes locked with Jason’s once more and the laughter stopped.

“Jason, Jason, Jason,” Vaas muttered. “What the fuck am I going to do with you, huh?”

He was still holding his pistol, and before Jason had really had a chance to reply to him, Vaas had raised the gun. He stood on the temple steps and pointed the pistol in his hand directly at Jason.

Chapter Text

They weren’t far from the main temple when Keith and Riley started to hear shouting echoing from within the back rooms. Riley let out a loud sigh. Keith realised his soulmate looked even more tired now than he had before Jason had left to talk to Vaas, and Riley had already looked exhausted then. Now he was barely able to stand straight, and after a moment’s wobbling he flopped back against one of the temple’s walls.

Keith wasn’t surprised that his soulmate was tired. Riley had already been through a lot in a single day. Now, Jason and Vaas were just adding to the poor kid’s stress with their screaming. Perhaps Keith should have been worried about Jason, but looking at Riley’s weary face all he could feel for the older brother was anger that Jason had somehow found a way to make Riley’s day even shittier than it had already been.

“Hey, you okay?” Keith asked, holding out his hand for Riley to take if he wanted.

Riley glanced at Keith’s hand but didn’t take it. Instead he leaned even further into the wall and then slowly slid down it, ending up curled into a ball at the bottom with his knees up to his chin.

If Keith hadn’t felt like a pile of shit before than he definitely did now.

“Riley, I’m sorry about what happened back there,” Keith said. Riley looked up at him and made what was possibly the worst attempt at smiling that Keith had ever seen, before closing his eyes and leaning back against the stone wall.

Keith felt like running away from the younger man in that moment, but fought the urge. He had told himself that he was going to be a better soulmate for Riley, and being a better soulmate did not mean running away from his own fuckups like a coward. Keith took a seat next to Riley on the ground, and leaned back beside him, waiting for the forgiveness that he hoped Riley would soon give.

When Riley finally spoke his words were not the ones that Keith had been hoping to hear.

“I can’t do this anymore,” Riley said.

“What?” Keith muttered, hoping that Riley didn’t mean what he thought the younger man meant. “What do you mean?”

“This,” Riley said, gesturing to the two of them. “Us. I thought that we had everything sorted out and then in there you pulled that shit with Citra… You actually suggested that we should get rid of our soulbrands!”

Riley buried his head in his hands. Keith searched desperately for something to say or do. He wanted to wrap his arms around Riley but he knew that such a gesture would be unwelcome, and everything he contemplated saying sounded trite and insincere, even inside his own head.

“I never would have gotten rid of your name on my wrist,” Keith said. “Not unless you agreed to it too. I just thought that after the mess I’ve made over the past few years that you might actually want to consider it.”

“Why would you think I wanted that!?” Riley screamed. “Have you paid any attention to me at all over the last five years?”

“I’m sorry. I was stupid. Just tell me what you want me to do to make this better and I will.”

“I don’t… I don’t know what I want. I just know that I don’t want to spend the rest of my life chasing after someone that’s never going to see me as anything more than a burden.”

Was that it? Were they done? After so many years of avoiding Riley had Keith actually been the one that had been rejected?

No. That couldn’t be it. Keith didn’t want that to be it. He really had only been thinking about Riley when he suggested that they listen to Citra, and he was fucked if he wasn’t going to try and fight for Riley’s love now. Maybe that’s all that Riley needed; proof that Keith really did want him, that Keith wasn’t as willing to give up his bond with Riley as the events in the temple might have otherwise indicated.

Keith steeled himself. What he was about to do might very well get him punched in the face, but if it did then he probably deserved it anyway.

He wrapped his arms around Riley, pulled him close, and planted the most passionate kiss he could muster on the younger man’s lips.

Riley froze in his arms. For a few seconds, during which Keith was sure his heart had stopped beating altogether, Riley did not move. His body was as stiff as a board in Keith’s arms, but then the younger man leaned in to Keith’s touch, and he began kissing back, very slowly and shyly at first, and then he let out a moan and threw himself into the kiss with even more enthusiasm than Keith.

Riley had wrapped his arms around Keith’s neck and shoulders by the time they parted. The two of them sat there and looked at one another for a moment. Riley worried at his bottom lip, and then threw himself into Keith’s arms again, burying his head in Keith’s shoulder and clinging to the other man as though he might die otherwise.

Keith wrapped his arms around Riley and held him close. He realised that the younger man was shaking, and after a few seconds of simply being held by Keith Riley started to cry as well, his tears falling onto Keith’s shoulder.

“Hey,” Keith muttered, running his hands through Riley’s hair. “I’m sorry Riley. I’d never knowingly hurt you, you know that right? It’s going to be okay now. I promise.”

“I know,” Riley sobbed. “I know… I just…”

The sound of shouting emerged from inside the temple again. Riley stilled in Keith’s arms.

“Do you think Jason’s going to be okay?” he asked Keith. “It sounds like it’s getting pretty messed up in there.”

“He’ll be fine,” Keith said. “I mean, at worst Vaas will probably tie him up or something, right?”

“Maybe we should go back in and check on them,” Riley suggested.

“Damn it Riley,” Keith said, pausing for a moment to press a kiss to the younger man’s forehead. “You’re too nice. Worry about yourself before you go worrying about Jason.”

Riley smiled at Keith, but it was obviously forced.

“You’re right. It’s probably nothing,” Riley said, but he didn’t sound convinced. “If I was Vaas then I’d probably be angry too.”

“He’s probably just trying to convince Jason to stay on the island,” Keith said, placing his hand on Riley’s shoulder. “Don’t worry. I doubt Jason’s going to stay. Not while he’s got you and all the rest of us.”

There was another loud shout from inside the temple, followed by the sound of something breaking.

“I wouldn’t be so sure of that,” Riley muttered. “I don’t think I’ve seen Jason care this much about anything before, in a good way or a bad one.”

They were silent for a long moment. Keith couldn’t argue with what Riley had just said, and wasn’t sure what to say to comfort him. If Jason decided that he wanted to spend the rest of his life on the island with Vaas then they didn’t really have any right to stop him.

“I killed her,” Riley muttered, just as Keith was beginning to think the younger man’s silence was becoming unbearable. “I killed Vaas’s sister. I’m a murderer, just like Vaas and Jason…”

Riley stared up at Keith, his eyes glassy, and Keith realised it was this that had most upset Riley. Not the fact that Keith had almost betrayed him, not the prospect of potentially losing Jason to Vaas and the island, but the realisation that he had been responsible for Citra’s death.

“That was an accident,” Keith said, grabbing hold of Riley’s face once again “and she was dangerous. You don’t need to feel bad about that.”

“But I killed her,” Riley sobbed, the tears finally flowing from his face. “I can see her face looking up at me when I close my eyes.”

“Riley look at me,” Keith said, trying to calm down his distraught soulmate, “I might not be here if you hadn’t done that. You saved me man. By killing her you saved my life.”

Riley sniffled and wiped away some of the tears that had begun to fall down his face.

“You are not a bad person,” Keith told him. “Fuck, didn’t I tell you before that you’re too nice? This just proves it. You don’t have to cry about this.”

“Oh god,” Riley managed to squeeze out between sobs. “You must think I’m so fucking pathetic right now. I’m sorry…”

“Riley, it’s okay,” he muttered, pausing to press a kiss against Riley’s ear. “I didn’t mean it like that. Cry as much as you want. It’s fine. I’m not going to judge you. I just don’t want you to feel bad, okay?”

“She wanted you dead,” Riley muttered. “I couldn’t… I couldn’t let her…”

“I know Riley. It’s okay. I know.”

“What the fuck are you doing!?” Jason screamed at his soulmate.

Vaas took a step closer, his pistol still pointed directly at Jason. The American raised his hands above his head, surrendering even though he still had no idea why he was surrendering or what Vaas was hoping to accomplish.

“No, no, no Jason,” Vaas said, taking another step closer. “What the fuck are you doing? You’ve got a fucking gun pointed straight at you hermano. Why haven’t you done anything about it?”

“What… what the fuck do you mean? I haven’t done anything about it because it’s you pointing it at me. What the fuck do you want me to do?”

“I want you to make the right fucking choice Jason. Now, try saying what you said before. I don’t think I fucking heard right.”

“I’m not leaving with my friends,” Jason replied, less confidently this time. “I’m staying here with you. Isn’t that what you wanted?”

Vaas chuckled again, and Jason tried to get a read on what was going on inside his soulmate’s head, but it wasn’t easy.

“Jason, amante…” Vaas shook his head and then brought his hands up to his forehead, clutching at it in frustration. “You have no fucking clue what I want! You think everyone is just as fucked up and selfish as you, don’t you?!”

The gun wasn’t pointed at him, so Jason risked taking a step closer to Vaas, reaching out for the other man, hoping that maybe if he could just hold Vaas then he could get him to calm down.

He had barely made it two steps when Vaas exploded in the biggest bout of rage so far.

“I can’t fucking lose you!” Vaas screamed, pointing the gun at Jason once more.

“For fuck’s sake Vaas!” Jason screamed back. “That’s what I’m trying to tell you! You’re not going to lose me! I’m not going anywhere. Hoyt will have to kill me if he wants me to stay away from you.”

“What the fuck did you say?” Vaas hissed. He did not sound happy.

“I’m not going to leave,” Jason yelled. “Even when I left this morning I was just going to help my friends escape and then I was going to come back to you once they were gone. Don’t you understand? I’m choosing you Vaas! You, over everyone else that...”

“That’s not what I fucking meant!” Vaas roared, interrupting him. “You stupid fucking white boy. You think you fucking know everything, huh Jason? You’re not fucking listening to me you stupid fucking…”

Vaas cursed beneath his breath for a moment, before glaring at Jason with so much venom in his eyes that it hurt for Jason to look at his soulmate.

“Get the fuck off my island Jason,” Vaas right. “Right now.”

Jason felt like he was frozen to the spot. This wasn’t right. This wasn’t how he had imagined this going at all. He had expected tears and anger from his family and friends, but not from Vaas.

“Didn’t you hear me? Didn’t I just tell you to piss off!? Get the fuck off my island now, or I swear to god Jason, I’m going to fucking shoot you.”

“What the fuck are you saying Vaas?” Jason said. “You won’t kill me. You can’t…”

“Fuck! Why won’t you fucking leave?” Vaas’s hands moved up to clutch at his forehead once more. Jason was one more threat away from just charging the other man and pinning him down until he either calmed down or explained what the fuck was happening. If only Jason could get that gun out of Vaas’s hands…

“FUCK!” Vaas repeated, much louder this time, screaming that single curse to the sky. “Jason, why are you fucking doing this to me?”

Jason saw his moment. He ran towards Vaas and reached for the gun. Vaas reacted just in time to stop Jason from taking the weapon, but not fast enough that Jason couldn’t at least get a hand on it.

The two of them froze. They both had a single hand on the gun. Jason made to grab for it with his other hand as well, but Vaas stopped him by grabbing Jason’s spare hand with his own.

Jason expected Vaas to either shove him away or subdue him, but to Jason’s surprise Vaas moved the gun and Jason’s hand together and before he knew what was happening, Vaas was forcing Jason to aim the pistol right at Vaas’s forehead.

“You’re not going to fucking leave?” Vaas growled. “Then you better shoot me Jason. Come on motherfucker. Shoot me!”

“What the fuck Vaas!? I am not going to shoot you.”

“Yes you are amante. Come on, pull the trigger.”

Vaas pulled Jason’s hands closer, so that the barrel of the gun was digging into the skin on Vaas’s forehead.

“It’s easy Jason,” he said. “Just pull the fucking trigger!”

“I’m not going to shoot you!” Jason roared, trying to pull away from Vaas as he did. “Why are you doing this? I don’t understand!”

“You’re fucking right you don’t understand!” Vaas roared at him. “Why the fuck did I have to end up with the stupid, fucking, noble… Fuck you Jason!”

Vaas finally let go of Jason’s hands, and Jason lowered them and the gun immediately, wanting to get the gun as far away from Vaas’s head as possible.

“I don’t want you to stay here!” Vaas yelled. “Don’t you realise that if you stay here with me Jason… If you stay here then Hoyt is going to fucking kill you! Do you think I want a fucking scar on my fucking wrist? If you leave now with your stupid fucking friends then at least you’ll still be out there somewhere. You won’t be dead!”

Jason was stunned speechless as he realised what Vaas had been trying to tell him.

“So, either you leave now with your stupid brother and your stupid friends,” Vaas continued, “or you shoot me right now because there is no fucking way that I’m going to watch Hoyt kill you and then spend the rest of my life with a fucking scar on my wrist.”

Jason looked at Vaas. Vaas looked back, his gaze and his will completely unflinching.

“Vaas,” Jason whispered. “You…”

Vaas would rather die than watch Hoyt kill Jason? That was all sorts of messed up and beautiful and Jason didn’t know how to cope with it except to just throw his arms around Vaas and hold him close, but that was impossible while Vaas was holding Jason’s hands and the gun to his own forehead.

“That’s what all of this is about?” Jason asked him. “You want me to leave because you want to protect me from Hoyt? Let me get this straight. I’m holding a gun to my soulmate’s head because he’d rather send me away or die than fight to keep me here with him? Do you even realise how fucked up that is!?”

The other man stared up at him, clearly just as unsure and confused about the whole situation as Jason was. Jason could feel Vaas’s grip on the gun weakening.

Jason didn’t try to pull the gun away from Vaas. He would be expecting that. Instead he pounced on Vaas, causing them both to fall to the ground so that Jason was soon pinning Vaas down. During the fall their arms ended up over their heads, giving Jason the perfect opportunity to pry the gun from Vaas’s hands.

Jason threw the gun to the other side of the room. Vaas wasn’t going to let it be that easy though, and he tried to scurry after it. Jason chased after him and after a brief scuffle he managed to pin Vaas to the ground again.

“You’re so fucking afraid of losing me!” Jason growled as he pinned Vaas’s hands above his head.

“How weak do you think I am?” Jason yelled. He grabbed Vaas’s wrist and tore at the cloth there, revealing his own name in bright white on Vaas’s skin.

“You see that name there?” he roared at Vaas. “That’s my name on your wrist, so that means I’m supposed to stay with you, no matter how fucked up our lives get.”

Vaas was frozen in place, staring up at Jason as though he couldn’t believe the other man was really there.

“So I don’t care if Hoyt tries to kill me or if I spend the rest of my life locked up in one of his fucking cages. I’m staying here Vaas, and there’s nothing you can to do to make me leave.”

There was a moment of silence, and then, to Jason’s surprise Vaas began to laugh again. There was no joy in it this time, and it brought no warmth to Jason’s stomach, just an awful sinking feeling almost identical to the one that he felt whenever Riley or his mother cried.

“You make no fucking sense Jason,” Vaas told him. “You spend half of your time with me fucking whining because you want to see your friends, and now they’re all safe and you could all sail off in a boat together and live happily ever after, but you, you fucking stupid pretty-boy, you’ve decided that you’re gonna get yourself killed for me. I said you were cruel hermano. I just didn’t know how right I was.”

Jason scoffed at the other man’s complaints.

“Like you make any more sense than I do,” he muttered. “Until now you’ve been sticking to me like a shadow. I’m supposed to believe you’re suddenly willing to let me go?”

“Hey, maybe I’ve just learned how to be a good fucking soulmate, huh?” Vaas muttered. “I want you to be happy Jason. You’ve got a family, and they’re a lot fucking nicer than mine ever was. You could have a real nice job, a real fucking expensive house and a shiny sports car. You wanting to throw all of that away to stay here with me? That’s fucking crazy Jason.”

“Yeah well, I screwed up most of that other stuff anyway,” Jason shrugged, “and I guess I’ve gotten used to crazy.”

Vaas began laughing again. Jason threw an arm around him and leaned in so that he could press his head against his lover’s. After a moment Vaas’s laughter died down and he began pressing his forehead against Jason’s as well, the two of them nuzzling against each other.

“You’re really going to stay?” Vaas whispered as his hands reached up to caress the sides of Jason’s face.


Vaas moved a little so that he was nuzzling into the side of Jason’s neck instead.

“You’re so fucking crazy Jason,” he said again.

Jason chuckled and pulled his soulmate closer.

“I love you, so I must be,” he muttered, not sure what he was going to say until it had already left his lips. It felt good to say those three little words, so he said them again.

“I love you,” he repeated as he placed a kiss on Vaas’s forehead.

Vaas stared up at Jason as though he was the most miraculous and precious thing the other man had ever seen.

“Jason,” Vaas whispered.

The slaver looked stunned. Jason knew it wasn’t fair to expect or wait for Vaas to reciprocate, not after they had both been through so much. Besides, he already knew that Vaas loved him, and it was because of so much more than the words that Vaas had already said to him. Jason pulled back from his soulmate, caressing Vaas’s cheek as he did.

“Wait, Jason…” Vaas called, grabbing Jason’s hand before he could pull away completely. 

Jason turned around to face Vaas once more. Jason soulmate still looked completely stunned, as though the whole world had suddenly fallen out from under him.

He was just about to ask Vaas if he was okay when Vaas lifted a finger to rest on Jason’s lips, effectively silencing him.

“I…” Jason began, about to tell Vaas that he loved him once again, and then maybe that he was sorry that he’d let things get so messed up between the two of them.

“I love you,” Vaas interrupted him, stopping Jason mid-sentence. “God, I love you so fucking much Jason. I love you. Like, really fucking love you, and not just because you’re my fucking soulmate. You’re fucking beautiful and insane and stupid and perfect and… fuck... I don’t fucking know…”

Jason pressed his lips against Vaas’s, partially to stop the torrent of confessions that were spilling from them, but mostly because he felt as though he might fall to pieces if he didn’t kiss Vaas right at that moment. Vaas may not have been able to tell Jason that he loved him with words anymore, but his mouth did a fantastic job of getting the message across without speaking.

When their lips parted they were both clinging to each other as though their very lives depended on it. Jason thought it was very fitting. He felt like he was drowning, or falling. He couldn’t be sure which it was, but he knew then that he didn’t need anything more than he needed to cling to Vaas in that moment.

“You’re so fucking stupid amante,” Vaas muttered. “If you die…”

“I’m not going to die,” Jason replied. “I promise.”

“You’ll have to break that promise one day amante.”

“Well, I’m not going to die any time soon,” Jason said, “and definitely not because of Hoyt.”

“Right,” Vaas said, “so what the fuck are you proposing we do about him, huh? All this lovey-dovey bullshit is… well, it’s better than fucking crack, but that doesn’t change the fact that we’re kind of fucked amante. Hoyt finds out we let your friends go then he’ll kill us both, and I am not fucking dying for them Jason. For you? Yes. But not for your fucking bullshit friends.”


“You know, we could just kill…”

Jason placed his hand over Vaas’s mouth, effectively silencing him again.

“Do not suggest we just kill all of them again,” Jason said. “Or I’m not fucking you for at least a week.”

Vaas looked worried for just a second, but then the look on his face grew mischievous and he licked Jason’s hand. Jason rolled his eyes and removed it from Vaas’s mouth.

“You’d miss me before I missed you,” Vaas proclaimed, “but okay. No suggesting that we kill of your friends.”

“Good,” Jason muttered, leaning into Vaas and resting his head on the other man’s shoulder.

“So, what the fuck are we going to do then?” Vaas said, poking Jason with enough force to actually leave a bruise.

“I don’t know,” Jason admitted. “I kind of don’t care what we do as long as I can stay here with you and my friends can leave here safely.”

“You don’t fucking care,” Vaas muttered, before shaking his head and chuckling at Jason. “Of course you don’t fucking care. Why the fuck did I have to end up with a fucking idiot for a soulmate?”

Jason replied with a non-descript ‘mmph’ and just buried his face further into Vaas’s shoulder.

“You can’t just go and decide to stay here and risk your fucking life without having a fucking plan, amante,” Vaas said. “If you’re gonna stay then we’ve gotta start taking this whole thing a little more seriously.”

“I cannot believe you are telling me to be more serious.”

“You want us to both get killed by Hoyt?”


“Then fucking listen to me. We need a fucking plan.”

“What if we tell Hoyt that we killed all of my friends, and then we just let them leave?”

“Not gonna fucking fly. Hoyt’s already pissed off at you. He’s gonna want proof.”

“Could we stage some photos?”

“Proof Jason. Like we’re talking real fucking corpses. Hoyt isn’t an idiot. He worked out what was going on with us, didn’t he? So we cannot fucking underestimate him.”

Jason was silent for a moment, as he concentrated on the feeling of Vaas’s strong, warm chest against his own, and the sound of the other man breathing. For a moment he wondered if Keith’s corpse alone would be enough, but then he quickly dismissed that thought. Riley would be pissed after all.

“What if we took down Hoyt?” Jason suggested.

Vaas pulled back and looked at Jason like he had just suggested blowing up the entire island.

“Now I know you’ve gone insane,” Vaas said.

“No, I’m serious,” Jason said. “Between you, me and your remaining men I’m sure we could do it. We take Hoyt down, you become ruler of the islands and then we’d never have to worry about him again. We’d be doing the whole world a favour Vaas.”

“Your fucking brother took out most of my men Jason, and in case you haven’t fucking noticed, Hoyt has bigger guns. He has trucks and machine guns and helicopters Jason! We don’t have fucking helicopters.”

“So we play it smart then,” Jason said. “Take his organisation down from the inside. You said that Hoyt was pissed off at me. What if you returned by yourself?”


“What if… What if Citra turned my friends against me by the time you arrived here, and either them or the Rakyat had already killed me, so then you killed all of my friends and Citra? It’s totally believable if you looked at the mess we made here.”

“Jason… amante…”

“Think about it. No-one’s going to expect proof after something as traumatic as that.”

“Hoyt’s going to check my fucking wrist at the very least.”

Jason glanced over to a pot, sitting a few feet away on the ground, in which they could still see the steaming green liquid Citra had claimed could remove their soulbrands.

“No, no, no,” Vaas objected, pulling back from Jason and waving his arms for emphasis. “No fucking way.”

“Come on,” Jason said. “Wouldn’t you rather have me here than some stupid mark on your wrist?”

“Fuck you!” Vaas screamed, jumping to his feet and walking towards the pot.

Jason expected him to maybe kick it over, or do something else to make sure the liquid was completely unusable. Instead he just stood there with his back to Jason, staring at the pot and the strange green liquid inside it.

Jason got to his feet and walked over to join Vaas.

“So, we couldn’t just kill Hoyt, right?” Vaas muttered as Jason drew close. “The fucking privateers he’s got working for him wouldn’t just let me take over, so…”

“So you’d be laying groundwork and sabotaging Hoyt from within his own organisation.”

“And you Jason? Where the fuck would you be?”

“I guess I’d be taking over from Grant,” Jason replied. “Taking down outposts and slowly shutting Hoyt down, except I’d have your pirates helping me rather than Citra and the Rakyat.”

“All right,” Vaas said, nodding slowly, “but you better make sure I still get to see you sometimes or I might just fucking lose it.”

“Of course,” Jason said.

He moved closer to Vaas, wrapped his arms around the other man’s waist from behind, and rested his chin on Vaas’s shoulder. Vaas’s hands came to rest on top of Jason’s own, keeping them in place. They both stood there for a moment, staring at the pot of liquid as though it somehow held all the answers.

“Okay,” Vaas said after a moment. “Let’s fucking get this over with.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah, yeah. You never know. It might fucking grow back, right?”

Jason could tell Vaas was still worried, and was doing a terrible job of hiding it.

“As long as it’s you doing it,” Vaas continued to speak as they separated and Jason leaned down to pick up the pot, “and you better not fucking touch the one on your wrist, you fucking hear me?”

“Never,” Jason assured him. “It’s not going anywhere. To be honest, I’m kind of pissed off that we have to do this too, but I guess it’s important.”

He glanced around, searching for some sort of cloth to dip in the liquid. His eyes fixed on one of the dead Rakyat, and he moved over to the dead man, crouched down and grabbed the faded bandana from around his forehead.

“After this is all over I might just tattoo my name on your chest where everyone can see it,” Jason suggested. “Just in case anyone forgets who you belong to.”

Vaas had been pacing backwards and forwards in front of him. He scoffed at Jason’s suggestion, and then froze as he spotted the pot and cloth in Jason’s hands. He looked terrified.

“Are you going to be all right?” Jason asked him.

“Yeah, sure,” Vaas said, although Jason could tell that he was bluffing and acting confident even though he was anything but. “This is totally going to fucking hurt though, right? Give me a second.”

Vaas rummaged around in his pockets and eventually one of his hands emerged holding a packet containing a few familiar looking tablets. Even the sight of them still made Jason feel a little queasy.

“Not for now amante,” Vaas said, shaking the ketamine in Jason’s direction. “Don’t want us fucking this up, but once we’re done, I’m gonna need this. Hold onto it for me, okay?”

Jason stared at the packet for a moment, but then nodded and placed it in his own pants pocket for safekeeping. He couldn’t say that he was particularly happy with Vaas’s habit, or his particular choice of drugs, but he knew from experience how much this was going to hurt, and of how badly the concept of what they were doing would effect Vaas. If the ketamine was what Vaas needed to get through this, then who the hell was Jason to deny it to him?

Vaas was fidgeting even more than was normal for him, and Jason knew that he was still a long way from being content or relaxed.

“Vaas,” Jason called softly. Vaas’s eyes immediately glanced up to look into his own.

“Just remember,” Jason began. “No matter what happens, I’m still yours, and you’re still mine. I love you Vaas.”

“I love you Jason.”

As they spoke Jason had been readying the cloth. He took a moment to place the pot on the ground, and then, without unlocking his eyes from Vaas’s he grabbed his soulmate’s hand in his own and gently pressed the wet part of the cloth to Vaas’s soulbrand.

Vaas immediately screamed and pulled back from Jason.

“Oh fuck! Fuck, fuck, fuck. That fucking hurts!”

Jason let Vaas go for a moment, knowing that it would have to be Vaas that set the pace for this. Some of the skin on Vaas’s wrist had already turned into an angry red scar that looked painful, and was so reminiscent of the scars on Daisy and Oliver’s wrists that it was frightening.

Vaas shook his hand as though he might be able to shake the pain off, and then gave it to Jason once again, palm up. This time when Jason brought the cloth up his soulmate’s eyes clenched shut and he looked away, as though not seeing the act could somehow make it less real, or hurt less.

Jason took a deep breath, held Vaas’s hand in his own and pressed the cloth down again, trying to take as much of the soulbrand off in one go as possible, hoping to spare Vaas at least a little pain.

Vaas’s arm was shaking by the time he pulled back again. Most of his soulbrand had been burned away, with only patches of the ‘J’ and ‘n’ left on Vaas’s skin.

Jason gave Vaas another moment to recover. The other man was unusually pale, and a small part of Jason was beginning to hate himself for coming up with this idea.

“We’re almost done Vaas,” Jason tried to assure his soulmate.

“I know!” Vaas snapped, shaking his head at Jason. “I fucking know. Fuck this hurts. I don’t want to look at it.”

“You don’t have to,” Jason told him, reaching out with his empty hand to cup the side of Vaas’s face. “I’m so sorry for doing this to you Vaas. We’re almost done though. You ready?”

Vaas glanced down at the cloth in Jason’s hand for a moment, then he nodded at Jason and thrust his hand towards the other man.

“Fucking get it over with,” Vaas told him.

Jason pressed the cloth against Vaas’s skin again. Vaas let out a sound somewhere between a moan and a scream, followed by a whimper that seemed far too pathetic a noise to be coming from the other man’s throat. Jason removed the final few patches of his own name from Vaas’s wrist and then dropped the damp cloth on the ground, more than a little relieved to be done with it.

His fingertips were beginning to sting from where they had come in contact with the solution, and looking at Vaas’s scarred wrist was disturbing; like looking into a future in which he himself was already dead. He’d never heard of this solution before Citra had tried to use it on him, and had no idea how it worked, but he really did hope that Vaas’s soulbrand would grow back eventually.

After a moment’s searching around the temple Jason found a basin of water, which he used to wash his own hands, and then, with the help of another rag taken from one of the dead Rakyat, the scar on Vaas’s wrist. The other man hadn’t moved an inch from where he had stood while Jason applied the solution and then the wet cloth, and continued to stare at his wrist with a very worried look on his face.

“It’s not fucking right,” he told Jason. “This is so fucked up amante. You’re right there, but your name isn’t on me where it should be.”

Vaas looked so worried and so heart-broken that Jason felt his own heart break a little in response. He moved towards Vaas, slipping his hand into the packet of ketamine in his pocket as he moved. He grabbed one of the pills and slipped it between his own lips, leaned toward Vaas and deposited the ketamine into his soulmate’s mouth with a kiss.

He could taste the drug in his own mouth as Vaas kissed back. On one hand he didn’t really want to consume enough of the ketamine that he would get high off it as well, but on the other hand he had a very needy, slightly traumatised, and devastatingly attractive soulmate kissing him, so he let the kiss continue for a few seconds longer than it probably should have, and when they parted he could feel a slight tingle in his brain that went beyond the usual high he got when kissing Vaas.

Vaas’s eyes were slowly closing as he savoured the effects of the ketamine. Jason didn’t know whether or not one pill would be enough for Vaas, so he passed the rest of the packet to his soulmate.

“Thank you Jason,” Vaas murmured as he slowly lowered himself to the ground.

Jason leaned forward and pressed a kiss to Vaas’s forehead.

“Look after yourself,” Jason told him. “I don’t want you in pain, but you shouldn’t take too much either, okay?”

Jason went to leave and head back towards his friends, but Vaas reached out, grabbing his trousers and stopping Jason in his tracks.

“Don’t go…” he murmured.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Jason assured him. Part of him had known the whole time that Vaas didn’t really want him to leave, and he sighed loudly at his soulmate. He dropped down to Vaas’s level again and pressed another kiss to his forehead. Vaas’s eyes fluttered closed and he leaned into Jason.

“I’ll just be outside with my friends,” Jason told him. “They don’t know that I’m staying here with you just yet, so I need to tell them, okay? You can join us whenever you’re ready. I promise I’m not going anywhere.”

Vaas looked down at the packet of ketamine in his hands and then back up at Jason. He nodded slowly and Jason left the inner section of the temple.

That had certainly been a lot more intense than Jason had been expecting. He had already known that he and Vaas would have some difficult times ahead of them, but now they were actually planning to take down Hoyt and Jason didn’t have any real idea of where they should start. They needed help, and Jason wasn’t sure that Vaas’s remaining pirates would be enough, even if they all agreed to help out in the first place.

Keith was sitting in the hallway leading to the front of the temple, and he nodded at Jason as he approached.

“Hey Jason,” Keith said. “You uh… you okay?”

“Sure,” Jason said. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Why wouldn’t you…? What the fuck Jason? You do realise the insane amount of screaming you and Vaas were doing, right?”

“You heard that?” Jason asked, hoping that maybe he wouldn’t have to go through the trouble of telling Riley and his friends that he was staying after all.

“We heard the screaming. We couldn’t tell what you were screaming about, but I can guess.” Keith rubbed his neck, looking a little embarrassed as he did so. “Riley’s pretty worried man.”

“So, he’s your soulmate. Talk to him,” Jason said, not feeling in a particularly charitable mood where the other man was concerned.

“I did,” Keith said. “I just thought you should know that he’s still pretty shaken up is all. What with you know, killing that woman, and then you two...  There was seriously a lot of screaming. You sure you’re both okay?”

“Where is he?” Jason asked. Keith gestured towards one of the smaller huts.

“Riley and Daisy are talking with that guy, Citra’s servant or bodyguard or whatever the hell he is. Just be gentle with him okay? Kid’s had a rough day.”

Jason felt like snapping at Keith. Since when had he really started to care about Riley, or any of them for that matter? Hell, he had been seconds away from selling them all out to Citra earlier.

“Don’t tell me how to deal with my own brother,” Jason growled at the other man.

“I’m not,” Keith growled. “I’m politely asking you to be nice to my god damn soulmate. For fuck’s sake Jason. You think you’re the only one that’s going through a tough time right now? Fuck you.”

Keith got to his feet and stormed off to the front of the temple. For a moment Jason considered following him, but then he began to wonder if maybe Keith had a point.

He made his way over to the room that they were holding Dennis in. Daisy and Riley were inside talking to their captive, just as Keith had said, and Liza was in there as well.

Jason lurked in the doorway for a moment, just watching the others as they talked to Citra’s follower. He didn’t like how friendly they were being with Dennis, but he tried not to think about it. They needed friends after all, even if Jason wasn’t happy to potentially count Citra’s lackey among them.

Riley spotted Jason and smiled at him. Jason could tell that his little brother was just as anxious and worried as Keith had indicated, but he smiled back anyway. He might only have a few more hours with his brother if it all went according to plan, so he was damn well going to do his best to make sure they were reasonably good hours.

“Hey Riley,” Jason called softly. “Do you think you could round up the others? I need to talk to everyone.”

Riley nodded slowly and got to his feet, but Jason could see that his words had made Riley worry even more. He wondered if Riley had guessed what Jason was about to tell them. He wouldn’t be surprised. Riley had always been pretty switched on.

“Hi Jason,” Daisy greeted him. “How did it all go?”

“It got a little crazy there for a moment,” Jason admitted, “but I think we’re both going to be fine. How are you guys?”

“Fine,” Daisy replied, shrugging as she did.

“Dennis was just telling us that he used to live in America as well,” Liza added.

“Was he?” Jason murmured. His mind was still working, trying to figure out any possible advantage that he and Vaas might be able to gain over Hoyt, and Liza’s comment had just triggered an idea.

It might be nothing. It was just a comment made by someone that Jason didn’t really trust, and might not actually help them at all, but it was something, and Jason knew that he had to follow it up at the very least.

He approached the tied up man and leaned down so that he was looking Dennis in the eye.

“Dennis, wasn’t it?” Jason began. “I wonder if you’ve heard of another American living somewhere on the island. Not one of Hoyt’s privateers; another man operating independently.”

Dennis’s eyes narrowed.

“There is no such man,” he told Jason. “I would have heard.”

“I happen to know that there is,” Jason said, standing up to his full height and cracking his knuckles in front of the other man. “So you’d better start talking.”

“Jason…” a quiet voice called out behind him.

It was Daisy that had spoken, but both she and Liza were looking between Jason and their unwilling guest with undisguised worry on their faces.

Jason was just about to explain that it was an empty threat when Riley arrived back in the room, Keith and Ollie in tow.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Riley asked Jason, clearly worried by his older brother’s behaviour.

“Just getting info,” Jason began to explain, but none of the others seemed comforted by this piece of information. “You know what? It doesn’t matter. You’re all here now, right?”

“Yeah,” Keith replied. “We are. Now, what did you want to tell us?”

Jason took a deep breath. This was the part he had been dreading.

"I'm staying with Vaas," he told them.

They all stared at him. He tried to meet their eyes, but it was too hard and he ended up hanging his head, looking at the stone floor of the temple instead.

"I thought you were going to say goodbye to him," Daisy said.

"Did he convince you to stay?" Liza asked quietly, her voice breaking a little. She couldn't meet Jason's eyes any more than he could meet hers.

"No, he didn't need to convince me," he told Liza. "I knew that I was going to stay even before we arrived here at the temple."

"So you're telling us that the screaming wasn't because Vaas didn't want you to leave?" Keith asked, his eyes narrowing as he looked at Jason.

"We had some things that we needed to work out," Jason said. "Admittedly things got a little more intense than I was expecting, but I think we've got it all sorted out now. Look, I'm sorry guys. I know that you wanted me to go back to California with you, but I can't. Vaas needs me here."

Riley let out a loud sigh. When Jason turned to face him his younger brother sent him another forced smile.

"It's okay," Riley said. "I get it. I was kind of expecting this actually."

"You should all get out of here while you can," Jason said. "Between the Rakyat and Hoyt's privateers there are a lot of people on this island that want us all dead. Vaas and I might have to deal with them, but there's no reason you guys should have to worry about it too."

There was the sound of someone quite loudly and deliberately clearing their throat at the entrance to the room. Vaas was standing there and he still looked pretty pale.

"Hello," he said, looking between Jason and the others, "I just thought I'd come and join you motherfuckers seeing as you all seem to be so cosy in here."

Jason waved him in.

"So, Jason's told you that he's being a fucking idiot and staying here, right?"

Daisy looked like she was about to say something, but then she and several other members of the group saw the scar on Vaas's wrist and their eyes widened.

"What the fuck?"

It was Ollie that had said it, but Jason had a feeling they were all thinking it.

“Vaas and I are going to take down Hoyt,” Jason told them. “Part of our plan involves Hoyt thinking I’m dead, hence the scar.”

“Turns out my sister’s fucking ramblings were good for something,” Vaas said, apparently addressing the whole group, even though he stared at his wrist as he spoke. “Jason’s name is fucking gone. It’s still weirding me out amante.”

“Wait, the two of you are going to try and take down Hoyt’s entire operation?” Daisy asked. “That’s going to be a little dangerous, isn’t it?”

“More than a little,” Jason admitted. “Which is why you guys need to get out of here as soon as possible.”

The room fell into silence for a moment as Jason’s friends looked backwards and forwards at each other.

“No,” Riley said, breaking the silence. “I don’t think I want to go anywhere just yet.”

“Riley…” Jason began, but his younger brother was having none of it.

“If the two of you are going to risk your lives to take Hoyt down then I am not leaving until I know you’re going to be all right.”

“Riley, you don’t have to do this,” Jason told him.

Riley scoffed.

“And you’re not looking at having to explain to Mom why I just took off and abandoned the two of you. Nope, I’m not going anywhere yet.”

“Well, I guess I’m staying too then,” Keith added.

“Count me in too,” Ollie said. “I kinda want to get revenge for Vincent, you know? Not on you Vaas. Not on you, just you know, in general.”

“Well, you boys wouldn’t last a day without me,” Daisy added.

“And I’m not crazy enough to think I could make it back to America by myself,” Liza said. “So I guess I’m staying too.”

Liza sounded more resigned and disappointed to be staying than anything else, but the rest of them were all staring at Jason and Vaas as though daring them to object.

“You guys are serious about this, aren’t you?” Jason asked them.

Riley and Daisy nodded emphatically.

“Well, I guess we better work out what we’re going to do with you all,” Jason told them. “You guys need to make sure that you’ve got somewhere to hide. If Hoyt and his men find out that you’re all still alive then we’re fucked.”

“We could go back to Doctor Earnhardt’s,” Daisy suggested.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Jason said. “They completely trashed his house, and the Rakyat know about the cave.”

“Can we bring Doctor Earnhardt here then?” Daisy said. “I’m pretty worried about him and it would be good to have a doctor handy. We should be able to defend this place, right?”

“The Rakyat will want to take it back,” Jason said. “Especially while we’re holding Dennis captive.”

“Let them fucking try,” Vaas said. “I’ll make sure a couple of my men keep an eye on this place. I need you to stay safe Jason, and this is as good a fucking place as any.”

“All right,” Jason said with a shrug. “If that’s what everyone wants then I guess this is our new base.”

“Right, so what do we do first?” Riley asked.

“You should all get settled in here,” Jason told them. “Work out some sort of rotation for guarding the place, clean it up a bit and make sure there aren’t any more of the Rakyat hanging around.”

“And you?” Daisy asked.

“Well, I was hoping to get in contact with someone that might be able to help us. I know they’re somewhere on the Rook Islands, and I was hoping that our friend Dennis here would point me in the right direction.”

Jason slowly turned around to face Dennis again.

“The problem is, it doesn’t seem like he wants to talk.”

“What the fuck are you talking about Jason?” Vaas asked him.

“Someone told me that there’s another American hiding somewhere on the islands.”

“I have no idea who you could be fucking talking about,” Vaas said.

“Dennis didn’t either,” Jason said. “Whoever this guy is he’s hidden himself well. We might not be able to track him down without a little bit of help.”

Jason thought about it further for a moment before turning to face his soulmate.

“Vaas, do you know of a privateer within Hoyt’s organisation named Sam?”

Chapter Text

Vaas stormed into Hoyt’s office, slamming the door open and letting it swing shut behind him. Hoyt had been on a call, but when Vaas entered he quickly muttered a farewell to whoever was on the other side and turned all of his attention to the pirate leader.

He looked Vaas up and down, and Vaas could see the careful appraisal on his face shift to surprise as he saw the scar on Vaas’s wrist.

That’s right you motherfucker, Vaas thought. That scar fucking hurts, so you better look at it. It’s all your fucking fault that we had to do that. Your fucking fault that I don’t have Jason’s name there anymore.

“Vaas!” Hoyt greeted him, arms flying up and his demeanour immediately changing to overly, almost inappropriately pleased.

It was so fucking false and Vaas found himself wondering how he had ever fallen for Hoyt’s bullshit.

“I’m so happy to see you.”

“Fuck you boss,” Vaas replied before he could stop himself.

Hoyt smiled and on his desk his two hands locked together, fingers intertwining so tightly that Vaas could see the other man’s knuckles go white.

“I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that,” Hoyt told him. “Considering what you’re probably going through I think that’s only fair. So the others; Jason Brody’s brother and friends…”

“Dead,” Vaas muttered. “My sister too.”

“Good. That’s good. Cigar?”

Vaas shook his head.

“Well, there won’t be anything to distract you now, will there?” Hoyt said as he lit his own cigar.

Vaas shrugged.

“I don’t need to hear all the gruesome details,” Hoyt continued, “but considering you’re still working for me and a good boss always keeps track of how his men are doing, there is one thing I need to know.”

Hoyt’s eyes fixed on him. It was like they were staring into his soul, and for a second Vaas worried that Hoyt had seen through his lies. Fuck, he never had been able to outbluff Hoyt.

“Jason Brody,” Hoyt began. “Did you kill him?”

“No, I did not fucking kill Jason!” Vaas roared. “Do I look like fucking Bambi Hughes to you? Do you think I’m that fucking crazy, you motherfucking asshole!?”

Vaas had jumped to his feet and slammed his hands down on the desk in front of Hoyt without even meaning to. That was worrying, but more worrying than that was the fact that Hoyt did not appear startled, or even the slightest bit nervous.

“I think you are a man that has just been through a very confusing and difficult time,” Hoyt said. “But that’s over now Vaas. We can get back to what matters. Snow White is gone, Jason Brody is gone, and with your sister gone too the fucking natives shouldn’t be much of a problem anymore. It’s time to make some money Vaas; time to let everyone know that we are back in control.”

Hoyt had prattled on for another two hours, making plans and giving Vaas so many instructions that he felt like his head was going to burst. He had kept mentioning Jason too, acting like Vaas should see his death as a good thing, and every time he did Vaas had to concentrate really hard to stop himself from attacking Hoyt right then and there.

He’d mentioned it so many times that it had begun to eat at Vaas. He wanted to see Jason again, or at least look at his wrist and see Jason’s name there, see the proof that this was all just a lie and Jason really was still alive, but he knew that wasn’t possible.

Instead he made his way around the base, looking for the man Jason had described; bald head, blonde beard and several tattoos, including one of a spider on his neck. It should have been easy, only Hoyt had a lot of privateers under his command, and they were spread out over the entire South Island and now some of the North as well.

Vaas hated the South island. It was so barren, with so many roads and so much open space. He wanted to get back to the lush jungle of the north, to vines and rainforest and tigers and Jason.

Eventually he just started asking after the illusive Sam, at first politely and then at gunpoint when he noticed the amount of reluctance and downcast eyes he was getting from many of the privateers. Did so many of Hoyt’s men feel some sort of loyalty to this Sam?

No, that wasn’t loyalty. That was fear.

Whoever this Sam was, Hoyt’s men were even more afraid of him than they were of Vaas. Vaas started to wonder how the fuck Hoyt ended up with so many fucking pussies working for him.

After a while he found one man that pointed him in the direction of the Crazy Cock bar, a shithole in Thurston Town for which the primary and only selling point was that it had alcohol for sale. Even this man had only spoken because he seemed to be just as afraid of Vaas he was of the elusive Sam. As Vaas went to leave, the privateer begged him not to tell Sam that he had talked. Vaas hadn’t planned on saying anything, but he thought that maybe he would tell Sam now, just to fuck with the guy.

As Vaas entered the Crazy Cock bar the bartender and few patrons inside all turned to stare at him. Vaas glared at each of them until they looked away, and stormed over to the bar.

“Give me a fucking drink,” he told the bartender. “Something stronger than fucking beer. Whatever’s strongest.”

The man behind the counter nervously poured him a shot of tequila. Vaas threw it back, slammed the empty shot glass down and gestured for another. As the bartender poured the second shot Vaas took the opportunity to look around at the few other people in the bar. None of them fit the description that Jason had given him.

He decided to keep his place at the bar and wait to see if this Sam person showed up. Getting drunk would probably help with the story that he had told Hoyt, although he was pretty sure that if Jason had actually died then he would have been turning to something a lot harder than the cheap as shit tequila that the bartender was serving him.

Vaas had just thrown back his third shot of tequila when a door on the other side of the small bar was pushed open and several men wearing the uniform of Hoyt’s privateers emerged from a back room that Vaas hadn’t even known was there.

He watched them openly, knowing that most of Hoyt’s men weren’t stupid enough to get angry at him, even if his staring was really pissing them off. Vaas grinned as he spotted a man with a blonde beard and tattoos. That had to be Sam. He looked vaguely familiar, but then again one privateer was very much like any other to Vaas. Until this moment they had mostly all been some variety of either completely forgettable or a pain in Vaas’s backside. Vaas was hoping that Sam wouldn’t prove to be either of those, but you never knew.

He waited until the other man had left the bar before he got up and began to follow him. The bartender called out to him, probably to ask Vaas to pay for the tequila, but then appeared to think better of it and immediately shut up.

Vaas followed probably-Sam out into a back alley. The privateer took another two steps and then stopped. Vaas stopped as well, and wasn’t really surprised when probably-Sam turned around to face him.

“Hello Vaas,” the man said. German accent. Yeah. That had to make him Sam.

“Hello hermano,” Vaas replied. “You’re Sam? You better be Sam or I’m gonna be totally fucking pissed, both with you and the piece of shit that sent me here.”

“I am,” Sam continued. Vaas noticed the other man take a quick glance at Vaas’s scarred wrist. Vaas frowned. What the fuck did the other man think he was doing, looking at Vaas’s wrist like that? Like he was sorry. Like he was fucking sad.

“Why are you following me?” Sam asked him.

“I am following you because a very good friend of mine told me you’d help him,” Vaas said. “That better still be true.”

Sam paused for a moment to consider what Vaas had just said.

“Jason?” Sam said, his face immediately brightening. “Schieβe!”

Vaas grabbed the other man and shoved him up against the wall. He grabbed his pistol and shoved it against Sam’s face, so hard that it would leave a mark.

“Don’t you say that fucking name,” Vaas hissed. “Jason is dead.”

“So I heard, but that is who you mean, ja? I am not in the habit of going around and just offering my help to anyone, so it’s either Jason or someone else that I can hardly imagine you associating with.”

Vaas pushed the gun into the soft skin on the man’s cheek.

“You better not breath a word about Jason to anyone else, you fucking hear me?” he threatened Sam.

Vaas froze as he felt something cold and sharp pressing against his stomach. He looked down to discover Sam had drawn a knife, and it was currently pointed at Vaas’s stomach, pressing through the red fabric there and brushing against the skin beneath with just enough force to leave a small cut.

“Do not worry,” Sam told him. “I will not say a word as long as you don’t. I said that I would help your Jason, and I meant it. Now, what is it that he wanted?”

“You told him that there’s another American somewhere on this fucking island, right?”

“Ja, I did,” Sam’s eyes narrowed as he looked at Vaas.

“That is fucking great news hermano, because Jason and I need to talk to him.”

“No,” Sam said.

“Wait, what the fuck did you say to me? You said that you’d help and then you tell me that Jason and I can’t go and see this friend of yours after all?”

“Jason can go,” Sam told him, after a moment’s pause, “but not you. At least not until we are both sure of your intentions.”

“Sure, sure, fine. Whatever. So, you tell me where this guy is and I pass the info onto Jason, alright? Promise I won’t go near your fucking soulmate or whoever the fuck this guy is.”

“No. I will meet with Jason and tell him myself.”

“No you fucking won’t hermano,” Vaas growled. He had his knife in his hand and was pointing it at Sam before he could stop himself.

“You see? You don’t trust me with your soulmate any more than I trust you with mine. It appears we are at a stalemate Vaas.”

“Fuck you.”

Sam sighed and rolled his eyes.

“I can promise you that I will not do anything to hurt your Jason,” Sam told him. “After all, my soulmate would be very annoyed if I let anything happen to any young American on this island, and that most definitely includes Jason Brody.”

Sam stuck his hand out, offering it for Vaas to shake. Vaas just looked down at it and pointedly refused to take it. Sam waited for several more seconds, then sighed again and lowered his hand.

“Should we organise this meeting or should I go back to being a privateer and pretend that this conversation never took place?”

Vaas contemplated telling Sam to go fuck himself for a moment, but then he thought about how disappointed Jason might be if he failed to see this through.

“Fine,” he told Sam. “Fucking fine. You can meet with Jason, but I swear to god, if you fucking lay one fucking hand on Jason’s head then so help me hermano, I cannot be held responsible for what I will do to you.”

Jason checked the bullets in his pistol for what was probably the tenth time in as many minutes, before giving the nearby area another scan, hoping that he would soon see the man he was supposed to be meeting with.

Vaas had given Jason all the information he needed for the meeting with Sam, but he’d also told Jason not to turn his back on the privateer. He hadn’t said why Jason shouldn’t trust Sam, just that he shouldn’t. Jason couldn’t help but wonder if Vaas was as much to blame for any mistrust that had grown between the privateer and pirate as Sam was.

He heard someone approaching, and pressed himself against the wall of the stony cave in which they were supposed to be meeting. He peeked around the corner, and saw Sam just outside of the cave. He gripped the gun tighter, knowing that he wouldn’t have completely trusted Sam even if Vaas hadn’t warned him to begin with.

He waited until Sam had just stepped into the cave and stepped out of the shadows, gun at the ready.

“Don’t move,” Jason growled, pressing the pistol against the side of the other man’s head. “You call for help and I shoot. You try to attack me and I shoot. You try to run…”

“And you shoot, ja?” Sam finished for him. “Don’t worry. I think I got that part.”


“It is good to see you again Jason,” Sam said. “Do not worry. The gun is not necessary.”

“In the past week I’ve had both my brother and my soulmate point a weapon at me. Forgive me if I don’t trust one of Hoyt’s men.”

Sam shrugged.

“Fair enough,” Sam said. “You know, you and your soulmate have a very similar way of trying to make friends with someone.”

“I’m sure we do,” Jason growled, “but that’s none of your business. You said that you and your partner would be willing to help me,” Jason said. “Is that still true?”

“I don’t see why not,” Sam said, shrugging as he did. “Of course, that depends on what it is you want our help with.”

Jason hesitated for a moment, not sure that he should trust Sam with the truth. There would be very little point in this whole venture if he backed down now though, so he decided to risk it.

“Vaas and I are going to take down Hoyt,” Jason told him.

“Schieβe,” Sam swore, “you cannot be serious.”

“We’re serious,” Jason assured him, “but we’re going to need help if we want this to work. You told me that you and your American partner would be willing to help us.”

“You want to meet with him, ja?” Sam said.

Sam looked uncomfortable with that idea, but after a few seconds of hesitation, during which Jason could see his thoughts flickering backwards and forwards on his face as though the man was an open book, he nodded and waved at Jason.

“All right,” Sam said. “I will do it ja? But you must understand that he is very wary of strangers. He will find it very hard to trust you, especially if you reveal your connection to Vaas.”

“Okay. No sudden movements. Noted.”

Sam frowned at Jason as he continued.

“And this is up to him also. If he does not want to do this then I also want no part in it. I won’t tell Hoyt about your plans, but I will not help you anymore either, and I won’t cover for you or Vaas if this goes badly.”

“Seems fair enough.”

Sam still didn’t look completely comfortable with their agreement, but after a moment he sighed and relented.

“You will need to go to Badtown, towards the West of the Northern island,” he told Jason.

“I know of it.”

“There is a bar there. It is little more than a shack, and the food is horrible, but it has good bourbon. Go there and whistle the Star Spangled Banner. It is our code. If he is there he will know that I sent you.”

“Okay,” Jason said as he holstered his gun and offered Sam a hand up off the ground. “Sounds easy enough. What’s his name?”

“Willis Huntley,” Sam said. “Look, I am trusting you an awful lot with this.”

“And I’m trusting you a lot by telling you what Vaas and I are planning.”

“So, that’s good, ja? We trust each other, like friends.”

Jason shrugged.

“I guess. Like friends,” he agreed.

“Good,” Sam said.

Jason was just about to leave when Sam spoke once more.

“Oh, and one more thing,” he said. “How did Vaas put it? You lay one hand on Willis’s head then I cannot be held responsible for what I do to you.”

“Vaas said that about me?” Jason said, raising an eyebrow as he thought he recognised Vaas’s very particular mixture of love and violence in Sam’s words.

“Ja, ja,” Sam said, flashing a smile at Jason. “It is sweet that you realised that, but that does not stop me from meaning it too, you understand?”

Jason understood.

Whistling the Star-Spangled Banner? Good lord Jason felt conspicuous. He supposed it was an affective signal. He couldn’t imagine any of the other men in the ramshackle building that served as Badtown’s only bar suddenly coming out with a few bars of it. Then again, Sam could have just told him to look for the only other white man in Badtown and that would have worked just as well.

Jason stood out like a sore thumb. He was glad for the red singlet he was still wearing. It made a lot of the locals leave him alone without any further questions, except for the Badtown prostitutes, who called out to him, at least until he sent each one of them a dirty look that let them know he was in no way interested in what they had to sell.

He was glad too for the band of cloth he had wrapped around his wrist. A white soulbrand would have stood out among the despair and squalor here, even if he hadn’t had Vaas’s name there.

As soon as Willis walked into the building, wearing dark glasses a white suit, both of which made him stand out even more than Jason, he knew he had found his man. Jason broke into the required tune.

Willis glanced over his shoulder. There was a brief moment in which Willis may or may not have gestured for Jason to follow him; it was too subtle for Jason to tell for sure; and then they were both walking out of the building before Willis had even bought anything.

That wasn’t subtle. That really wasn’t subtle, and Jason found himself wondering how Sam and Willis had managed to keep us this act for so long without being caught.

He followed Willis through the muddy streets of Badtown. He didn’t look back at Jason once, but he had to know that he was being followed, didn’t he?

Willis finally entered an old house on the outskirts of Badtown. Jason waited a couple of moments before slipping inside after him.

It was smaller inside than Jason had expected. Most of the house was blocked off by a couple of walls, made with the same shoddy wooden construction as the outside.

Willis was nowhere to be seen, except in one photo on the wall, where a younger Willis and Sam had their arms thrown around each other’s shoulders. At least, Jason guessed that it was Sam. Willis hadn’t changed much, but Sam looked a hell of a lot different without the beard and tattoos.

As soon as the door closed a voice came bursting through a loudspeaker in one corner of the room.

“All right son. No sudden moves. There’s a live bomb strapped to that table and if you say anything I don’t like then I detonate it.”

“Holy shit!”

Well that explained the strange jumble of metal and wires beneath the table. Jason silently cursed Vaas and Sam. Sam had suggested that Jason would need to be careful, but couldn’t he have warned Jason that his soulmate was completely fucking insane?

“You were whistling my tune back there but you’re wearing Vaas’s colours. That sends a bit of a mixed message, don’t you think?”

Willis, if that was who the voice belonged to, was speaking so quickly that Jason was having trouble processing what he was saying, and before Jason could say anything to defend himself Willis had continued his questioning.

“So what is it son? Anarchy or order? Are you a pirate playing at being a patriot or a patriot disguised as a pirate? Who sent you? May I remind you that my finger is on the trigger for that bomb and it’s feeling awfully itchy.”

“Sam. Sam sent me.”

“Pardon my French son, but that is a god damn lie if ever I heard one. I haven’t heard from Sam for months and you expect me to believe that he’d send a message with one of Vaas’s men? If you got the information you needed to find me by torturing him then by God in heaven I will find a more fitting death for you than the quick firey explosion that awaits you if I don’t like your next answer.”

This was going to hell awfully quickly.

“I didn’t torture Sam,” Jason said, hoping that Willis would believe him. “I… I may have put a gun to his head once, but that was to protect myself. He’s fine. He said that you’d help me.”

“And just why would I want to do that?”

“Because I’m going to take down Hoyt.”

Willis went silent. Jason heard a crackle and a thump, and then the light that had been blinking on the bomb in front of him disappeared. On the other side of the room a hidden door slid open, revealing a set of stairs leading down into a darker room below.

Jason followed them, raising his hands as he approached the bottom. The revealing of the stairs was probably a good thing. Probably.

When he reached the bottom of the stairs he found a room full of recording equipment, maps and charts, weapons, and Willis, still wearing the dark glasses and white suit that he had in the bar.

Willis watched him closely for a few seconds, before gesturing for him to lower his arms.

“You’re Jason Brody,” he said.

Jason nodded.

“I made contact with your brother Grant,” Willis told him. “Never met him properly, but he seemed like a good man. I heard Hoyt killed him.”

“He sort of did. I’m pretty sure Sam pulled the trigger, but it was definitely Hoyt commanding him.”

“Shame about that. I know that Sam hates killing fellow Americans, and Grant Brody really did seem like a decent kid. Sorry about that welcome as well, but you can’t be too careful, and you don’t look a thing like the photos attached to the profile I have of you. Why are you dressed like one of Vaas’s men? Never mind. That can wait. So, you think you’re going to take down Hoyt?”


“Wrong. You want to take down Hoyt. What you’re going to do is end up dead. You, and whoever else you’ve convinced to help you with this foolhardy venture.”

“You seem awfully pessimistic about this.”

“That’s because it can’t be done. Even with all the pirates your brother took out there’s still way too many men standing between you and Hoyt.”

“Even if I’ve got someone within his organisation. Someone close to him that can take over once he’s gone?”

“If you’re talking about Sam then the answer’s still no. Besides, Sam’s not going to take over anything. Whether anyone actually manages to take Hoyt down or not, the two of us are about to blow this popsicle stand and head to Russia.”

“I’m not talking about Sam.”

Jason leaned forward on the table and tore off the piece of fabric he had used to cover his soulbrand, allowing Willis to see Vaas’s name there.

“God almighty,” Willis breathed. “You’ve got that psycho’s name on your arm? Pardon my French son, but how the hell do you deal with finding out something like that? How do you deal with having him as a soulmate at all?”

“It doesn’t matter to you,” Jason growled. “All you need to know is that we make it work. So, does this change your mind?”

Willis paused for a moment and looked at Jason as though he was sizing the younger man up.

“Well, it certainly explains a few things,” he admitted, “and while having Vaas and his pirates on your side does give you a definite advantage, I’m not sure that having him in charge of these islands would be much better than Hoyt. Hoyt may be cruel and a criminal of monumental proportions, but your soulmate is an unpredictable psychopath.”

Jason grit his teeth together. He knew that what Willis was saying was true, but that didn’t make it any easier to hear, or reduce how badly Jason wanted to hit Willis for badmouthing his soulmate. Instead he took a deep breath and tried reasoning with Willis.

“Hoyt doesn’t have me guiding him,” Jason told Willis. “Vaas does.”

“So you’re going to turn the biggest slavery ring in the South Pacific into a goodwill organisation?”

“Not exactly. I was thinking we cut out the slavery and just focus on the drugs, plus we’d be more willing to co-operate with certain authorities than I’m sure Hoyt ever was.”

“Well, you’ve obviously given some of this the thought it warrants, but you know that most of Hoyt’s mercenaries would never follow a madman like Vaas, right?”

“I know,” Jason said. “Which is why we’re going to remove them from the equation, one way or another.”

“You know,” Willis said, pausing and looking around the room as though he was having to think very hard about something, “they would never follow Vaas, but they might just follow Snow White.”

“Snow White was my brother Grant,” Jason told Willis, “and you already know he’s dead.”

“Do I?” Willis said, grinning almost devilishly at Jason. “The locals tell a very different story Jason. Your brother may have started the legend, but I think you’ve unwittingly kept it going.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The locals think that Snow White is still alive,” Willis told him, “and they say that it was Snow White that killed Bambi Hughes, better known as Buck, that it was Snow White who took down Citra and the Rakyat, and that Snow White has come to kill every man, woman and child on the islands.”

“That’s… that’s ridiculous,” Jason replied. “Grant didn’t do any of those things. That was all me.”

“You see?” Willis said. “I also heard a rumour that Snow White tried to kill Vaas but it didn’t take. Something about Vaas being a demon in human form, which by the way, I’ve also heard about Snow White. I’m assuming anything to do with trying to kill Vaas was actually based on Grant?”

“I’m not sure,” Jason admitted, thinking simultaneously of the attack Grant had lead on Vaas’s camp, and of his confrontation with Vaas in Citra’s temple. “It could be either of us to be honest.”

“So son, do you really think two demons can take down Hoyt and bring peace to a hellhole like this?”

“I think so.”

“Then I think we can do business. Talk to Vaas. Get him to meet us here so that we can talk shop, and for god’s sake, tell him to be subtle about this. If Hoyt gets wind of what we’re doing then we are finished.”

“Got it.”

“So, anything I could do to help right now?”

Jason eyes darted over to a box in the corner that looked like it was full of grenades.

“Well, you know, some extra weaponry might be nice.”

“Okay. Sure. You ever used one of these before?”

Willis placed a weapon on the table between them. Jason had never used one before, but he had seen them in the hands of Vaas’s pirates and Hoyt’s privateers. It was a flamethrower, and quite a large, impressive one at that.

Jason smiled as he picked the weapon up in both hands.

Chapter Text

Jason dashed around the nearest corner and pressed himself against the wooden wall. He grinned as he heard the shouting inside of the building.

He gave it about ten seconds before the fire spread to the wall that he was leaning against. Plenty of time to get rid of the rest of the fuckwits inside.

He ducked back around the corner again and tossed out a grenade. There was a couple of minutes during which the privateers screamed and panicked, followed by the satisfying bang of the explosion. It was quickly followed by a series of crashes and thumps, accompanied by even more screaming as a large part of the old building collapsed, taking many of Jason's remaining enemies with it.

"Fuck yes!" Jason screamed. “Take that you assholes!”

The fire was beginning to get a little too close for comfort, so Jason leapt down, rolling as he landed on the ground below and clutching the flamethrower close to his chest as he stood back up.

One of the privateers had managed to survive the flames, and came running out of the building, right beside Jason.

Jason looked over at the man, brought the flamethrower up and smiled at him.

The privateer drew his gun, but he wasn't fast enough, and he was clutching at his own body and screaming as the fire spread over his flesh before he could even try to attack Jason.

Jason glanced around the nearby area, looking for his next target, but there was only one privateer left and he was pressed up against a nearby boulder, trying to hide from Jason and unfortunately failing. Jason had seen the briefest flash of yellow behind the boulder, and he smiled as he approached the privateer’s hiding place from the other side, knowing that he would get the drop on the other man.

He waited until the privateer moved to peek around the corner of the boulder, and then pounced on him, plunging his blade into the man’s shoulder and pinning him up against the rock he had been hiding behind.

“Hi,” Jason greeted him.

“Holy shit!” the privateer screamed. All the black and yellow face-paint in the world couldn’t disguise how terrified he was. “What the fuck do you want man? Just let me go!”

Jason grinned and twisted the knife in the man’s shoulder. His smile only grew as the other man let out a scream that sent happy goosebumps dancing over Jason’s shoulders.

“Look at me,” Jason told the privateer, and he did look at Jason, his eyes full of fear even though he had several inches of extra height on the American. Jason knew that he was still covered in blood from the man’s comrades, and ash from the burning building. That was good. He wanted to look as memorable and as terrifying as physically possible.

“I’m going to let you go,” Jason told the man, “and in exchange, you’re going to carry a message for me.”

“Wait, I don’t understand,” the man said.

Jason pulled the knife out of the other man’s flesh, relishing the half scream, half moan that came from the privateer’s throat as he did. Part of him knew that he was enjoying the death and destruction too much, but adrenaline coursed through his veins, the triumph of winning another battle had taken hold of him, and it wasn’t like his excitement was hurting his image.

“Go tell your boss that these islands belong to Snow White,” Jason growled at the cowering privateer. “Hell, tell all of your friends too. Tell them that if they don’t want to end up dead then they won’t get in my way. Got it?”

The privateer nodded.

“Go on then,” he told the privateer. “Run you fucking coward. Run!”

The privateer didn’t have to be told twice.

Behind him the building let out another series of crashes, and as Jason turned around to watch it the rest of the old building came crashing to the ground.

"Fuck yes!" Jason cried out happily as he watched the remains of the building burn. He screamed in triumph and threw his arms up in the air. Another target down, and even though this one hadn’t been all that important to Hoyt, it had been a hell of a lot of fun.

Sam and Willis may not have been completely sane, but they had been useful. Jason whipped out the phone that Willis had managed to scrounge up for him and snapped a quick picture of the burning building in its final moments, clicked 'send' and tried to imagine the look on Vaas's face when he saw the photo. Would he be proud of Jason? Disappointed that he hadn't been able to join his soulmate? Jason knew that he definitely had the better role in their plan. Poor Vaas was stuck trying to get Hoyt to buy their bullshit and pretending to be in mourning for Jason, but hopefully the photo would make him smile. Jason wished that he could send a selfie or something like that instead, but he knew that it was too risky. If any of the privateers saw a photo of Jason on Vaas's phone...

God, he wanted to see Vaas again. They were due to meet with Willis soon, and Jason resolved to make sure that they got some time alone together after the meeting. He desperately needed it. Somewhere along the line it had become difficult to fall asleep without having Vaas there beside him, and besides, he was... well... a young man with certain urges that he needed Vaas to fill, and the thrill of battle and smell of burning flesh were, worryingly enough, only making those particular urges worse.

The smell of Hoyt's cigars filled the air and assaulted Sam's nostrils as he stepped inside the slaver's office. That was either a good sign or a bad one. Hoyt had a habit of smoking more when he was stressed, and he had gone through a lot of cigars since the Brody brothers had arrived on the island, but now Sam and Willis had gotten themselves involved, and the possibility that their plotting would be discovered was a very real worry that was always present in the back of Sam’s mind.

"You wanted to see me?" Sam asked Hoyt, using the more gravelly tone he adopted when he needed to be the terrifying badass that Hoyt and all of his privateers assumed him to be, letting his accent and posture do more than all the violence and weaponry in the world ever could.

"Vaas has been sneaking off lately," Hoyt began, not even bothering to greet Sam. "Usually I wouldn't be worried about it, but considering that his soulmate and most of his men are dead, his growing absences are beginning to, well, concern me. You understand?"

"You suspect that he is up to something?" Sam asked.

"I'm sure it's nothing," Hoyt said. He paused, took a long draw from his current cigar, and smiled at Sam. "I would like to think that I can trust Vaas, but you can understand my concerns, yes? It is hard for people in our position to really trust people."

Hoyt smiled at Sam again, and for a moment the privateer worried about how much Hoyt really knew, but then Hoyt leaned back in his chair, took another puff from his cigar, and appeared to relax.

"The next time he leaves I want you to follow him," Hoyt told Sam. "Find out what he's up to and where he's going. As I said, I'm sure it's nothing, but I'm giving you leave to deal with any issues that might arise anyway."

"If Jason Brody is still alive would you like me to kill him?"

"Yes, I think that would be wise," Hoyt replied, "but Sam, what makes you think that Jason Brody might still be alive? We both know that he's dead, don't we?"

Schiesse. Sam hoped that he hadn't messed up. Hoyt was so very close to smiling at Sam, which was worrying all by itself. No, this was still salvagable. He and Willis hadn't been working covertly for so long just for him to mess it all up now.

"The others talk," Sam said, waving at though dismissing the idea as unimportant. "They say that it is an American that has been attacking our camps. Snow White... blah, blah, blah. It is völliger bockmist! We know for sure that Grant Brody is dead, but his younger brother... Perhaps it is one of his friends?"

"Hrm," Hoyt murmured, leaning back in his chair and regarding Sam for a moment.

"I do not think that we have anything to worry about," Sam said, "but it would be a pain in our rears if it was true."

"Yes, it would," Hoyt said. "We wouldn't want any pesky Americans interfering with my business, would we Sam?"

Hoyt sent him another smile, this one just as terrifying as the last. Sam tried to convince himself that his fears were unfounded. He and Willis had been incredibly careful. There was no way that Hoyt knew about Sam's soulmate.  It was impossible, and yet he was sure there was more behind Hoyt’s comment than the slaver was letting on.

"I am more worried about what might happen if Vaas has turned against us," Sam said, hoping to steer the conversation away from anything that might make his own carefully maintained poker face slip.

"He doesn't have many men left," Hoyt pointed out. "Even if Vaas did turn against me he would find himself swiftly crushed, and he knows it. It would be better for everyone involved if any ideas of rebellion were crushed before they could be acted upon, don't you agree?"

"Ja, ja. You are right. Hopefully there will not be anything behind his absences, but I will tail Vaas anyway."

"Good," Hoyt said. "That’s good Sam. I knew I could rely on you."

Sam nodded and then turned to leave, trying not to smile as he did. He felt like he had just dodged a bullet. Not only that, but Hoyt had just given him the perfect opportunity to see Willis again.

It had been weeks since they'd been able to communicate directly, and months since they had actually been able to see one another face-to-face.

"Oh, and Sam," Hoyt called out, stopping the privateer in his tracks. “I really don’t like it when people go sneaking around behind my back. Make sure that you and Vaas both remember that.”

Jason and Willis had been loitering for a while. It was a very careful, calculated sort of loitering. Willis had insisted that they couldn’t stand too close to one another, or everyone would realise that they had some sort of connection. Never mind that they were still the only two white men in Badtown, or that Willis’s definition of ‘not too close’ was just on the opposite side of the narrow muddy street.

Jason was growing restless, and when he spotted Vaas approaching it took all of his self-restraint to stop himself from running over and throwing his arms around his soulmate.

He tried not to stop himself from smiling like a maniac too, but that was impossible. He approached Vaas slowly, and was just about to call out to him in greeting when he saw another man following just behind Vaas.

“Sam?” Jason asked.

Willis immediately perked up and walked over to join them.

“What are you doing here?” Willis asked his soulmate as Sam and Vaas grew close.

"According to Hoyt I am tailing Vaas," Sam told them, shrugging as he did, "so I am tailing him very closely."

"You're even following himself inside the house, I hope," Willis said with a smile.

"Of course," Sam replied with a laugh. "How else will I be able to hear what you are all talking about?"

Willis let out a short, sharp laugh as well, and slapped his hand down on the other man's shoulder. Jason expected them to lean in for a hug, but instead Willis just guided the German man into the house, continuing to slap him on the back as though they were old friends rather than soulmates.

Vaas shrugged at Jason.

“Didn’t fucking spot him until we were on the North island,” Vaas grumbled. “That’s guy’s surprisingly fucking sneaky.”

Jason smiled at Vaas, not really worried about Sam and Willis at that moment. He was so happy to see Vaas, and so anxious to get him alone that Jason knew he was going to have problems concentrating during the meeting.

He decided to throw caution to the wind, and grabbed Vaas’s hand in his own. Vaas looked down at their intertwined hands for a second before shaking his head.

“Fucking sappy bullshit,” he muttered, before squeezing Jason’s hand a little tighter. Jason led him inside the house behind Sam and Willis, trying not to notice or be distracted by the fact that Vaas was staring at the ground and… holy shit, was he blushing?

Willis led them all down to the basement, where he’d constructed something approaching a table and four chairs out of over-turned crates and pieces of what had probably once been furniture. On the centre table he’d placed a large map of the islands.

“Right,” Willis said, clapping his hands together as the other three men took their seats. “So, the way I see it you’ve been doing a pretty good job so far. We’ve been hitting Hoyt where it hurts, and you can be sure he’s feeling it.”

“Ja,” Sam said, leaning forward on the table. “He would never admit it, but he’s worried.”

Sam and Willis looked at each other, and Jason was less surprised by the fact that their eyes lingered on each other a little longer than was perhaps necessary, and more by the fact that the staring ended with a fist bump between the two men and not anything more affectionate.

“Well,” Willis said, clapping his hands together and turning his attention back to the map, “I suppose we should work out what your next target should be.”

“Why am I even fucking here!?” Vaas groaned loudly as he practically threw himself back against the seat he was in.

“I know you’re not used to being in a place as civilised as this,” Willis said, and Jason might have been able to think that Willis wasn’t deliberately insulting Vaas if it wasn’t for the smug grin on his face, “but you’re providing us with valuable intel.”

“Yeah, but I don’t see why you fucking need to get it from me now that your Nazi bitch is here.”

“Vaas,” Jason said, placing his hand on his soulmate’s arm and hoping that he could defuse the fight that Vaas and Willis were trying to start. “I need you here. The last thing I want is to end up attacking a target that you might be at, or which we might find useful later on. Besides, it’s good to see each other again, right?”

“Yeah, sure,” Vaas conceded. “Whatever the fuck you think amante. I just don’t like being stuck in a room with these two fucks.”

Jason wanted to groan at his soulmate’s lack of tact or anything that even mildly resembled social skills. Willis and Sam seemed to have a remarkable amount of patience for Vaas’s bitching though, so Jason stayed silent for now, and before long Willis had been allowed to continue.

“Okay, so I’ve pooled all the information we have and I think I’ve up with a couple of key targets that I think we should consider taking out. My favourite is here…”

Willis pointed to a spot towards the East of the Northern island.

“It will be nice and open, lightly manned and an excellent excuse to pull out the old flamethrower again. What do you say?”

“Is that Hoyt’s marijuana plantation?” Jason asked.

“Yes it is,” Willis replied with a grin.

“Fuck you!” Vaas yelled, jumping to his feet. “I’m sick of this fucking bullshit! We’re not burning down the fucking weed, or blowing up the meth lab, or any of that bullshit. That right there is mine and Jason’s livelihood you’re talking about fucking with.”

“And I suppose the fact that you take those substances yourself has nothing to do with it?” Willis asked.

“Fuck you!” Vaas shouted again.

Jason placed his hand on Vaas’s arm again, and he had to give his soulmate credit when Vaas actually paused for a moment and took a deep breath before next talking to Willis.

“We are not burning down the weed fields, so I would appreciate it if you did not fucking suggest doing that again,” the pirate grumbled.

“I’m sorry son,” Willis said, but Jason got the feeling he wasn’t really very sorry at all, “but I just can’t approve of that sort of thing. Growing and dealing drugs like that? It goes against everything America stands for.”

“Well, it’s a good thing I’m not a mother-fucking American then, isn’t it?”

“No, thank the lord, you’re not. In case you haven’t noticed though, your soulmate is, and it is my god-given duty as a fellow American to make sure you’re taking good care of my countryman.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake guys,” Jason groaned, now thoroughly annoyed at Vaas and Willis both. “The pissing contest was unnecessary the first time.”                                                                                                                                               

“Yeah, but he’s got his soulmate here now,” Vaas said, smiling as he stared at Willis. “He’s got to make sure Sam knows he’s still got the cojones.”

“I can assure you that there’s no need for that,” Sam said.

“Can we please just get back to the important stuff?” Jason asked. “Taking the plantation out is off the table for now, all right? Surely there’s something else that I can destroy?”

“What we need is something that would damage Hoyt’s reputation,” Sam said. “Something that would make him lose face in front of the privateers. We must make it so that they do not want to follow him anymore.”

“I still find it hard to believe that anyone would actually be loyal to that son of a bitch,” Jason said.

“You’d be surprised,” Willis told him. “It’s amazing how much fear can inspire loyalty in the hearts of lesser men. Hoyt’s got some real commie-style manipulation going on in his camps.”

“The thing about Hoyt is, it’s like, you know. Like he’s got everyone by the fucking balls,” Vaas began. “And as long as you play by his fucking rules then he’s gonna be gentle, and it feels nice with his hands down your fucking pants. You don’t want to piss him off, because if you do then he might stop. Or…”

Vaas paused and his hand which had been mimicking the action of ball fondling rather casually until that moment, suddenly clamped down into a tight fist. Sam cringed.

“He might squeeze really fucking hard,” Vaas finished.

“It’s true,” Sam agreed. He was still looking rather uncomfortable after Vaas’s display, and he shuffled in his seat as he talked. “You haven’t seen it Jason, but Hoyt can be very generous if you make him happy, ja? You want drugs or women, or the finest weapons then he will get them for you, but only if you have been a good soldier. If not…”

“Bang,” Vaas finished for the German, mimicking a gun with one hand as he did.

“So, we make sure the sex and the weapons stop coming,” Jason suggested. “Hoyt’s men won’t follow him if they’re not getting the sort of rewards they’re used to, right?”

“It’s not going to be easy,” Willis told them. “Hoyt’s got contacts all over the globe. There are another couple of targets that I was thinking looked pretty good, but neither of them are a mission for one man alone.”

He pointed to a spot on the Southern island.

“There’s an enormous satellite dish here that relays all of Hoyt’s communications on and off the island. Take that out and you’ll cripple him. That place is swarming with pirates and privateers alike though, so I would not recommend going in alone.”

“The other is here,” Willis said as he pointed to another point on the map.

“The cenote,” Sam muttered. “Ja. Difficult, but a good target.”

“What is it?” Jason asked.

“The majority of Hoyt’s shipments leave from here,” Willis answered. “Drugs. Slaves. They all leave the island from this point. Imagine a giant hole in the ground that been transformed into a port.”

“He likes making speeches there too,” Vaas added. “Fucker likes bringing in the fresh meat and scaring the shit out of them there. He’s got a little stage set up and everything.”

“There are plenty of supplies down there too,” Sam added.

“Right,” Jason said. ‘So that’s definitely important. Any ideas as to how I should go in?”

Sam and Vaas both looked at him like he’d gone insane.

“You mustn’t have heard what I just said,” Willis told him. “This is not a job for one person, no matter how much firepower you have.”

“You would be slaughtered,” Sam added.

“Vaas?” Jason said, turning to his soulmate, hoping that Vaas would at least support him.

Vaas rubbed at the side of his face for a moment, before visibly deflating.

“Fuck it,” Vaas muttered. “You should listen to them this time amante. You go in there by yourself and they’ll fill your pretty little head with fuck-loads of bullets.”

“Okay, so why don’t we attack it together then?”

“What we need is more smarts,” Willis said, “not more guns on the one mission. You think Sam and I have survived here this long by rushing headlong into caverns full of bad guys like what you’re talking about doing?”

Jason glanced over at Vaas, but if his soulmate had any better idea than him of what Willis was going to suggest then he wasn’t showing it.

“I think this will be a job for Vaas and I,” Sam suggested.

“Pardon me?” Vaas said. “What the fuck are you talking about?”

“We go in as friendlies,” Sam said. “We wait for the perfect moment and then bang, we kill Hoyt’s men and blow up the cenote. No-one will see it coming.”

“I like this plan,” Willis said. “You see, this is a smart plan. There is a chance that none of us will die if we go ahead with this plan.”

“A chance,” Jason muttered. He had to admit that it was a little smarter and a lot less risky than a lot of what he had been planning, but he didn’t like it. He didn’t like the thought of Vaas being in danger, or of such a mission going ahead without him being a part of it, but he had to admit that it did sound a lot safer than just charging into the cenote, guns blazing.

“Just make sure Hoyt doesn’t catch on,” Jason told them.

“Ja,” Sam agreed. “He would be angepisst.”

“Are you sure you’ll be able to fool him for long enough?” Jason asked, knowing that his soulmate’s ability to hide what he was feeling wasn’t the greatest.

“I’ve managed to fool him for this long haven’t I?” Vaas replied, holding up his wrist as though it was evidence of his acting skills.

Jason winced when he saw the scar there. It still looked painful, and part of him still felt wrong looking at Vaas’s wrist and just seeing scarred mess there.

“I guess I’m fine with it,” Jason said, looking away from his soulmate, and instead focusing on the map in front of him. “Just be careful all right?”

“Do not worry,” Sam said, slapping Jason on the back. “I will make sure that Vaas does not get into too much trouble.”

“Right, so the two of you are going to be taking out the cenote,” Willis said. “This is good. We take that out and Hoyt won’t know what hit him.”

“So what will I be doing?” Jason asked.

“Nothing,” Willis replied. “This is a high risk operation. You should hunker down until Sam and Vaas are done. Keep a close eye on your friends, and be contactable and ready to help out in case anything goes wrong.”

Jason hated the idea of just sitting back and doing nothing while Vaas and Sam were in danger, but he wasn’t about to object when they finally had a target and a plan.

They continued to discuss the mission for a while, suggesting possible exit strategies and when the perfect time to strike would actually be. There were no windows in Willis’s basement, so it was impossible to know how much time had passed when they were finally done, but Jason had a feeling that the sun would be close to setting.

“I’ll let the two of you plan the rest of this out between the two of you,” Willis told Sam and Vaas, although his attention was almost exclusively on Sam as he spoke.

“You know,” Willis continued, “this reminds me of that mission in Cambodia.”

“Ja,” Sam muttered. “That was a verdreht couple of weeks. It was worth it in the end though.”

“It’s always worth it when you’re protecting the rights of the innocent. Still, it is darn good to see you again.”

“It has been far too long,” Sam admitted.

“I know,” Willis said, slapping Sam on the shoulder as though they were no more than two old friends having a drink together. “Couldn’t be helped though.”

“We do not want Hoyt catching on,” Sam agreed.

“Yeah,” Willis said, this time squeezing Sam’s shoulder. Jason noticed that the two men seemed to have been slowly shuffling closer to each other while they talked.

“God only knows what he’d do if he found us here like this,” Willis added.

“Do not worry, ja?” Sam said, looking into Willis’s eyes as he spoke. “I will burn him alive before he can hurt you.”

“Make sure I’m there to see it, all right? You look like a gosh-darned devil when you wield a flamethrower. Pardon my French.”

As they continued Jason got the increasingly vivid impression that Willis and Sam had forgotten they were not alone in the room.

“I am sure I could find something to burn now if you like,” Sam suggested. As Sam waggled his eyebrows Jason decided that the offer to use a flamethrower should never be as much of a come-on as Sam and Willis had just made it.

“Ich würde alles tun, gerade jetzt,” Sam continued in his native tongue, and Jason could only watch as Willis’s eyes grew wider. He had no idea what Sam was saying, but judging by the way Sam grinned and Willis started to blush as Sam spoke, then he didn’t want to know.

“Wenn es dich dazu bringen würde mich ficken zu wollen,” Sam finished.

“By god in heaven,” Willis said, getting to his feet and looking at Sam as though he was going to pounce on him at any moment. “I am going to bend you over a table and…”

“Can you guys at least wait until we’ve left the fucking building, okay?” Vaas interrupted. Jason was glad his soulmate had been the one to say it. Willis had given him mental images that he had definitely not asked for or wanted.

“Thanks guys,” Jason said, “but I think Vaas and I are going to leave now.”

Sam called out a farewell, and Willis waved at them to go, but neither of them looked away from one another, even for a second.

As Jason closed the door he heard a series of loud thumps emerge from the building, followed by a low moan. He didn’t want to know which of the two men it had come from, and tried his hardest to think of anything but the two men that were now undoubtedly enjoying their long-awaited reunion.

He was doing quite a good job of definitely not thinking about it, when Vaas turned to him with a thoughtful look on his face.

“Hey Jason?” Vaas asked. “When we’re that old we’re still gonna have crazy fucking sex like that, yeah?”

Jason didn’t know whether he should groan at Vaas’s comment or laugh, so instead he just grabbed his soulmate by the hand and began dragging him away from Willis’s house.

He glanced behind them as he went, knowing that if anyone saw the two of them acting so friendly with each other then they could be in serious trouble. Vaas spending time with someone in the red singlet of a pirate was barely worth a second glance. Vaas letting anyone hold his hand was just bizarre, even to Jason, who still wasn’t used to the thought of Vaas being affectionate.

Jason led them to the nearest secluded patch of forest.

“Jason, amante,” Vaas laughed. “What the fuck…”

Jason silenced him by placing a hand over his mouth. Vaas frowned, but then Jason lifted his hand and quickly replaced it with his lips, kissing Vaas and wringing a loud, happy groan from the pirate’s throat.

God, he’d needed this. It only took a couple of seconds for Jason’s hands to sneak beneath Vaas’s clothes.

“Missed you,” Jason muttered as they paused for breath for a moment.

“You missed me?” Vaas mumbled. “I feel like I’ve been fucking losing it without you.”

Fuck breathing, Jason decided, pressing his lips against Vaas’s again. He needed to kiss Vaas, to touch him, to feel his body pressing against his own. He didn’t care which of them was on top, as long as he could feel as much of Vaas pressed up against him as possible.

Vaas wasn’t making it easy though, and after a few more seconds of kissing Vaas pulled back completely, and held Jason in place so that he couldn’t resume the kiss. He looked Jason in the eye, and Jason knew that whatever Vaas was about to say, he was very serious about it.

“What I said just then about losing it without you?” Vaas muttered. “I fucking meant it amante.”

Jason wondered what the hell Vaas was talking about. That was either one of the most ridiculously romantic lines he had never thought he would hear Vaas mutter, or something that he should actually be worried about, and Jason had no idea which it was.

He sighed, realised that they probably weren’t going to be doing much more kissing, at least for a little while, and tried to give Vaas his full attention. Well, that wasn’t quite true, but focussing on what Vaas was saying rather than on the single drop of sweat that trickled down Vaas’s neck and was now starting a slow, wonderfully distracting journey between his pecs and down his singlet, was more difficult than it should have been.

“Sometimes I think maybe I’ve finally gone insane,” Vaas muttered, bringing his hands up to his head and tearing at it as though he might be able to tear the unwanted thoughts straight from his brain if he tried hard enough. Jason forced himself to keep a straight face. He didn’t know whether or not his soulmate could have claimed sanity even when they had first met.

He reached out and grabbed one of Vaas’s hands in his own, pulling the other man into his lap.

“I just… I look at this fucking scar on my wrist and think, what if he’s actually dead? What if Jason is dead and I’ve finally fucking gone insane. What if you’re not real Jason?”

Jason reached up with both hands and held Vaas’s head, forcing the other man to look him in the eyes.

“I’m real,” he told him as he brought their foreheads together. “I’m not dead.”

“Prove it.”

Jason brought his lips to Vaas’s and kissed him with all the passion he could muster. Vaas kissed back for a few seconds, but Jason could tell his heart wasn’t in it. Jason nudged at the other man’s lips, trying to get him to open his mouth, but instead Vaas pulled away and moved so that his head was resting in the crook of Jason’s neck.

He bit down suddenly, causing Jason to let out a cry of pain. Usually Jason didn’t mind when Vaas bit, but usually Vaas was a little more gentle. This time his teeth had sunk in so deeply that Jason thought he might be bleeding.

“What the fuck?” Jason muttered.

Vaas bit down again, this time a little closer to Jason’s neck. It was slightly gentler this time, and Jason just let himself enjoy the fact that Vaas was getting a little more passionate, even if it wasn’t in the way he had expected.

Jason let out a moan and leaned forward to press a kiss to Vaas’s shoulder in response. Vaas leaned into the kiss, his shoulder flexing beneath Jason’s lips. Jason wrapped his arms around Vaas’s body, hoping that his soulmate was finally beginning to relax.

Vaas’s teeth bit down on Jason’s shoulder once more, this time hard enough that Jason could feel his skin breaking beneath Vaas’s teeth.

Jason grimaced and pulled back from the other man. Vaas’s eyes caught his own and there was such despair and desire there that Jason finally realised what he wanted.

“Come on Jason,” Vaas muttered. “You know you wanna get rough with me. Fucking bite me. I wanna feel your teeth amante.”

Vaas stretched out his neck, leaving a large expanse of skin free for the marking. God, it was so tempting. Jason just wanted to reach out and bite and lick and mark his soulmate for all the world to see, but he knew that he could not give Vaas what he wanted.

“I can’t leave any marks on you,” Jason muttered. “You know that. We can’t do anything to raise Hoyt’s suspicions.”

Vaas was good at hiding his hurt, but Jason was beginning to know him well enough to still tell when it was there. It did not matter though, within moments Vaas had dropped all pretence and began clinging to Jason as though his life depended on it.

“Please Jason,” Vaas said, running his hands over Jason’s neck and torso. “Just fucking… I don’t fucking know. Do something. I need to know you’re real. I need to know that you’re not fucking dead, even when you’re not there for me to see. I need to know that this fucking scar on my wrist doesn’t mean anything.”

“Vaas, I’m right here,” Jason whispered, trying to get his soulmate to calm down. “I’m here Vaas. I’m not dead.”

“Look, just… just… I don’t fucking know. Here!” Vaas drew his knife and gave it to Jason. “I don’t care what you fucking do. Just do something to mark me. Anything.”

Jason eyed the blade in his hand warily. Vaas couldn’t possibly be asking Jason to cut him, right? There was a knife in Jason’s hand though, and no matter how he looked at it, Jason couldn’t see Vaas’s request any other way. His soulmate actually wanted Jason to take a knife to his skin.

“Look, if it’s a knife then Hoyt’s not gonna think it was you, right?” Vaas continued, obviously aware that Jason wasn’t convinced. “You fucking cut me, I can look at that scar and know you’re real, okay? Hoyt’s not gonna know a thing.”

“Vaas, this is…”

Jason was going to say crazy, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it; not when it was Vaas’s worrying over his own sanity that had brought them both to this in the first place.

“Look Jason, if you’re so fucking worried about Hoyt then cut me on my stomach or leg or somewhere Hoyt won’t be checking. As long as it’s somewhere I can see it.”

“I can’t believe you want me to do this,” Jason muttered, even as he began to gently push Vaas’s singlet up and over his stomach.

He contemplated the placement of his mark for a moment, before deciding that anything that high up would be risky. He let out a breath he hadn’t quite realised he had been holding, and pulled Vaas’s pants down just far enough that his underwear and upper thighs were fully revealed.

He placed the knife on Vaas’s thigh and glanced up at his soulmate to find Vaas staring at him.

“You’re sure about this?” Jason asked him.

“Just fucking do it already,” Vaas told him, squirming a little beneath the cold metal of the blade and the touch of Jason’s hands.

Jason took a deep breath and pressed the blade of the knife as hard as he dared against the bare skin below him. He forced himself not to think of it as Vaas’s skin. It was a canvas. That’s what it was. Just a canvas, and the knife was a paintbrush, although that metaphor quickly fell away when he remembered that he had never really gotten the hang of painting, preferring the use of his camera instead.

He had to convince himself that this was easy though. This was just like carving the skin from an animal, he told himself, even as he pressed the blade against Vaas’s thigh and heard a sharp intake of breath from the other man.

The knife pierced Vaas’s skin, digging a little way into the firm flesh beneath. Jason tried to concentrate on curving the blade around, but as blood began to flow from the small cut he had already created he realised he was going to have to rely more on touch and memory rather than sight.

God, this was fucked up no matter how he looked at it.

He curved the knife around, trying to create almost a complete circle, but it was harder to control the knife’s movements then he had originally thought, and he started cursing both the knife and his own clumsy hands before he had even carved half of what he had originally planned.

He lifted the knife and used his hand to wipe away as much of the blood as possible. He then pressed the knife down again, trying not to be too distracted by the way Vaas groaned loudly as he did. He glanced up at his soulmate to find the other man biting down on his bottom lip, his eyes slammed shut.

Jason had been trying to carve a butterfly into Vaas’s skin, but after a few more moments of work it looked like little more than a jagged mess of lines. Maybe once the blood had been cleared off completely and the wound had begun to scar then it might look like something, but he doubted it was a butterfly.

“I’m sorry,” he muttered, “but this knife isn’t exactly sharp. I was trying to make it look like a butterfly, but now it’s… Fuck Vaas, it’s a complete mess.”

One of Vaas’s hands moved to run through Jason’s hair and pet the side of his head.

“It’s fine amante,” he muttered. “Doesn’t matter what it fucking looks like. I can feel it, and I can see it, and I know you put it there, and that’s all I fucking needed. It couldn’t be any fucking better if it fucking said ‘Jason was here.’”

Vaas looked a little pale. He had only lost a small amount of blood, but Jason knew that he had to be in a lot of pain. He began to move away from his mangled attempt at decorating Vaas’s leg but paused as he noticed the tent forming in his soulmate’s underwear.

“You are not getting off on this,” he said, slightly horrified at Vaas’s reaction.

“I might be,” Vaas admitted.

Jason rolled his eyes at his soulmate.

“What? I like you fucking claiming me Jason,” Vaas muttered. “Plus your head was awfully close to my balls through most of that. Can’t help it if I got a few ideas in my head right now.”

Jason shook his head at the other man. If Vaas thought that Jason was going to give him a blow job while Vaas’s leg and his hands were still covered in blood then he was wrong.

“We should at least wait until you’re not bleeding so much,” Jason said.

“You worried about me Jason?” Vaas asked, his eyes widening playfully.

“You know I am,” Jason muttered, shuffling up so that he could place a kiss on Vaas’s cheek.

Vaas sat up and started attacking Jason’s neck again, and Jason knew that his soulmate was not yet going to rest. He did no more than nibble at Jason’s skin this time though, so at least his desire to be marked appeared to be satisfied.

“We should really clean that off,” Jason murmured, although he felt like it would be a lot easier to just give in and loose himself to the feeling of Vaas’s lips and teeth on his neck.

“No amante,” Vaas muttered. “That means moving. Don’t wanna move.”

“You’ll get blood all over your pants,” Jason said, trying to think of any excuse as to why he shouldn’t just give in right then and there. If they continued on like this then Vaas’s blood was probably going to end up all over both of their legs at the very least.

“Don’t fucking care,” Vaas murmured against Jason’s skin.

Jason climbed further on top of Vaas, settling into his lap and being careful not to put too much weight on top of the other man’s upper leg.

“Vaas,” Jason growled, pulling the other man’s head from its place on his shoulder and tilting it up so that he could look Vaas in the eye.

“I’m here,” he murmured, before pressing his lips to Vaas’s. “I’m alive.”

This time Vaas did not pull away. He just pulled Jason closer, deepening the kiss.

Chapter Text

“So Sam,” Hoyt said, reclining back in his chair and pressing his hands together as he looked to the German privateer. “How did our little bit of spying go?”

Sam half-shrugged in response to Hoyt’s question.

“Whatever suspicions you had were unfounded,” he told Hoyt. “It was easy to follow Vaas. He went to Badtown. There is a Freudenhaus there. Some of the girls are young and attractive.”


“I suppose losing one’s soulmate does not make one lose the desire to fuck,” Sam said with a forced chuckle.

“I suppose not,” Hoyt agreed. “And what of you?”

Sam raised an eyebrow at the question. He wasn’t exactly sure what it was that Hoyt was asking him. Was he curious about Sam’s sex life or the state of his soulbrand? Either way it was a question he wasn’t comfortable with.

“You seem particularly rosy-cheeked this morning my friend,” Hoyt said, leaning forward on the desk and grinning widely at Sam. “You took the chance to fuck someone too, didn’t you?”

Sam shrugged. He wouldn’t admit it, especially not to Hoyt, but he was relieved. Out of all the different directions Hoyt’s inquiry could have gone, this was probably the least worrying.

“It made my presence there less conspicuous,” Sam said. It was the truth, even if the person in question wasn’t the prostitute that Hoyt was probably imagining.

“I’m sure it did,” Hoyt said. “And you and Vaas were in there all night?”


“You weren’t keeping an eye on him then, were you Sam? Who knows what mischief he could have gotten up to while you were busy with your whore?”

“Well, I assume he was getting up to much the same as we were,” Sam replied, trying to suppress the anger that he felt at Hoyt having unintentionally called his soulmate a whore.

“Don’t go assuming anything,” Hoyt said. The smile slipped from his face for just a second, but then it was back, friendlier and more false than ever.

“We all like to assume that we’re safe, don’t we Sam? We’ve got a full house, yes? Nothing can possibly go wrong. We bet it all.”

Hoyt flicked the ash off the end of his cigarette and leaned towards Sam once more.

“And then it turns out our opponent is nursing a royal flush,” Hoyt finished.

He kept Sam’s eye for a moment, and Sam had to concentrate to keep his expression neutral. Hoyt could be incredibly intimidating when he wanted to be, and the poker metaphor had sounded more like a threat than anything else he had said to Sam. What did Hoyt know? He had to know something, and whatever it was it was probably too much. Sam started to think, not for the first time, that he had made a mistake in getting himself and Willis involved in this.

“So you have absolutely nothing else to report?” Hoyt asked.

“Nothing,” Sam said. “Unless you want to know what colour hair Vaas’s whore had.”

“I don’t think that will be necessary,” Hoyt said. “I would like to hope that whatever plots might exist against me, they would not necessitate the murder of a simple whore. Wouldn’t you agree?”

“Ja,” Sam replied half-heartedly.

Hoyt continued to stare at him for a moment, and Sam got the distinct impression that the slaver lord was watching every tiny movement he made. Eventually he waved at Sam, dismissing him.

“Go on,” Hoyt said. “You can leave now. I would be very grateful if you would continue to keep an eye on Vaas though. Don’t tail him though. Just let me know if he does anything else that seems unusual, all right Sam?”

Sam nodded at Hoyt and headed out of the room, glad that he had somehow escaped the conversation none the worse for wear.

He couldn’t shake the feeling that Hoyt knew a lot more than he was letting on. As far as he was concerned, the sooner they took Hoyt out, the better.

“I have never seen so many young people so determined to spend the rest of their lives miserable.”

Liza frowned at Dennis’s comment and crossed her arms in front of her chest.

“I’m not miserable,” she pointed out. “And neither are Keith and Riley.”

Dennis shrugged as well as he could with his arms tied above his head.

“You are not off the island yet,” he pointed out.

Liza slumped. She had to admit that Dennis had a point. He often did. In fact, the more time she spent with him, the more she began to think that he was beginning to make a lot more sense than half of her friends.

She hadn’t wanted to stay on the island, and she’d wanted to hold a gun even less, so instead of joining the others in their guard duties she had volunteered to keep an eye on Dennis. It had turned out to be a pretty good arrangement, and despite herself she had begun to see Dennis as a friend rather than a prisoner.

“Some of you have already resigned yourselves to spending the rest of your lives alone,” Dennis said, nodding towards the room’s exit, through which they could both see Daisy helping Doctor Earnhardt hobble across the ruined temple.

“And if Jason and Vaas continue along their current path I think it will not be long before one of them feels that same pain, like fire across their wrist. They, like your other friends, will think that they have nothing left to live for, and yet they did not even decide who it was that would hold their heart and their hope.”

Dennis’s eyes grew sad in a way that they always seemed to do when his thoughts turned to Citra, and Liza sighed.

“Do not pity me,” Dennis said to her.

Damn it. She had been hoping he wouldn’t notice.

“I don’t,” Liza said, although that was only partially true. She felt sorry for him because Citra had died, sure. Who wouldn’t? The guy was obviously in love.

Dennis just laughed at her and started shaking his head.

“Do not say that,” he told her. “I have seen that look my entire life. As soon as anyone sees the scar on my wrist their eyes say ‘oh, that poor man.’ He lost the woman that he loved. It was never true though. At least, it was not true until recently.”

Dennis looked out of the room again, his eyes narrowing in a way that Liza could only interpret as hate. She followed his line of sight to see Riley and Keith a small distance away. The older man was saying something to the younger and neither of them looked particularly happy. Riley shook his head at Keith and then turned away, leaving a rather disappointed looking soulmate behind in his wake.

Keith visibly deflated, glanced around the temple and then sent Liza a really unconvincing attempt at a smile when he realised she was watching him, before heading off in the same direction Riley had gone.

“Trouble in paradise?” Dennis asked her.

Liza shrugged and changed her position on the ground, wrapping her arms around her knees.

“They haven’t really had much time to themselves lately,” Liza said. “Not much time to work out any issues they might have I guess. Still, I’m kind of jealous, despite them not having a great relationship. At least they found each other.”

“Hrm,” Dennis said, nodding, although he didn’t look particularly convinced. “And what name is on your wrist?”

Liza paused. Generally you weren’t supposed to just give your soulmate’s name out. Who knew what other people would do with the information? Even her friends didn’t know, although admittedly there were other reasons behind that decision than simple privacy. The thought that she might reveal the name of her soulmate to a man that was little more than a stranger and who she should probably view as an enemy, was ridiculous, and yet there was something very tempting about the idea.

“It is all right,” Dennis said once she had already been thinking it over for quite a long time. “Who do you think I am going to tell?”

What the hell right? They’d be leaving in a few days and she’d probably never see Dennis again.

“It’s Jason,” she told him. “My soulmate’s name is Jason.”

She watched as Dennis processed the information and the man went from confused, to comprehending, to simply amused. He chuckled and shook his head.

“So that is how you ended up as his friend, yes?”

“Yeah,” Liza replied. “It’s kind of stupid, but I always sort of hoped he was the right Jason.”

“You love him.”

“I don’t know about love, but I do like him. You know, I think if it wasn’t for these marks then maybe we might have been… I don’t know, something.”

Dennis chuckled.

“You see?” he said. “Your friends all think I am insane, but you still have a mark and you see the truth. These soulbrands; they are not a gift. They are a cage. They do not bring anything but pain. I know that. Citra and your friend Grant knew that.”

“I don’t know,” Liza muttered. “Vaas and Jason seem pretty happy with each other.”

The sound of someone shouting came from outside the small room. It didn’t sound like worried shouting though, and for a moment Liza thought that perhaps it was just a continuation of whatever argument Keith and Riley had been having, but after a few seconds Jason appeared inside the temple.

“Speak of the devil and he will appear,” Dennis muttered. “That is how the saying goes, is it not?”

Jason paused near the door, glanced inside the room just long enough to frown at Liza and Dennis, and then moved on. Liza wished that she hadn’t noticed the amount of blood that covered Jason’s skin and clothes.

“I’m worried about him,” Liza muttered, more to herself than to their captive, but Dennis replied nevertheless.

“Any sane person would be,” he told her.

Vaas always forgot how cold the cenote could be. The rest of the island, with the exception of a few smaller coves, was usually nice and warm, but the cenote was permanently in the shade, and damp, and being around so many of Hoyt’s fucking privateers wasn’t exactly helping him feel comfortable.

They had been lucky. A good opportunity to enact their plan had already arrived in the form of a batch of new recruits. Hoyt had raised an eyebrow at Vaas tagging along to the indoctrination, but hadn’t questioned him, and now he stood against one of the cenote’s natural rock walls, watching Hoyt and wishing that their plan didn’t require him to sit through so much of Hoyt’s bullshit.

Vaas rolled his eyes as Hoyt started his usual speech. He’d heard it enough times that he could almost recite it along with his boss. Promises… blah, blah, blah, letting them know that they could have sex with the slaves as long as they weren’t too rough, although that wouldn’t stop the bruises and red marks that would appear on some of the prettier slaves.

Vaas had thought that his boss was almost done, and was ready for the customary roasting, but then Hoyt continued along a path of conversation Vaas had not been expecting.

“Some of you may have heard the locals talk of a man named Snow White,” Hoyt began. “Some of them, and some of my own fucking men, would like you to think that Snow White is still alive. The men that tell you these things are full of bullshit. Snow White, Grant Brody, is dead. I know this. I saw his dead body with my own god damn eyes, so I don’t want to hear any more of this superstitious bullshit!”

Hoyt had gotten a little too worked up, and needed to take a moment to calm himself again. He took a deep breath before continuing, smiling at the assembled privateers as he did.

“And yet I also know that someone is out there, messing with my business. I don’t like it when people mess with my business. I do not know who would be stupid enough to fuck with me, but I do know it could not possibly be Snow White. I am offering fifty thousand dollars, and your choice of product to the man that can give me information. Two hundred thousand to anyone that can bring me their heads.”

There was a loud cheer from the assembled men. Vaas grinned, wondering how Hoyt and the other men would react if they knew that Vaas himself was involved. They probably wouldn’t give a shit and would just kill him straight away, Vaas realised, and his smile slipped. Probably wouldn’t even give him the decency of a proper fucking trial. Just ‘boom’ and then he’d be dead. That’s how it had always worked on Rook.

The applause slowly died down, only to increase to a roar again as Hoyt made an example of a man on the stage, roasting him alive in the furnace that had been placed on the stage precisely for this purpose. It was one of Hoyt’s favourite intimidation methods, and it worked pretty well even on people that ended up liking and following him.

It didn’t work on Vaas anymore though. Instead he just screwed up his nose at the smell and tried to block out the man’s screams. It was far from the first time he’d smelled burning flesh. Hell, he’d even eaten human flesh a couple of times, when food on the island was scarce, but that didn’t stop the sickly sweet smell from making his stomach churn uncomfortably.

Eventually Hoyt’s speech was finished, and he left the stage, passing Vaas on his way out of the cenote. Hoyt glanced down as he passed the other man, anything but subtle in the way his eyes lingered on the scar on Vaas’s wrist.

Vaas scowled at the other man’s back as he departed. What the fuck was Hoyt expecting; for Jason’s name to suddenly grow back? Admittedly Vaas still hoped that it was a possibility, but wasn’t expecting it any time soon.

He continued to glare at Hoyt’s back for a long while, as he wrestled with the temptation to get it over and fucking done with and just kill Hoyt then and there, but he knew how stupid that would be. At that moment Hoyt’s men loved him. Even if Vaas did succeed in killing Hoyt, he’d only be able to enjoy his victory for a few seconds before the rest of the assembled men took him out.

Many of the other privateers shuffled past Vaas as they moved away from the stage. Hopefully most of them would leave the cenote altogether. As much as Vaas was looking forward to murdering as many of them as possible, it would make their job a hell of a lot easier if the cenote was nearly empty.

Vaas caught Sam’s eye from where the German was waiting in a similar position on the other side of the stage. They nodded at one another, and Sam drew a simple pistol from his belt. He filled the pistol’s chambers and checked the sight, and if it had been anyone but Sam then perhaps someone would have asked what he was doing when he attached a silencer to the weapon and flicked the safety off, but luckily Sam’s reputation stopped anyone from doing that.

They had to wait until Hoyt was well and truly away from the cenote though, so Vaas just stayed where he was for a little bit longer. He grew twitchy before too long, and turned to the nearby cages for entertainment. There were quite a few slaves currently being stored there, and he smiled at them, laughing to himself when some of them started to freak out.

Eventually, once most of the other men were gone, Sam started walking towards Vaas, and Vaas took the time to grab his own pistol, muttering as he attached a silencer to his as well.

“I hate these fucking things,” he told Sam as the German man leaned closer.

“Are you ready?” Sam asked.

“Fuck yes I’m ready,” Vaas said, not bothering with whispering. “There’s only a few fuckers on the boat. You want to start there?”

Sam nodded instead to a pair of men that were lingering by the stage. They were talking together, so one of them had their back to Sam and Vaas while the other faced them. Vaas shrugged, walked straight over before Sam could say anything else, pressed the silenced pistol to the head of the man facing away from them and pulled the trigger.

“Holy shit!” the other privateer shouted as his comrade fell to the floor.

The second privateer hadn’t even raised his weapon before Vaas had fired another couple of shots. The first hit the second privateer in the neck. The second entered the man’s head through his cheek, and he fell to the ground with a choked scream.

Vaas wandered over, nudging the man’s now broken head to make sure that he had actually succeeded in killing him. The man didn’t even twitch though, which was a good sign.

“Surprise motherfucker,” Vaas muttered as he reloaded his pistol.

“Come on,” Sam said as he leaned down to grab Vaas’s first victim. “We need to hide the bodies or it will not be long before someone else finds them and realises what it is we are doing.”

Vaas shrugged, leaned down and grabbed the second privateer under the shoulders.

“We will need to move quickly,” Sam said as they dragged the two bodies over to the water.

“I fucking know that hermano,” Vaas muttered. “Quick and quiet and fuck all of this. I’m fucking sneaky when I want to be, but that doesn’t mean I have to fucking like it.”

Vaas threw the body he was dragging into the water with a little more force than was perhaps needed, and the resultant splash was much louder than either of them would have liked.

Sam frowned at Vaas.

“Oops?” Vaas offered, shrugging as he did.

“What the fuck was that?” a voice called out from the ship, and before long a couple of the privateers had made their way over to check on the sound.

Sam immediately moved through the water and started climbing the side of the ship with more agility than Vaas had thought the other man possessed.

Two privateers appeared, leaning over the side of the ship and looking straight at Vaas.

“You?” one of them asked. “What the fuck are you doing Vaas? Are those… Holy shit, are those some of our men?”

“They were fucking pissing me off,” Vaas told them. “That right there; that is what fucking happens to people that piss me off. I don’t fucking care whether those piece of shits worked for Hoyt or not.”

One of the men started to shake his head, but he didn’t get very far into the act before Sam pounced on him, stabbing a knife into the other privateer’s back and then twirling around, shooting the second privateer with his silenced pistol.

“Okay hermano,” Vaas said. “I’ll admit that was actually pretty fucking cool.”

Sam shook his head at the pirate before leaning over the rail as the other two privateers had.

“Coming aboard?” he asked Vaas. “I think there are a few more on the other end of the ship.”

Vaas shrugged, holstered his pistol and made his way up the side of the boat, trying to replicate Sam’s manoeuvres and succeeding at least in part, although disappointingly enough there weren’t any privateers waiting to be killed at the top of his climb like there were for Sam.

Together they crept down the length of the ship, taking down any privateers that were in their way. It was pretty easy. The ship was already loaded with plenty of cargo, and there were only a few privateers left on board.

Soon they were near the other end of the boat, and there were only two privateers left alive. One of them was even facing away from Sam and Vaas. It was almost too easy.

Vaas strolled onto the deck, knowing that no-one would think to question his presence there, and was just above to shoot one of the privateers when the one by the side of the boat turned around and smiled at Sam and Vaas.

The recruit was little more than a fucking kid. Vaas hesitated for only a second before shooting his initial target. The younger recruit immediately screamed.

“Holy fuck!” the young privateer exclaimed. “You just shot him!”

“Yeah. Fucker never even saw it coming, did he?” Vaas replied with a chuckle.

“Why would you do that?”

Vaas paused and looked at the younger man carefully. He was afraid, which made him sane at least, and maybe a bit of a coward, but he didn’t look like he was about to panic any time soon either. He was probably one of the new recruits, which meant he wouldn’t quite know how things worked yet.

Vaas smiled to himself. They could totally use this guy.

Sam gave Vaas a questioning look. The CIA agent’s hand was on his pistol, ready to draw it should the need arise, but Vaas smiled at Sam and threw an arm around the young privateer. Sam rolled his eyes and settled against one of the crates.

“That guy right there,” Vaas said, gesturing at the last man that he had shot, “and all the other dead fuckers you’re gonna see around here? They were gonna betray Hoyt.”

“They were?”

“Yeah. You see, me and Sam over there, we’re Hoyt’s fucking right hand men. He trusts us. Put us in charge of finding out which of these pricks was stabbing him in the back. Well hermano, we worked it out. You were just unlucky enough to be here when it happened.”

“Oh… Really? Well, I think that I’m lucky you realised I wasn’t involved.”

Vaas looked over at Sam, who shrugged and slowly began to make his way over to the two of them.

“Yeah,” Vaas told the privateer. “Sure.”

“Cool,” the young privateer muttered. “Thanks for not killing me I guess.”

“So me and Sam have a very fucking important job to do hermano. You wanna help out er…”

“Foster. The name’s Foster.”

“Would you like to help us out Foster?” Sam asked, clamping a hand on the young man’s shoulder.

“Sure! Do you think you could put in a good word to Hoyt for me?”

“Ja, we can do that I think, right Vaas?”

“Yeah, why the fuck not?”

Foster smiled at the prospect of earning a few brownie points with Hoyt and Vaas smiled back.

“Okay. So you wanna help right? Why don’t you er… I don’t fucking know,” Vaas said, waving around at the large cavern that surrounded them. “Check around and see if there’s anyone left in here.”

“Okay, I mean, yes sir,” Foster said. “Wait… what if there are any other people in here?”

“Well…” Vaas began, trying to think of how best to fuck with Foster and the other privateers, but Sam stepped forward and spoiled his fun.

“Observe them,” Sam told Foster. “If they question what we are doing, or why you are here helping us, or if they try to stop us or contact anyone outside the cenote then you must shoot them. It is for the good of the organisation. You understand, ja?”

“Ja… I mean, yes sir.”

Foster ran off, and Sam crossed his arms and looked over at Vaas, clearly disapproving of his recruiting the younger man.

“You are lucky that your new protégé is a dummkopf,” Sam told him.

“Fuck that,” Vaas laughed. “My amigo Foster was right about one thing. He is fucking lucky. If he had half a fucking brain in his head then I would have had to kill him.”

Jason had been twitchy ever since he had arrived at the temple the previous afternoon. A brief questioning, during which Jason had mumbled and swore more than any of them had expected, had revealed that he was just worried about Vaas. He had settled a little over-night, but he hadn’t been still for several hours now, and what had simply started as fidgeting and restlessness had turned into several over-turned plants and broken pieces of pottery. The last few minutes had been devoted to pacing backwards and forwards inside the room in which they were holding Dennis, and Riley’s neck was beginning to get sore from watching Jason bounce backwards and forwards across the room like a one person match of table tennis.

“He’ll be fine Jason,” Riley told his brother, before Jason could take his wrath out on another innocent plant, “and if anything does happen to Vaas then you’ll know straight away, right? So there’s no point in worrying.”

“I know,” Jason muttered, “but Vaas isn’t a great liar and I don’t trust Sam yet. I’d feel a lot more confident if I was somewhere close by with a sniper rifle rather than stuck here.”

“With a sniper rifle?” Liza repeated, sounding worried. Before Jason had entered the room she had been having a perfectly civil conversation with Dennis. It had been a nice change, and Riley had been happy just to sit in the corner and listen to the two of them chatter. Jason however didn’t seem to be doing civil or calm these days.

“Yeah, but any gun would work really,” the older Brody brother replied, seemingly unaware of how concerned Liza was about his statement. “As long as I could protect Vaas and take down Hoyt’s men if things went to hell.”

Dennis chuckled from his place beside Liza.

“So, did you have this penchant for violence before you came to the island?” Dennis asked Jason, “or is this just your soulmate affecting you?”

Jason looked at their prisoner with open disgust.

“Why is he still alive?” he asked the others.

“Because…” Liza began, stammering and moving in front of Dennis as though she could protect him from Jason. “Because he’s…”

“Because we’re not monsters,” Riley objected, jumping to his feet in front of Jason. “I don’t know about you and Vaas, but we’re not in the habit of murdering unarmed men.”

“So you’re just going to keep feeding him and hoping that none of his friends show up and try to save him?”

Riley was aware of a movement at the door, and he looked over to find that their yelling had attracted Keith over from guard duty. Riley’s eyes met Keith’s for a moment and he nodded at his soulmate. Keith nodded back almost imperceptibly, and Riley knew that Keith wouldn’t be going anywhere, at least for the moment. With his courage renewed Riley crossed his arms and turned back to Jason.

“I guess so,” Riley said, staring his older brother down.

“What are you going to do with him when it’s time for you to leave?” Jason asked.

“I don’t know! We’ll worry about that when we come to it,” Riley said.

Jason shrugged and looked back at Dennis. Riley noticed that Jason’s hand had drifted back to the handle of his knife.

Riley felt the older man’s hand settle on his shoulder and looked up to discover that Keith had joined them inside the room and was now standing behind Riley in support.

“Hey Jason,” Keith began. “Maybe you should calm the fuck down, huh?”

“Calm down. You of all people are telling me to be calm?!” Jason yelled. He threw his arms up in the air as he continued. “Of course! Calm down! Why didn’t I think of that?!”

Riley glanced over at Keith and was glad to see his soulmate was just as worried by Jason’s behaviour as he was.

Jason looked around at each of them, but the others were all on Riley’s side. He frowned and stormed past them and towards the exit.

“Where are you going?” Riley asked.

“Somewhere I can be useful,” Jason snapped. “I’m sick of just sitting around and waiting.”

Riley went to the door and watched as Jason grabbed half a dozen different weapons and attached them to his back and belt.

“Do you really need a flamethrower?” Riley asked him.

“It could be useful,” Jason said.

“You’re going to do something dangerous, aren’t you?”

Jason didn’t reply.

“Why don’t I come with you?” Riley offered. “Whatever it is, it’ll be easier with two of us, right?”

“No,” Jason said as he reloaded one of the guns. “Stay here.”

“Aw, come on Jason. I can help!”

“No Riley,” Jason growled. “I can’t concentrate on taking out Hoyt’s men if I’m worried about you.”

“You won’t have to worry about me,” Riley argued. “I can look after myself, I promise. I won’t get into trouble.”

“This isn’t a discussion,” Jason snapped. “You’re staying here.”

With that Jason stormed off again. Riley stood in the courtyard and watched his older brother run off into the jungle, glaring at the other man’s back.

Sam and Vaas let Foster go first as they moved throughout the cenote’s chambers, the new recruit gleefully backing them up and making himself useful while they cleared out the cenote and ‘questioned’ any stragglers. Vaas kept up the act for as long as possible, even going so far as to force one of the privateers to his knees and ask him whether or not he was loyal to Hoyt, only to shoot him when he answered ‘yes.’

Sam shook his head at Vaas for what might have been the hundredth time in the last half an hour, while Foster looked on, obviously confused.

“But he just said…” Foster muttered.

“He was lying,” Vaas said. “I could fucking tell.”

“Huh. Well, I guess if you were sure…” Foster muttered.

“Very,” Vaas told him. “You see, me, I’m really fucking good at reading people, and that guy? He was a piece of shit that needed to die.”

Foster nodded, but it didn’t seem like he was completely ready to believe Vaas, and he started to pay a little more attention to Vaas and Sam were actually doing. Then, when Sam started to plant the first explosive charge it finally seemed like Foster was not going to buy their bullshit any longer.

“Wait a minute,” he called out. “Is that a bomb?”

“Ja,” Sam admitted. “What else would it be?”

“A listening device?” Foster suggested. “Holy shit. I don’t know. Are you sure that Hoyt told you to do this?”

“Of course I’m sure,” Vaas said, waving his hand at the new recruit. “You wanna help out or are you just gonna stand there with that dumb fucking look on your face?”

He was having trouble keeping himself from smiling though, and it only took a couple of further seconds of glancing between Vaas and Sam for the privateer to decide to bring his gun up and point it at Vaas.

“Hey hermano,” Vaas said, sticking his hands up in the air and appearing to surrender to the new recruit. “I thought we were working together. I thought we were amigos. You want us to tell Hoyt that you pointed a gun at two of his most trusted men?”

“I don’t think you’re helping Hoyt at all,” Foster said.

He looked very serious, as though he had really just come to some great revelation, and Vaas almost very nearly lost it and started laughing at the other man.

“I think that the two of you are the ones that are betraying him,” Foster continued.

“Oh no hermano,” Vaas said. “Why would we do that? Me and Sam, we’re Hoyt’s best fucking friends, right Sam?”

Sam just rolled his eyes at the two of them again and got back to arming the explosives, completely unconcerned by the gun that was pointed at them.

“This really doesn’t seem right,” Foster muttered. “Don’t move, either of you. I’m going to contact Hoyt and make sure he knows what’s going on here.”

Foster’s hand reached for the short wave radio on his belt, and Vaas became worried for the first time since they had first let Foster join them.

There was a click, and Vaas and Foster looked over to see that Sam had drawn his pistol and shot the new recruit before he could even turn the radio on. Foster blinked a couple of times and then fell to the ground like the rest of the privateers, a bullet hole in the middle of his forehead.

“What the fuck?” Vaas muttered. “I was gonna have some more fun hermano.”

“You should have shot him a long time ago. Was verdammt were you thinking Vaas?”

“He wanted to help. I let him help.”

“You were lucky he did not think to question our actions sooner.”

Vaas shrugged. Sam threw one of the packs of dynamite to him. He caught it, and began setting it up on his side of the platform.

The two of them got to work setting the explosives at what they guessed were key structural points. The walkways in the cenote hadn’t been constructed to any sort of formal plan as far as either of them could tell, but they’d both brought plenty of explosives, and one of the great things about the cenote was that there were even more explosives stored away there if they decided they didn’t have enough.

They finished setting up around the walkway and the smaller caverns, and then Vaas suggested that they blow up the ship on which they had found Foster, just for good measure. It took several more minutes, and they did have to liberate a few of the other explosives before they had enough to plant on the ship, but eventually they were done.

“I think that is it,” Sam said as he readied the detonator. “I don’t know whether Hoyt’s ship will be completely unusable after this, but the extra explosions will be nice anyway, ja?”

Vaas was about to agree, but then he looked over his shoulder, where the slaves were still cowering in their cages. Something had been eating at him for a while. A few of the slaves had whimpered or cried out when Vaas or Sam had killed someone, but apart from that they had mostly been quiet.

“Ah fuck,” Vaas muttered. He made his way over to the cages and stood in front of a few of them, looking at the men and women contained within with a frown on his face.

After a while Sam walked over to join him.

“Give me a minute hermano,” Vaas told him.

Sam found an apparently comfortable spot leaning against a group of crates and settled in, his arms folded in front of him as he watched Vaas.

Vaas’s eyes narrowed as he moved towards one of the cages, in which sat a young man, his knees tucked up to his chin. The young man was watching Vaas and Sam openly, without nearly as much fear as the rest of the slaves. His arms and legs were covered in scratches and bruises too, some of which looked to have been there for quite a while, and which were now healing.

“You look fucking familiar,” Vaas told the captive. “Why is your face pissing me off?”

“I… I saw you once before, at that other camp,” the captive began, and Vaas nodded as he began to remember. “You made one of the other slaves pick who you kept and he chose to let me go.”

“Fuck you!” Vaas yelled. “Jason was not a slave.”

“Sorry. Sorry.”

“He was there because we both wanted him to be there you piece of shit.”

“I didn’t mean anything by it.”

“Argh! And even after he let you go you couldn’t escape the fucking island, could you? You just ended up getting captured all over again! You are not like Jason hermano. You got no survival instinct. No drive. And you’ve fucking wasted the chance Jason and I gave you!”

“Sorry,” the captive squeaked again.

He shrank back from Vaas, which just pissed the pirate off more. Maybe he should just leave the guy there to die after all.

“Still…” Vaas muttered, leaning against the cage and looking the captive in the eye. “If Jason found out that I let you die here then he’d be really fucking pissed, so guess what hermano? It’s your lucky day.”

Vaas moved over to the door and shot the lock off the cage. A couple of women in a nearby cage let out a cry of fear, and then the door swung open.

The young man looked up at Vaas as though he couldn’t quite believe what was happening.

“Again?” the young man asked as he slowly got to his feet. “Seriously? This isn’t some sort of trick is it?”

“No, it’s not some sort of fucking trick!” Vaas shouted. “Now get the fuck out of here unless you want to explode, and don’t get yourself fucking captured this time!”

The other prisoners looked nervous, some of them even terrified as the young man got to his feet, and slinked around Vaas and Sam, almost flinching with every tiny movement either of them made.

“Um… thanks, I guess,” the young man said. “You um… You’re really going to let me go again, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I fucking am. Now would you please get the fuck out of here already?”

The young man looked like he was torn between running and staying, and after a few moments of glancing between Vaas, Sam, and the cages he decided to speak.

“You’re trying to take down your boss, right?” he asked Vaas and Sam.

“Yeah…” Vaas muttered, wondering why the hell the fucker in front of him gave a shit. What did it matter to him when pretty soon he was going to be far away from the Rook Islands?

“Why are you asking?” Sam asked, his hand shifting to the gun at his side. “I warn you; if you’re thinking of going to Hoyt and warning him about us then you will end up just as dead as Foster and the other privateers.”

“What? No!” the young man said, waving his arms at Vaas and Sam. “Fuck no! I wasn’t thinking that at all. I wanted to help. I mean, I can’t fight or anything but I heard some of the guards talking about a cache of weapons they’d been told to guard.”

Sam relaxed, and the two of them turned their focus to the young man once more.

“We are listening,” Sam told him.

“One of them said something about it being a really big shipment,” the young man continued, “but they were talking about it in really hushed voices, like not everyone was supposed to know about it.”

Sam nodded.

“I have not heard anything about this,” he said. “If what you say is true then it means Hoyt might be wising up to us, or at least making sure that information is not so easily gathered.”

“Did they say where the fuck they’re keeping them?” Vaas asked.

“They said something about a bridge?”

“Bridge control?” Sam suggested.

The young man nodded.

“I take it you know where the fuck that is?” Vaas asked Sam.

“Ja. It is one of Hoyt’s outposts. I will show you the way once we are done here.”

“Well then hermano,” Vaas said. “It seems like you’ve been really fucking useful, huh? Thank you very much for the information. Now, you gonna just stand there or are you gonna help us let the rest of these pathetic fucks out of their cages?”

“What, really?”

“Yeah,” Vaas said, shaking his head and laughing. He stretched out his arms as though to embrace the entire cove and addressed the rest of the captives. “Guess what motherfuckers!? It’s your lucky day. I, Vaas Montenegro, have apparently grown a fucking conscience. You all get to go home. No being slaves for any of you stupid fucks, unless you get yourself captured again like my hermano here. Or, you know, if any of you want to stay here and have some fun with me then that’s nice too.”

Before long all of the cages were open, although many of the people within shrank back as Vaas and Sam approached, and even more stayed in their cages, as though they couldn’t believe that they were really being let out.

“Come on you chicken shits!” Vaas yelled as he tried to usher the prisoners towards the lake. “Move, move, move!”

A lot of the prisoners were still scared of Vaas no matter how friendly he tried to be though, and it ended up being the young man they had initially released and some of the other prisoners that coaxed them from the apparent safety of their cages.

With Sam’s help it didn’t take them long to find the smaller boats that were resting in the cenote. None of them had any of their possessions on them, but they had transport at least, and with a little assistance from Sam and Vaas, some simple weapons and body armour, and the basic knowledge required to at least point and shoot them. If they were lucky then they should be able to get away from the islands without too much trouble. After that well… Honestly, Vaas didn’t give a shit what happened to them after that. Jason would have wanted him to help them escape, and he had done just that, even though he was sure that a couple of them would have been fun to play with for a while.

“I would never have suspected such kindness from you Vaas,” Sam commented as the boats started up, and a few of the less broken captives waved farewell. Vaas replied to his comment by glaring at him.

“I suspect Jason Brody is starting to make you soft,” Sam continued, and to Vaas’s annoyance he actually smiled as he said it.

“Yeah, well fuck you!” Vaas snapped. “If Jason found out that I let those people die then he probably wouldn’t let me fuck him for ages, or some stupid bullshit like that. Besides, that one guy was useful, yeah?”

“I did not say that going soft was a bad thing,” Sam said.

He crossed his arms and watched happily as the boats containing the prisoners sped down the tunnel and away from the cenote.

“What he said about that weapons shipment though,” Sam said. “That might prove to be useful information.”

“No ‘might’ about it hermano. I’m gonna check it out. If that guy wasn’t full of bullshit then Hoyt has a fuckload of weapons that we need to get our hands on.”

“What are you thinking? Shall we steal them or blow them up?”

Vaas shrugged again.

“I’m thinking both,” he said. “Take the pretty, expensive guns and blow the rest of that shit up.”

“Speaking of blowing things up,” Sam said, “now that we have freed those people it is time to get on with our mission, ja?”

“Okay hermano,” Vaas said, stretching his arms wide as though to encompass the entirety of the cenote. “Let’s blow this motherfucker sky high.”

Sam smiled over at Vaas again as he walked over and picked up the detonator. His thumb hovered over the button for a few seconds, teasing the moment out, and then slammed down on the button.

The first charge exploded, and then the second and third, until the entrance to the cenote was a glorious mess of falling catwalks, fire and crumbling stone.

Vaas let out a scream of joy, throwing his arms up in the air. A particularly huge chunk of stone came crumbling from the walls of the cenote and landed in the water below with an appropriately loud crash, sending waves along the wide channel, and causing Sam to let out an equally happy cry.

“Fuck ja!” Sam screamed, throwing his hands up in the air alongside Vaas.

The ground below and above them started to shake, and a few small rocks started to rain down on the two men.

“Perhaps we should not stick around,” Sam suggested.

“Yeah…” Vaas agreed as he glanced around the cavern. “Those fuckers left at least one boat behind, right?”

Riley’s expression as he stared after Jason had started as a frown, but as he stood at the front of the temple and thought, it slowly started to change into a grin.

Fuck guard duty. Fuck staying at the temple and just waiting to pick off the occasional Rakyat that tried anything, and fuck Jason. His older brother wasn’t the only one that wanted to do something more useful than just standing around and waiting for the worst to happen. He was getting cabin fever, or whatever the hell the equivalent was when you were stuck in a ruined temple, and it was bad enough that he had even started to take it out on Keith.

“Hey,” Keith called out to Riley as he approached the younger man.

“Hey,” Riley muttered in reply.

“So Jason’s gone?”

“Yeah,” Riley murmured.

Keith came up to him and placed his hand on Riley’s shoulder. The touch was starting to become a familiar one, and incredibly comforting.

“Don’t let him get to you, okay,” Keith told him. “We all know he’s been acting different lately.”

“Yeah, I know,” Riley replied, “but this isn’t a new thing. He’s… don’t get me wrong, I love him, but…”

“But he’s kind of a shitty brother, right?”

“No! Well, he could probably be a little more supportive, and sometimes he treats me like I’m still a little kid but…”

“He didn’t even show up when you got your pilot license Riley.”

“Neither did you.”

“Ouch. Okay. Yeah, but…”

“But you’d show up for something like that now, right?”

“Yes. Definitely. Of course I would.”

Riley smiled at Keith as the plan that had been brewing inside his head for the past few minutes started to become a little more concrete.

“What is it?” Keith asked, sounding a lot more nervous than Riley would have liked. They’d gotten each other into trouble enough times before they’d come to the islands. Why would Keith suddenly be so wary now just because this sort of trouble might involve guns and pirates and tigers?

“So, Jason said I couldn’t go with him,” Riley began.


“But he didn’t say we couldn’t do something else to help.”

“Actually, I’m pretty sure I heard him tell you to stay here.”

“Whatever,” Riley scoffed. “You wanna raise a little hell with me Keith?”

“I don’t know. What's your plan?”

Riley grabbed Keith by the hand and grinned at him again as he dragged Keith back towards the room Liza and Dennis were in.

“Liza, we’re going out for a bit,” Riley said. “If you could be totally awesome and not tell Jason that we snuck out while he was gone then that would be amazing.”

“Wait, where are you going?” Liza objected.

“We’re not going far,” Riley said, “and we’ll probably be back before Jason anyway. If he does come back before us just tell him we went somewhere private to make out or something.”

“I don’t know,” Liza muttered. “Daisy is already away helping Doctor Earnhardt, and Jason’s gone, so if you two leave then it will just be me and Ollie here.”

“I know you don’t like them, but keep a gun at your side for once,” Riley told her. “We’ll be back soon.”

“All right,” Liza conceded, “but I’m still not sure about this.”

“You do not want your brother to know that the two of you are taking matters into your own hands,” Dennis said. He looked up at Riley, his eyes as cold as steel behind his glasses. “I am also in this room. What will you give me to stay silent?”

“Er…” Riley hesitated. He hadn’t thought that Dennis might want to tell Jason, especially after Riley had stood up to Jason on Dennis’s behalf only a few minutes earlier.

“My thanks?” Riley suggested.

“And what is that worth?” Dennis asked.

“Aw, come on,” Riley groaned. “I was nice to you before.”

“You think that means I owe you now?” Dennis asked, cocking an eyebrow at Riley. “I do not.”

“Hey, Riley just saved your ass!” Keith yelled at their prisoner. “If it wasn’t for him then either Vaas or Jason would have killed you by now. Show some fucking respect!”

“If it wasn’t for Riley then Lady Citra would still be alive.”

Riley froze. That hurt, but it was pretty hard to argue with. He looked up at Keith again, to find that Keith was just watching him as though he was waiting for Riley to make the next move. Usually Keith was the ringleader, so this was a nice change.

Riley grabbed Keith’s hand and pulled the other man behind him again, heading out of the temple and away from Dennis’s accusing stare and Liza’s uncertainty.

He had asked Keith if he wanted to raise a little hell, and he had every intention of doing just that.

Chapter Text

The temple was surprisingly empty as Daisy made her way through. There weren’t any signs of battle, which was good, but Ollie was the only one of her friends that she had spotted so far, and having one lone person on watch was a terrible idea, no matter how she looked at it.

Daisy helped Doctor Earnhardt sit down on one of the benches near the temple’s entrance and walked deeper inside, heading towards the room in which they were keeping their sole prisoner and hoping that she would find at least a couple of her friends there.

When she arrived she found just Dennis and Liza sitting inside, and she looked between the two of them. She was beginning to worry that something had gone very, very wrong.

“Where are the others?” she asked them.

Liza and Dennis looked at each other and shrugged.

“I don’t know,” Liza said. “Off killing something, or blowing something up.”

“Oh for God’s sake,” Daisy said, shaking her head. “How are we supposed to protect this place if they keep running off?!”

Liza and Dennis looked at each other, and then back at Daisy.

“Oh well,” she sighed, knowing that there was no point in getting angry at the others just yet. She’d save that for later. “Guess I’ll join Ollie on guard then.”

“When Jason, Keith and Riley get back tell them I want to talk to them,” Daisy said, and Liza knew that her friends were probably going to get yelled at. In her opinion it served them right.

“Sure,” Liza said.

Daisy nodded at the two of them and stormed out of the room.

“You made no attempt to defend your friends,” Dennis commented once Daisy was gone.

“If they want to run off and kill things rather than stay here and be responsible then I don’t see why I should,” Liza said, crossing her arms and deliberately putting on a pout.

Dennis smiled and laughed for what was the first time in days. It was good to see, so Liza smiled back.

Jason perched on the hill and used the scope of his sniper rifle to scout the nearby area. He’d been told this target would require more than a single person to take out, and maybe that would have been true if he was Willis or Sam, but he was pretty confident that he could do it if he was careful.

The satellite dish was pretty hard to miss. A well placed pack of C4 would be enough to turn it into rubble, but getting close enough to plant the explosives was going to be a little more difficult.

The area of the complex that was closer to the satellite was swarming with Hoyt’s privateers. A few of the remaining pirates had also claimed part of the complex as their own, but it didn’t look like they were being allowed into the more restricted areas of the camp.

Jason slung his sniper rifle over his shoulder and got to his feet, glad that he was still wearing the red singlet Vaas had given him. He strode towards the pirates’ section of the camp, trying his best to look bored and completely unremarkable. When Grant had first started to sneak him out to get drinks he’d taught Jason something that was useful then, but invaluable now; act like you’re supposed to be there and no-one will question you. Don’t be nervous. Don’t be excited. Just be another face in the crowd.

He had lighter skin than any of the pirates there, but no-one gave him a second look as he strode through the camp. He grabbed a couple of charges of C4 as he passed one of the pirates’ ammunition stores, and continued on his way.

No-one stopped him as he approached the large metal and brick building that led to the satellite dish. There were two heavily armed guards standing by the building’s doorway, and he was only a few feet away when one of them finally thought to bring up the shotgun he was holding and point it at Jason.

“Hey!” the guard screamed. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing you piece of shit?”

Jason drew his machete and charged at the privateer, plunging the blade through the man’s armour and into his stomach before the privateer or his colleague could react.

“Holy shit!” the second guard cried out, bringing his own gun up to also point it at Jason, but the American pulled the knife from his victim’s belt and threw it at the second guard.

It hit exactly where Jason had been aiming, in the unprotected expanse of flesh at the base of the man’s neck, just above his body armour. The second privateer fell to the ground, clutching his throat.

The first privateer, who was still impaled on Jason’s machete, let out a gurgled cry. Jason turned back to him, twisted the machete a little inside him, and grinned.

“What am I doing?” Jason growled as he leaned closer. “Whatever the fuck I want.”

He slid the machete out of the other man’s gut and let him fall to the floor.

The base immediately erupted into chaos. The pirates were all shouting at one another and the privateers. No-one seemed to know whether Jason was a pirate or not, and it seemed likely that a fight between the two groups was about to start.

Jason felt a bullet graze his shoulder, and he ducked inside the building in front of him just in time to avoid being riddled with bullets. He had no idea which group the gunfire had come from, but he couldn’t afford to worry about that now.

There were still about a dozen privateers between him and the satellite dish. He could worry about the pirates later.

He drew his assault rifle, checked how much ammunition he had left, and ducked around the corner. He was immediately greeted by two more privateers, but he had been ready for them, and they both fell to a round from Jason’s assault rifle.

There was the sound of men shouting behind him and in front of him. Jason grinned and reloaded his rifle. This was so much better than just waiting around at the temple.

“Riley, you are going to get us both killed,” Keith hissed, as he pressed himself against the metal bars and thick cardboard of the short wall they were currently hiding behind.

“No way,” Riley replied, ducking back down beside his soulmate.

The encampment hadn’t changed much since Keith, Jason and Grant had saved him, and now he and Keith had managed to successfully sneak into it and were currently perched on top of the very warehouse in which the pirates had kept Riley. Judging by the various growls and whimpers they could hear coming from the building beneath them their target was exactly where Riley had hoped it would be.

“I was in this place for almost a week,” Riley continued, “and in that time I almost escaped twice. I know exactly what I’m doing.”

“Yeah, well, the privateers probably know this place pretty well too, and they’ve got like ten people out there. We’re only two, and the last time I checked, ten is more than two.”

“But they don’t have a pair of tigers on their side.”

“Neither do we yet.”

“Come on Keith,” Riley said, nudging his soulmate playfully. “Quit being such a pussy.”

Keith frowned. Before he had actually admitted their connection ‘pussy’ had been one of his favourite insults for Riley, and he obviously didn’t appreciate having the tables turned.

“You ready?” Riley asked Keith.

“No,” Keith replied, “but what the fuck right? If we’re going to die then we might as well get it over with and take as many of these assholes with us as possible, right?”

Riley grinned at his soulmate. He was pretty sure his plan was foolproof. He didn’t have the experience of Grant or Jason to know for certain, but he was confident, and that had to count for something.

He peeked over the side of the small barricade again, waited until the few privateers that were on patrol were facing away from them, and then signalled to Keith. They vaulted over the wall at the same time, both of them landing on one of the two privateers that were standing in front of the building. Keith was lucky, or skilled, and killed his straight away, but Riley had to break the neck of the man he landed on. The snapping sound made him a little queasy, and he needed a couple of seconds to just take a deep breath and make sure he wasn’t going to freak out, but then Keith was beside him, and both of them started rummaging through the privateers’ pockets for the keys to the warehouse.

One of Keith’s hands emerged from a pocket holding a small collection of keys, and he turned around, getting to work on unlocking the door while Riley readied his gun and guarded Keith in case any of the other privateers should turn around and see them.

“Come on, come on,” Riley muttered when he began to feel that Keith was taking too long.

“I’m trying,” Keith hissed. “There’s too many of these damn things and they all look…”

There was a satisfying ‘click’ and Keith let out a quiet “yes” in triumph.

He waved for Riley to join him, and together they stepped into the warehouse.

Several of the animals let out growls and barks upon seeing the two men.

“Ssh…” Riley told them. “You’re gonna get us caught.”

“You know they can’t understand you, right?”

“I know.”

They looked around the room, taking stock of what animals were present to help with the chaos Riley had planned.

“So,” Keith muttered as he looked, “we’ve got two tigers, four dingoes and… is that a pair of cassowaries?”

“Damn it,” Riley muttered. “The bears must have been sold. Oh well, let’s get to it. Make sure those doors stay mostly open, okay?”

Keith stayed where he was, staring at the surrounding animals with obvious fear on his face.

“Riley,” he began, “we’re going to get eaten if we’re not careful. Mauled at the very least.”

“Which is why we’re going to be careful,” Riley said. “Come on.”

After a quick check of the various cages Riley began to climb up the side of the one containing the dingoes. The creatures barked and growled as he climbed to the top, but made no move to attack him.

Riley then leaned down, offering Keith a hand up. Keith looked between the dingoes and Riley’s outstretched hand.

“I don’t know…” he muttered. “Will that thing hold the weight of two people?”

“Come on Keith,” Riley whispered. “Don’t be such a pu…”

“Don’t even fucking say it,” Keith told him.

He jumped up, grabbing Riley’s hand and scaling the cage while staying as far away from the dingoes as possible. The two of them lay down on top of it together, both of them readying their respective guns.

“Ready?” Riley asked Keith. Keith nodded.

Riley started by opening the cage below them. The dingoes turned around and barked at Keith and Riley for a few seconds, then seemed to realise that they weren’t going to be able to reach the two men, and started padding towards the half open door.

There was the sound of someone yelling outside, and Riley grinned before turning his attention to the other cages around them. He crept to the side and then leapt over to the next cage, in which one of the tigers was pacing backwards and forwards, its eyes on Riley and its tail twitching.

Riley only just made the jump, and had to pull himself up on top of the cage. His heart was beating by the time he was safely on top, and the sound of shouting and barking that was coming from outside the warehouse wasn’t helping as much as it probably should have.

“Riley!” Keith muttered from his place on top of the other cage. “Are you all right?”

“Yeah,” Riley said, already working on freeing the tiger below him.

“You are fucking insane,” Keith said. “I am not jumping over there like you just did.”

“Fine,” Riley said. “Just stay there then.”

He grinned as the door to the tiger’s cage was removed, but the predator just turned around and roared at its saviour. He had hoped that the sound of the fighting outside would draw the big cat’s attention away from them, but apparently it had no intention of moving outside, and started padding backwards and forwards in front of the cage.

“Go!” Riley hissed at the tiger.

The tiger just continued to stare at Riley, its tongue flicking out for a second to lick at its jaws. Riley rolled his eyes at the animal.

“You don’t want to eat me,” he told it. “You want to eat the assholes that put you in that cage, right? Well they’re outside. Go out there and eat them.”

The tiger tilted its head at Riley, as though it was confused by what he was saying. Riley tried to ignore the big cat, despite the fact that it was still fixated on him, and readied himself to jump onto the next cage.

“Riley, no!” Keith hissed. “If you fall this time that thing is going to eat you.”

“So, you can just shoot it if I fall, right?”

“God damn it Riley. Just shoot open the other two cages.”

“But what if we missed and shot the animals by mistake?”

“Better them than you.”

Riley frowned at Keith, and turned back, leaping off the cage and towards the next before Keith could object any further.

He made the distance with more room to spare than he had last time. He was feeling pretty triumphant, and was just about to turn around and give Keith a hearty ‘I told you so’ when he heard the bamboo beneath him begin to groan and then snap.

“Oh shit,” Riley cursed, just as the bamboo beneath him gave way. He leapt from the crumbling structure, knowing that if he didn’t then he would suddenly find himself on top of a very pissed off tiger.

“Oh shit!” Keith repeated, a little more loudly.

Riley turned around to find the first tiger staring at him, its tail twitching.

“Riley, run!” Keith screamed.

Riley didn’t need to be told twice. He bolted past the tiger and ran out of the building, hoping that if the tigers followed him outside then they might choose one of the privateers as a target instead.

The privateers let out a cry as soon as he emerged from the building, and Riley knew that they had already spotted him. He ran towards the nearest piece of cover, ducked down behind it and prayed to whoever might be listening that he wasn’t about to be eaten or shot.

The tigers had emerged from the warehouse though, and as hoped, they immediately went for the privateers. Riley smiled as he heard the growling of the animals, and the shouting of Hoyt’s men, and took a much needed moment to catch his breath and check his SMG.

“Oh shit,” he muttered as he finished reloading and realised he’d forgotten something very important. “Keith.”

He glanced back towards the warehouse to see Keith sheltering behind one of the doors. Keith nodded over at Riley, before ducking out and firing at a couple of the privateers.

Riley couldn’t see whether or not Keith’s shots hit his target. In fact, he couldn’t really see much where he was currently hiding, but he did know they’d be much better off if they were closer together.

“Come over here!” Riley yelled at the other man. “I’ll cover you.”

Keith looked worried for a moment, but then nodded at Riley. He sprinted out from his hiding place, and Riley jumped out from behind the container, shooting at the men that would have shot at Keith otherwise. A few of the bullets even hit the privateers, one of them falling to the ground with a loud cry.

Keith slid to a stop just behind Riley and got to his feet, still panting and clutching his gun to his chest.

“Now what?” he asked the younger man.

Riley was just about to suggest making a run for it when the wailing howl of a siren started blaring, drowning out anything he might have said. Someone had set off an alarm, meaning it probably wouldn’t be long before the base was crawling with reinforcements.

“Oh crap,” Riley muttered. That could not be good.

He reloaded his SMG and got ready for a longer battle.

Jason whirled around and shot at the two privateers behind him. They fell to the ground, just as he had expected, and he moved over to scramble onto the roof of the nearest bunker. He crouched and waited for a couple of moments, timing his attack perfectly, and then leapt down, his knife taking the life of a third privateer.

He ignored the other shouts and screams and sprinted towards the satellite dish. He knelt down and attached the C4 to a mess of buttons and wires that he hoped was the control panel. He then ran back towards the safety of one of the bunkers, shooting another privateer as he went.

He pressed himself up against the wall and grimaced. There was a bullet in his arm, and he took a moment to dig it out. His arm was bleeding, but he could worry about that later.

He grabbed the detonator for the bomb he had placed and glanced over at the satellite dish. There were two privateers passing by the satellite dish. One of them leaned down to inspect the C4 parcel Jason had left.

Perfect. Jason grinned to himself and pressed the button on the detonator. The C4 exploded, taking out a large chuck of the satellite dish and blowing the two privateers to pieces.

“Yes!” Jason yelled, throwing his arms up in the air in triumph. “Transmission terminated you motherfuckers!”

The satellite dish let out a low, painful sounding creak and began to lean to one side, before collapsing under its own weight, falling to the ground with a series of crashes and screeches that sent a pleasant shiver down Jason’s spin and brought a wide smile to his face.

It would take a hell of a lot of work and money to fix the satellite dish. He could definitely call this mission a success now.

Jason felt invincible as he left the satellite dish behind him and headed towards the other side of the bunker. As he walked out into the sunlight he was greeted with half a dozen guns, each of them belonging to a very annoyed looking pirate.

He was just about to shoot when he recognised the face of one of the pirates.

“Carlos?” Jason asked, lowering his gun a little.

“Jason Brody?”

Carlos blinked a few times, lowered his gun as well and then gestured for the other pirates with him to lower theirs.

“I thought we was gonna shoot this fucker,” one of the other pirates grumbled.

“Sure,” Carlos told him, and the pirate began to aim at Jason again until Carlos continued. “You can shoot him, but don’t come crying to me when Vaas tears all of your limbs off.”

Any of the pirates that had looked like they wanted to fight Jason immediately lowered their weapons. Carlos stepped forward from the others, and Jason finally let himself relax.

“I thought you were dead,” Carlos said.

“I thought the same about you,” Jason replied. “Didn’t Grant and the Rakyat kill everyone in our camp?”

“Nah. I got away,” Carlos muttered, “but I think I’m the only one except for you and Vaas. Does he know you’re here?”

“No, but I don’t think he’d be surprised,” Jason said with a shrug.

Jason could hear the sound of the privateers approaching from behind him.

“Oh shit,” he cursed.

He reloaded his gun. One of the privateers had entered the bunker and was within Jason’s sights. He was just about to shoot the privateer when Jason’s enemy fell to a hail of bullets, none of them from his own gun.

Jason looked back over his shoulder to find Carlos and the other pirates, their guns now aimed at where the privateer had been standing rather than at Jason.

“You want some help fighting these guys off?” Carlos asked him. “These guys have been nothing but assholes to us the entire time we’ve been camped here.”

Jason hadn’t expected Carlos and the pirates to help, but he definitely wasn’t going to turn them down.

“Hell yes,” Jason said.

They emerged from the bunker just in time to see two jeeps pull up in front of the base, both of them full of heavily armed privateers.

“You still want to help me?” Jason asked Carlos.

Carlos shrugged.

“Why not?” he said, and then Jason and the pirates opened fire.

“Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit!”

Riley ducked down beside his swearing soulmate just in time to avoid being riddled with bullets.

“How many of them are left?” Keith asked him.

“Er…” Riley glanced over the barricade.

“Six… Wait, no, five. One of the tigers just got one. Oh crap. Nope. More than six. More reinforcements just arrived. Did you end up freeing the cassowaries? We could really use them right now.”

“I was more worried about saving you from the tigers,” Keith grumbled, just as another jeep pulled up at the front of the camp. “We need to find a way out of here now.”

“I’m open to suggestions!” Riley shouted over the sound of his gun firing at the approaching privateers.

Keith was silent for a moment as he looked around the camp, but then he pulled Riley down so that he was back safely behind the barricade once again.

“You’ve got your pilot’s license, right? So can you fly that?” he asked, pointing to a helicopter by the edge of the camp.

“What!?” Riley screamed. “I got my license for flying planes. That’s a helicopter!”

“Can you try?” Keith asked him. “Pretty soon we’re going to be surrounded.”

Riley thought about it for a moment, took a deep breath and then nodded.

“Okay,” he told Keith. “Come on!”

The two of them sprinted towards the helicopter, both of them taking down a couple of the privateers as they went.

Riley felt a sharp sting in the back of his leg, and he stumbled a little. It didn’t take him long to realise he had been shot, but he also knew that he couldn’t stop, even for a second. He continued towards the helicopter, limping as he went. After a little while Keith realised Riley had fallen behind, and he dropped back, wrapping an arm under Riley’s shoulders and helping him to limp the rest of the way to the helicopter.

Riley climbed into the pilot’s seat while Keith jumped in beside him and did his best to fend off the approaching privateers with little more than a simple handgun.

Riley stared at the controls in front of him, trying to make sense out of them. They weren’t nearly as close to airplane controls as he would have liked, and he winced as he realised the helicopter required the use of both of his hands, and both of his feet. If they actually managed to survive this then Riley’s injured leg was probably going to be pretty fucking sore.

After a few seconds of experimentation the helicopter started to whir to life. It was taking longer for the rotors to reach speed and for the helicopter to take off than Riley would have liked, but it was progress.

Eventually he felt them leave the ground, and he took a deep breath, hoping that his guesses for what all the controls did were close enough that he wouldn’t immediately crash.

“Hang on!” he yelled back at Keith, who was still shooting at whoever got close to the helicopter.

Soon they were flying over the encampment, narrowly clearing the two armed cars that had come to a stop in front of the helicopter, and Riley let out a happy cheer.

“You’re doing good Riley,” Keith called out, “but they’re sending the cars after us. Can’t you make this thing go any faster?”

“And risk crashing into those mountains?” Riley cried out.

They didn’t really have much of a choice though, if they wanted to avoid being shot down, and Riley pushed forward on the stick, hoping that they might be able to outrun the two cars.

The helicopter lurched forward, and then Riley swung them around. Riley could feel the helicopter’s landing skids clipping the trees below them, but after a few very tense seconds they cleared the very top of the hill and continued on over the rest of the island.

“Oh my god,” Riley breathed. “Fuck yes! We did it. You okay back there?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Keith told him.

“Holy shit,” Riley muttered. “You know what? I think I’m getting the hang of this.”

“You did really good Riley,” Keith said, as he took a moment to reload the gun he had been using. “I’m proud of you.”

Riley smiled despite himself, and was just wondering whether keeping a helicopter near the temple would make them too conspicuous or not when Keith cried out from the back of the helicopter.

“Holy shit!” he shouted. “Riley, make this thing go as fast as you possibly can, okay? Holy shit, this gun is not big enough.”

“What is it?” Riley asked, glancing back at Keith.

“They’ve sent another helicopter after us,” Keith replied. “And it’s a lot bigger than ours. Pretty sure that’s a mounted gun on the side too.”

Riley swallowed nervously, turned his attention back to the controls and hoped that their smaller machine was somehow capable of outrunning the larger one that was now on their tail.

There was only one privateer left. Jason chased after him, hit him in the back of the head with the butt of his rifle and grinned as the privateer fell to the ground face first. He stomped down on the middle of the man’s back with one booted foot, pinning him in place.

“Please,” the man cried out. “Please don’t kill me…”

Jason contemplated letting the man go. After all, they could always do with more people spreading the tale of Snow White.

“Sorry,” he told the privateer, before firing off a round into the back of his head. “I would have liked to have left you alive, but you saw the pirates helping me out. You know how it is.”

He removed his boot from the other man’s back and gave his body a small kick, telling himself it was so he could make sure that the other man was dead and yet knowing there was no way that he had survived Jason’s bullets.

“I couldn’t let you tell Hoyt that Carlos and his friends are helping me out, could I?” Jason said to the dead man. “Speaking of which…”

Jason turned around and smiled when he spotted Carlos and the other pirates not too far away. He was just about to speak, when suddenly he realised there was a buzzing noise coming from the sky, and it sounded like it was getting louder.

Jason looked up to see two helicopters speeding towards the encampment. Jason lifted his gun, ready to start shooting at the vehicles if need be, and behind him he heard several guns reload as the pirates got ready to do the same.

He was just about to start shooting when he realised that the two helicopters were already shooting at each other. That was weird. There was a dangerous amount of smoke flowing from the first helicopter as well. Jason gave it about a minute before the whole thing blew up or came crashing to the ground.

He held back, wanting to get a better gauge on the situation, and then when the first helicopter passed close by Jason caught a glimpse of who it was that was piloting it, and he felt like his heart had just fallen to the bottom of his stomach.

“Shoot at the second helicopter!” Jason yelled back at Carlos and the other pirates. “Don’t touch the first one! Get rid of the big one now! Bring it down!”

Jason didn’t know whether or not Carlos had also seen Riley at the pilot’s seat, but either way he started shooting at the second helicopter without any questions, and the other pirates weren’t far behind.

It would have been better if one of them had a rocket launcher, but with all of their combined weaponry they soon brought the large helicopter down, and it landed in a broken mess of firey metal just in front of the complex.

Jason looked back to where the smaller helicopter was spiralling out of control. Riley had managed to get the machine out over the water at least, and as Jason watched he saw Riley and another figure which he guessed must be Keith, although he couldn’t be sure, jump out of the machine and go plummeting into the water below.

The helicopter fell into the water with a loud splash, followed by the sound of crumpling metal. Keith and Riley hadn’t jumped from that high a height, but Jason had a feeling the water they’d jumped into wasn’t very deep either.

He clutched his gun close to his chest and started sprinting towards the waterside, hoping that he wouldn’t find his younger brother’s body there when he arrived.

He ran onto the beach as fast as he could, and stopped in his tracks when he caught sight of Keith and Riley. They were leaning on each other and gradually stumbling towards the shore, and of all the things Riley could be doing at that moment, he was fucking laughing.

“That was fucking awesome!” Riley yelled, throwing his arms up in the air as he saw Jason, before stumbling forwards and immediately resorting to leaning on Keith once again.

Jason realised there was a trail of blood flowing from one of Riley’s legs, and frowned at the two other men as they grew closer.

“The sharks will smell that,” Jason said. “You should get out of the water as soon as possible.”

“Seriously though!” Riley yelled, gesticulating wildly and completely ignoring what Jason had said. “Keith was freaking out about the other helicopter and then there was smoke coming from I don’t know where, and then you and those pirates came out of nowhere!”

Jason crossed his arms in front of his chest as the two men stepped out of the water and onto the sandy beach, soaking wet and more than a little wobbly on their feet.

“Oh my god!” Riley exclaimed. “Did you see us jump out of that plane? We didn’t even have any parachutes!”

“I saw,” Jason replied, still frowning.

Keith seemed to realise how angry Jason was growing, and had the decency to look at least a little bit sorry and embarrassed, but Riley just continued to babble excitedly for a while.

“And you weren’t even there when we stole that thing. There was privateers everywhere and they totally had us surrounded and I was like ‘but I can’t fly a helicopter’ but we stole it anyway. That was fucking insane!”

“Yes it was,” Jason agreed, and Riley went silent as he finally seemed to realise how unhappy Jason was with the two of them.

“Everything okay?”

Jason looked over his shoulder to find that Carlos and some of the other pirates had joined them on the beach.

“Yeah,” Jason told Carlos. “Luckily Riley escaped with only… for fuck’s sake Riley. Is that a bullet wound?”

“Yeah,” Riley answered. “I don’t remember when I got that, but it was definitely after we freed the tigers.”

“After you…?” Jason shook his head and glared at Keith and Riley. “Look, I don’t want to know exactly what it was the two of you thought you were doing. Just tell me one thing; did anyone get close enough to realise who the two of you were?”

“I don’t think so,” Riley answered. “We killed most of them anyway. At least, I think we did. It got a bit crazy at the end.”

“You think?”

Riley actually started returning Jason’s frown, although Jason had never really been able to take an angry Riley seriously, and that hadn’t changed.

“You want us to help out with that bullet wound?” Carlos asked the three Americans.

“You’ve got medical supplies to spare?” Jason asked him.

Carlos nodded, and then leaned over to one of the other pirates, muttered something to him, and then the pirate was running off before Jason could even properly accept Carlos’s offer of help.

Before long the pirate came back, holding some old fabric that was only mildly stained, a bottle of something that was hopefully clean and which looked to be alcoholic, and a thin blade that had probably started its life as a torture device, but which should work fine to get the bullet out of Riley’s leg.

“It’s not much,” Carlos admitted, “but it’s better than nothing.”

“Don’t worry,” Jason said, as Carlos and one of the other pirates started fussing over Riley while Keith simultaneously tried to help and tried to make sure the other men touched his soulmate as sparingly as possible.

“I’ve made do with supplies like these before now,” Jason added.

After much fussing from Keith and the pirates, and much frowning from Riley, the bullet was pulled out from Riley’s calf, and a bandage added to restrict the bleeding.

“Seriously you two,” Jason said, as soon as the pirate that was not Carlos had finished tying up Riley’s makeshift bandage. “This was really fucking stupid.”

“I was trying to help,” Riley said, “and you know what? I’m pretty sure we did. Our mission was totally a success. We fucked those guys up.”

“And you both would have been fucked if I wasn’t here,” Jason said. “There was a base full of privateers and pirates just up that hill, and they wouldn’t have hesitated to shoot the both of you if I hadn’t gotten here first. You’ve been reckless, and stupid, and Keith, I cannot believe you let him do this!”

“How is this suddenly my fault?!” Keith objected.

“Look, I didn’t…” Jason uncrossed his arms and shook his head, “I don’t have a problem with the two of you being together, not like Grant did, but you have to admit that things haven’t exactly gone smoothly for the two of you, so if you’re going to stay together, if you want me to be actually happy about your relationship, rather than just barely accepting it, then you’ve got to take better care of Riley.”

Keith looked like he was going to say something else, but then thought better of it. Jason shook his head at his friend and little brother.

“Sorry guys,” he said, addressing the pirates behind them. “I think I’ve got to cut this little reunion short. Carlos, I don’t know if you’ve heard the rumours, but Vaas and I are going to take down Hoyt. If it comes down to the two of us or him, you’ll be on our side, right?”

“You can count on me and every one of the bastards behind me,” Carlos told Jason. “We follow Vaas, not Hoyt.”

“Thanks guys,” Jason said. “Hopefully I’ll see you all soon. As for you two idiots, we’d all better get back to the temple.”

Soon Jason was driving them all back to the temple, and all three of them were silent as they sped across the island. Riley frowned for most of the journey, knowing that Jason probably already had his next mission planned, and he would undoubtedly be left behind again. Now that the excitement had faded the pain in his leg had flared up properly, and it burned, which definitely wasn’t helping Riley smile.

In the seat across from him Keith would occasionally send a smile over at him, and Riley was put in mind of the first time they’d shared the back seat of the car when on the island. It felt like their relationship hadn’t progressed all that much since then, but when he thought about it they’d been through a lot, so that was probably something all on its own. Relationship strengthening or something like that.

When Jason pulled up to the temple Vaas was waiting for him outside, and Jason suddenly sprang to life. He practically jumped out of the car, ran over to Vaas and pinned him to the wall with a demanding kiss, having seemingly forgotten that Keith and Riley were right there.

“Where the fuck were you?” Vaas asked as they parted, although from the smile on his face everyone could see that he wasn’t really angry at his soulmate.

Jason muttered something that Riley was glad he couldn’t hear, and the two of them began to chuckle.

Riley tried to look anywhere but at Jason and Vaas as he passed close by them and entered the temple, but he could still here them speaking in between Jason’s almost frantic kisses.

“Gotta go to another fucking meeting amante. You and your fucking big shot secret agent friend…”

“Damn it Vaas. I do not want to think about Willis right now. Do we… do we have to go? I think I’d rather stay here.”

“Even if after the fucking meeting the two of us can go and steal a fuckload of weapons? There will be lots of killing, and explosions, and I’m gonna make sure it’s just the two of us this time.”

“Oh Vaas. You do know how to show a girl a good time.”

Riley tried not to blush, and glanced over at Keith. Keith rolled his eyes as the two of them headed into the temple, where they were greeted by a rather pissed-off looking Daisy.

“There you are!” she yelled. “Where the hell were you two!? And where is Jason!?”

“Don’t worry,” Keith muttered. “We’ve already gotten this lecture from Jason, who is making out with Vaas at the front of the temple. Interrupting them right now might get you knifed by either one of them by the way.”

Daisy ignored Keith’s advice and went storming out the front to give the other two men a piece of her mind.

“Seriously!” Keith yelled after her. “I wouldn’t!”

Before long there was the sound of a car taking off, and Riley got the feeling that Daisy had failed to convince Vaas and Jason of anything but how much they’d rather be somewhere that wasn’t the temple.

Keith let out a loud sigh and shook his head, before reaching over and grabbing the younger man’s hand in his own. Riley looked down at their intertwined hands, blinked a couple of times and then smiled at Keith.

Keith led him to the front of the temple, but they had yet to make it out when Daisy stepped in front of them, effectively blocking their way out. She had her arms crossed in front of chest, and she looked anything but impressed to find the two of them apparently trying to leave again.

“Oh no you don’t,” she told them. “Not again. Not after last time.”

“But we’re not going far this time,” Riley told her, even though he had no idea where it was Keith was actually planning to go. “I promise.”

Daisy didn’t look like she was going to buy it though, and she refused to move.

“Please?” Riley tried. “We’re not planning anything bad this time.”

“Oh really?” Daisy asked. “Then where are you two going, huh?”

“Look, we’re going somewhere a little more private so that we can make out, all right?” Keith told her. “We haven’t really had any alone time lately, you know?”

“What? Oh!” Daisy’s eyes widened and then she stepped aside for the two of them. “I guess that’s okay. Just don’t go too far, and make sure you keep your radio and at least one gun with you okay? I’m pretty sure Jason would have a fit if you two got up to anything else.”

“Sure thing,” Keith answered, and Riley was glad his soulmate had spoken.

He had a feeling his face had turned bright red as soon as Keith had said they were going to make out, and he didn’t think he could meet Daisy’s eyes, or speak without sputtering nervously.

Keith and Daisy nodded at each other, and then they were gone, walking away from the temple, Riley still following behind Keith and their hands still linked.

After a while Keith slowed down, and he began looking around the area as they walked.

“Okay. So I give up,” Riley said. “Where are we going? I thought we might be sneaking into Badtown to get drinks or something but that’s the other way.”

“I uh… I told Daisy the truth. I was actually thinking we’d go somewhere quiet to make out.”

“Oh!” Riley exclaimed, feeling his heart skip a couple of beats. He felt like he was an awkward teenager again, still getting to know Keith and getting flustered every time the older man even looked at him. “Really?”

“Sure,” Keith replied, looking down at the path they were walking along, as though he was just as embarrassed by the idea as Riley. “If you want to.”

“Hell fucking yes I want to.”

“Cool,” Keith said. “That’s… that’s good.”

“So, er… where were you thinking we could… um…”

Riley couldn’t look Keith in the face now that he knew what the other man had been planning. Keith’s hand felt too warm as it gripped his own, and Riley knew that he was blushing again.

“I have no idea,” Keith admitted. “Right now I’m just hoping to find some place where we won’t be shot by pirates or attacked by wild animals.”

“Right. Someplace safe and quiet,” Riley said. “Safe and quiet. I can do that. What about… um… there’s the top of the hill there, or I guess we could still go to Badtown. Oh wait no, we probably don’t want to let everyone there see us. Er…”


“Maybe the beach.”



Keith stopped walking and turned to face his soulmate, taking both of Riley’s hands in his own.

“Don’t stress out about it,” Keith said, before leaning forward and pressing a long, slow kiss to Riley’s lips.

By the time they parted the kiss had worked its magic and Riley was feeling pretty relaxed, but it had only made the thumping of his heart worse.

Keith pressed a kiss to Riley’s nose, and then another to his forehead. He pulled back, and began leading Riley over to the side of the road.

“Come on,” Keith said. “There’s a cave just over there. Pretty sure that’ll work.”

“Yeah,” Riley muttered. “Sure.”

The truth was Riley would have done anything Keith had wanted right at that moment, as long as there was the lure of more kisses at the end of it.

Together they moved inside of the cave. It wasn’t very deep, but there were a couple of small pools of water inside it, and it was shady and cool, providing welcome relief from the tropical warmth of the rest of the island.

They splashed through the shallow water and ended up curled up together in one corner of the cave, Riley’s back against the cool stone, and Keith hovering just above him. Riley’s heart was hammering in his chest as Keith sat there with his face just inches away from Riley’s own, looking at the younger man as though waiting for his permission.

Riley leaned forward, closing the distance between them, his heart threatening to explode out of his chest, until their lips met again, Riley moaned, and then within moments any doubt that either of them might have held melted away.

Their arms wrapped around each other, Keith slowly pinning Riley to the ground and Riley pulling him closer.

This was amazing, Riley thought as their bodies slid against one another and Keith deepened the kiss. God, this was everything he had hoped it would be, everything he had wanted, and if Keith had suggested this earlier then he would have gladly spent all day making out with the other man and would have never even thought about freeing tigers or flying helicopters.

Riley’s hands drifted down Keith’s body. He knew that he might be pushing the boundaries a bit, but he was feeling brave, so he sneaked his hands down further and grabbed Keith’s arse in both of his hands. Keith’s side of the kissing stopped for a moment, and Riley was afraid he’d moved too quickly.

Keith’s hand moved up to the back of Riley’s neck, and ran through his hair. The movement pressed their lips harder against one another, and Riley was so relieved to feel Keith kissing back again that he barely noticed when Keith pulled his hat off and put it down on the ground beside them. Considering it allowed the other man to continue running his hand through Riley’s hair then he couldn’t really complain.

Keith’s body was pressing against his own with some force, and Riley could feel the effect that his hands and lips were having on the other man. Riley’s hands squeezed Keith’s arse again, and Keith moaned into his mouth. It was the most amazing sound Riley had ever heard, and he knew that Keith would be able to feel how much he liked it. Their groins were still sliding against one another after all.

This was amazing. This was perfect. Riley had never felt so good.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!” Keith screamed, pulling back suddenly from the kiss.

“What’s wrong?!” Riley asked. “What did I do?”

“Holy fuck!” Keith yelled again, rolling off Riley and looking down at his legs, where a goanna currently had its mouth locked firmly onto Keith’s foot.

“Stupid fucking lizard!” Keith screamed as he tried to kick the goanna off.

It shouldn’t have been funny. Riley had just had one of the most perfect moments of his life interrupted by an animal that had the worst sense of timing in history. He was so relieved though, and Keith looked so fucking angry as he tried to shake the creature off that Riley couldn’t help it. He started laughing, and at first it was just a simple chuckle, but then it started to grow until he was clutching his sides and laughing hysterically next to Keith.

“Well, you’re a lot of fucking help!” Keith shouted at him.

“I know,” Riley said, trying to catch his breath between bouts of laughter. “I’m sorry, but today has already been mental, but then everything was just so sweet and then that goanna… and… oh god… I’m sorry but you look ridiculous right now.”

Riley wiped the tears from his eyes and shuffled over so that he could try and help Keith. The goanna was stuck tight, and didn’t appear to be in any hurry to let go. Riley didn’t really want to grab it by its stomach either. Its claws looked sharp, and more than a little dirty.

“Just fucking shoot it!” Keith said, trying to hand Riley his pistol.

“What? No!” Riley said. He made his way over to another corner of the cave, picked up a decent sized rock and returned to Keith and the goanna with it. “We probably invaded its home or something. We shouldn’t just kill it.”

“Oh for fuck’s sake Riley,” Keith moaned. “One of these days your kindness is going to get me killed.”

Riley crouched next to the goanna, rock in hand. The giant lizard looked up at Riley, and he would have sworn that it was glaring at him. ‘Come at me you stupid human,’ it’s eyes seemed to say, so Riley did. He hit the lizard over the head with the rock, hoping to stun it or knock it out rather than actually kill it.

“Well,” Riley said, as the lizard went limp, its mouth relinquishing its grip on Keith’s foot. “It won’t be today at any rate.”

He leaned down and picked the creature up, no longer afraid of its claws, walked out of the cave and deposited the unconscious goanna a little way away, where it hopefully wouldn’t disturb them again.

Keith was still sitting on the ground. He’d taken his shoe off and was now inspecting the skin beneath.

“It didn’t get through to your skin, did it?” Riley asked. “I think I heard somewhere that their bites are poison, or just really gross or something.”

“No,” Keith said, shaking his head. “It looks like my shoe blocked it. It doesn’t stop it from fucking hurting though.”

“See. No harm done. Now aren’t you glad I didn’t kill it?”

“You do realise that you haven’t really helped that thing, right?” Keith said. “Something’s probably going to come along and eat it while it’s knocked out.”

Riley shrugged and sat down on the ground beside Keith.

“It was worth a try,” he said. “Besides, did you think that maybe I was helping the two of us as well? If we shot that thing then someone might have heard the gunshot and come to investigate.”

Riley leaned closer to Keith’s face, grinning as he did.

“We gotta stay stealthy, remember?” Riley said, before pressing a kiss to Keith’s cheek. “Like we’re part of a love spec ops unit.”

“Love spec ops?” Keith asked. “What the fuck are you even talking about?”

Keith rolled his eyes, but Riley could see he was trying very hard not to smile.

“Love spec ops,” Riley insisted. “Like you can’t see me making out with my soulmate over here because we’re in a cave and we’re practically fucking silent and invisible.”

“Hrm. Perhaps we should have remembered our camos then?”

Keith was trying very hard not to laugh now.

“Pretty sure camo doesn’t work on giant lizards,” Riley said.

“What the fuck?” Keith said, definitely chuckling now, despite his attempts to appear unamused. “The bullshit that comes out of your mouth. You know sometimes I wonder why I love you.”

Riley froze, all attempts to make Keith laugh promptly forgotten.

“What?” Keith asked him.

“You just said…”

“I just said what?”

“You just said that you love me. I hadn’t even said it yet. You said it first!”

“What, no I didn’t!”

“Yes you did. I heard it. You said ‘I love you Riley.’ I don’t care what other words there were.”

“No, I mean, I didn’t say it first. You’ve said it before now.”

“No I haven’t.”

“Yes you did. You were drunk, but you definitely…”

“Doesn’t count.”

“Yes it does!”

“You said that you love me,” Riley teased.

“Yes, okay. Fine. I said it,” Keith admitted, folding his arms in front of his chest.

“It’s okay,” Riley said, grinning as he spoke. “I love you too.”

Keith’s eyes grew wide as Riley leaned forward, placing a kiss on the other man’s lips. Riley couldn’t stop smiling, which made the first few seconds of the kiss a little awkward, but then Keith’s arms wrapped around him and slowly pulled him back down to the ground, and before long Riley was whimpering and clinging to the man above him.

The goanna’s interruption may have put a damper on things, but it wasn’t long before they were both just as ready as before. Riley arced up against Keith, hoping that the other man would do something about the bulges in their trousers, but glad just for the friction between them that came when he pressed his body more firmly against Keith’s.

“Holy fuck,” Keith breathed, pulling back from their kissing. Riley whimpered, but then he realised it meant he could look at Keith for a moment, so he just sat back and gazed up at Keith’s broad shoulders, his kiss-reddened lips, and his perfect blue eyes. God, he was so lucky to have such a perfect, handsome soulmate.

“Riley,” Keith murmured, “if we keep going on like this then I’m not going to be able to hold back. We’ll end up with white soulbrands.”

“I don’t want you to hold back,” Riley told him. God, he wanted anything but. In fact, if Keith stopped now then Riley felt like he might explode.

“Are you sure?”

“Keith, I’ve wanted this since I was sixteen,” Riley said, taking a moment to lock one of his hands with Keith’s own. “I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life. You’re the one setting the pace right now.”

“Oh…” Keith paused for a moment as he contemplated Riley’s words. “Huh.”

Riley waited another couple of seconds for Keith to move, before giving up and rolling them over so that he was on top of Keith instead.

Keith let out a surprised ‘oomph’ and looked like he was about to say something until Riley smothered the older man’s lips with his own and whatever words Keith may have wanted to say dissolved into little more than a happy groan.

Riley wriggled against Keith, and then when he was sure he could feel the other man’s body reacting, ground his groin against Keith’s. Keith let out a strangled cry and then pulled back from Riley.

“Holy shit. Riley,” he moaned.

Riley looked down at his soulmate and smiled, before adjusting his position so that he was straddling Keith. He wriggled his ass against Keith’s groin, feeling the other man’s still-clothed erection pressing against his body and almost whimpering because of it.

“Riley,” Keith muttered. “Fuck Riley. Come on. We’ve still…”

Riley writhed again, and Keith threw his head back.

“Holy fuck,” the older man groaned. “Take off your pants Riley. Please.”

Riley thought that was an excellent idea, and immediately reached down to unbutton and then unzip his cargo pants. His hand lingered over his own penis for a while, until Keith reached up, batting away his hand and reaching into Riley’s pants, coaxing his erection free from the restraining fabric of his underwear.

Keith started stroking Riley with one hand, while the other hand reached down to undo his own pants, freeing his own erection as well. Riley’s eyes widened as he realised Keith was just as turned on by what they were doing as he was.

One of Keith’s hands came to wrap around both of their erections, pressing them together and wringing a high keen from Riley’s throat. Part of him knew that had he been more coherent then he might have been embarrassed by that noise, but as it was he couldn’t care, as long as Keith kept stroking, just like that, the two of them pressed up against each other, chest against chest and penis against penis and oh fuck… lips against lips now. That was good too. Oh god, was that good.

He moaned into Keith’s mouth and wrapped his arms around the older man, one of his hands moving to grope at Keith’s rear while the other one tried to pull his head and mouth closer, although that was impossible, so he decided that maybe he was just trying to make sure Keith couldn’t get away.

Riley found himself wishing that they didn’t need to breathe, because they had to stop kissing a lot sooner than he would have liked. He paused for only a few seconds, just savouring the feeling of the other man’s hand and erection pressed against his own, before nuzzling into Keith’s shoulder, kissing the naked skin there every so often, if only because he needed to do something or he felt like he was going to lose it.

“You know, you could actually… Oh fuck. Keith. I… ahhhh… You could actually fuck me if… ngh… if you wanted.”

“No fucking way,” Keith muttered, and for a moment Riley was worried until Keith followed up the statement by attempting to pull Riley impossibly closer.

“That would mean stopping this,” Keith muttered. “Can’t stop this. Not right now.”

Riley knew what Keith meant. He knew that they could potentially stop moving right then, but that seemed ridiculous, completely impossible. He returned to pressing kisses to Keith’s neck, one after another, creating a long, slow line down the other man’s skin.

 “Riley,” Keith murmured as he continued to stroke them both. “Riley, oh fuck. Riley. Keep… Oh fuck… Keep doing that…”

Riley pressed another kiss right where his last had gone, and was rewarded with a deep, needy moan from Keith in response.

It didn’t take much more than that to get Riley completely worked up, and he clung to Keith, listening to the other man whisper sweet nothings and pressing his lips and teeth to Keith’s skin and relishing every moan that he was rewarded with.

Between Keith’s sounds and his touches it soon became too much.

“Keith,” Riley whimpered. “I’m… I’m going to…”

Keith just pulled him closer, and pressed his lips to Riley’s forehead.

Riley came with a gasp. His toes curled and he lost control of his body, more than he ever had when it was just him and his own fantasies of Keith. All he could do was moan and press against his soulmate as the older man’s strokes guided him through wave after wave of aftershock.

Eventually he collapsed against Keith. For a few seconds he just nuzzled into his soulmate’s shoulder, taking a moment to catch his breath, but then he realised Keith was still hard, and was still stroking them both.

Riley pressed his lips to Keith’s neck and shoulder again and again, trying for the spot that had made Keith cry out in pleasure before.

“Oh fuck!” Keith cried out, louder than Riley had been expecting. “Riley!”

It turned out that Keith wasn’t very far behind Riley after all, and he pulled the younger man as close as possible as he approached his climax.

Riley wished that he could see the look on Keith’s face, but they were wrapped around each other so tightly, and he didn’t want that to stop. Instead he brought his left wrist up a little further, so that he could watch his own soulbrand as it suddenly brightened. He felt Keith shudder, heard him moan, and pressed himself against the other man, leaving another series of kisses on his soulmate’s shoulder.

Keith’s stroking began to slow, and then came to a stop. The hand that had been used to bring them both pleasure reached over and grabbed Keith’s own shirt, which, to Riley’s surprise, he used to clean them both off.

“Fuck it,” Keith moaned, before collapsing against the side of the cave and pulling Riley further into his lap. “I can wash that later, right? I can’t… Holy fuck Riley… We just…”

Even though Keith seemed to have lost the ability to finish sentences, Riley had a feeling he knew exactly what Keith meant.

They were in a damp cave in the middle of a pirate-infested island, Keith had been bitten by a goanna and the bullet wound in Riley’s leg was starting to make itself known again. This was nothing at all like what Riley would have wanted for their first time, and yet at that moment it seemed completely perfect.

“We can stay here for a while, right?” Riley asked as he nuzzled into Keith again.

“Sure,” Keith murmured in response. He paused to press another kiss to Riley’s forehead, before continuing. “I figure we’ve got at least another hour before Daisy tries to hunt us down and murder us.”

Riley chuckled and wrapped his arms tighter around Keith.

Chapter Text

“So how many are we looking at?” Jason asked his soulmate.

“Eh… Five, maybe six,” Vaas replied, craning his neck to look around the corrugated iron fence that was currently the only thing between them and the largest part of Bridge Control.

Vaas had told Jason about the weapon cache on the way there. It probably would have been sensible to check in with Willis before taking on a new target like this, but Jason didn’t really have much time for sensible these days.

Part of him had thought they might have been better off stopping along the way to get rid of certain other urges that were constantly interrupting his ability to concentrate on the fight ahead, letting him get distracted instead by the curves of Vaas’s shoulders, or the way the other man’s eyes sparkled when he smiled, but the lust for blood had beaten out the other sort for both of them, and somehow they’d both wordlessly agreed on killing first; sex later.

“Maybe six?” Jason repeated. “Which is it?”

“Hey, shut the fuck up unless you want to do the counting. I think there’s a guy behind that building there.”

“So, six privateers at max?”

Vaas nodded.

Jason sighed and checked the ammo in his assault rifle.

“Damn,” the American cursed. “I was hoping for a little more of a challenge.”

“One of them has a big-ass fucking machine gun,” Vaas added.

Jason readied his rifle and grinned at Vaas.

“That’s more like it,” he said.

“God, you are so fucking insane Jason,” Vaas said, shaking his head. Jason could see the smile on his soulmate’s face though, and just grinned in reply.

Vaas nodded slightly at Jason. He didn’t need to be told anything else. The two of them peeked up over the metal fence and each took aim at one of the two alarm systems that Hoyt’s privateers had rigged up. Both of their shots hit, frying the fuse box that supplied the alarm systems with power, and ensuring that Hoyt’s men could not call for back up.

A few of the privateers heard the gunshots and turned around to check the area that Vaas and Jason had shot from. Of course, by this stage the two of them had already ducked back down and crawled over to different pieces of cover. When Vaas and Jason took their next shots they came from totally different directions than Hoyt’s men had been expecting.

One of the privateers fell to a shot from Vaas. His comrade glanced over at the fallen man just long enough for Jason to line up a clear shot. The bullet tore through the man’s visor, and sent him falling to the floor beside his dead companion.

Jason heard a whirring noise coming from where he knew the encampment’s two jeeps were located. The machine gun. Of course. They would have to find a way to get rid of that before the weapon’s owner could put it to good use.

He heard some swearing on the other side of the camp, which was quickly cut short with a strangled cry. Jason smiled, and wished that he could have been there to see Vaas work. Oh well. There was still the man with the machine gun, as well as at least one other that was currently unaccounted for.

Jason risked looking over in the direction that he was pretty sure the machine gun was located. There was a spattering of gunfire and Jason ducked down quickly. Well, machine gun guy definitely knew where he was. He’d have to be careful about this.

There was a loud shout that sounded more joyful than might be considered appropriate, and Jason glanced around the corner again to see that Vaas was charging directly at the machine gun wielder.

Or of course they could tell being careful to go fuck itself and just be completely reckless instead. It always seemed to work for Vaas. Their opponent was wearing a lot of armour, which meant that they might have to shoot at him a few more times than usual before any of their bullets had any real effect, but that meant he was slower as well, and right at that moment all of his attention was on Vaas.

Jason sprinted towards their enemy and leapt onto his back, plunging his knife into the gap between the man’s helmet and his body armour. The man let out a loud scream and tried to shake Jason off, but it was already too late.

Vaas was already there, standing right in front of the privateer, and he finished the man off with a double-tap right in the middle of his forehead. At that distance the helmet the privateer was wearing did nothing to stop the bullets from plunging into his face.

Their enemy fell to the ground, and Jason took a moment to smile at Vaas, but then out of nowhere there was an explosion that hit the ground much closer to where they were currently standing than Jason could ever be comfortable with.

Jason and Vaas turned around to see the last man in the encampment approaching them slowly, and he was holding an RPG launcher which was still pointed at them, and which he had almost finished reloading.

The two of them sprinted towards the cover of a nearby building, even as Jason heard the familiar click and whoosh of the RPG being fired. They just avoided the blast, but Jason felt some shrapnel tear through his clothes and just graze the skin beneath as he ducked behind the building.

“That is a fucking rocket launcher,” he pointed out. “Why didn’t you say they had a rocket launcher?”

“You did not ask,” Vaas replied. “Besides, I thought you wanted a fucking challenge?”

Jason grinned. It was true. Maybe this guy with the rocket launcher would prove to be the fun he had wanted after all.

He was just about to jump out and start shooting at the privateer when their enemy yelled out across the encampment.

“Vaas you fucking piece of Rakyat shit!” the privateer shouted. “Show your fucking face so I can blow it up you traitorous bastard.”

Jason scowled. No-one talked about his soulmate like that, especially not stupid fucking privateers that were trying to kill them.

“Oh, this guy is asking for it,” Jason hissed.

“I’m gonna fucking kill you!” the privateer continued, and Jason did his best to block the other man’s words out, picturing instead the moment when they killed him.

“Yeah, well that guy is a fucking idiot,” Vaas told Jason.

“Fuck yes he is,” Jason hissed. “Only an idiot would try that shit with us.”

Vaas chuckled as he reloaded his weapon.

“He’s also a total fucking pussy,” he told Jason.

Jason didn’t have time to ask Vaas how he could possibly know whether or not the other man was a coward before his soulmate jumped up and flashed Jason one of the stupid shit-eating grins that Jason had come to love, and which he knew meant trouble for someone, in this case the poor bastard with the rocket launcher.

Vaas ducked around the opposite side of the building to Jason. Jason waited until he heard a couple of shots from Vaas’s pistol before moving as quickly and quietly as he could around his side, drawing his blade as he went.

He didn’t know if this was what Vaas had planned, but it was going exactly as Jason had hoped. Their opponent was completely occupied with simultaneously trying to get Vaas in his sights and deal with the fresh bullet wound in his shoulder, and had no idea Jason was coming until it was far too late.

Jason pounced on the other man. He could have easily stabbed him like he had the other privateer, but there were so many other, more interesting ways that they could kill him, and now that he was the only privateer left in the encampment he and Vaas could take their time. Jason clamped his hand down over the other man’s mouth and wrapped his other arm around the privateer’s shoulders.

The man let out a muffled scream and tried to pull away, but Jason’s hold was too strong, and within moments Vaas was with them too, pulling the rocket launcher out of the other man’s hands and dumping it on the floor beside them.

Vaas leaned down and grabbed the privateer’s face, squeezing it tightly as he smiled at their new prisoner.

“You thought you were gonna badmouth me, huh?” he asked the privateer. “That fucking mouth of yours is gonna get you into trouble one of these days hermano.”

Vaas grinned up at Jason and then nodded over at the pile of weapons and ammo that was still sitting untouched in one corner of the encampment. Jason had been enjoying himself so much that he’d almost forgotten their reason for attacking Bridge Control in the first place.

Now seemed like the perfect time to pick up some new toys though. Together he and Vaas manhandled the privateer and dragged him over to the pile of weapons.

“This is gonna be fucking perfect,” Vaas muttered while he tied the privateer to one of the weapons crates.

Jason paused mid-inspection of a particularly nice sniper rifle, and glanced over at his soulmate and the unlucky bastard they’d dragged along with him. He wasn’t entirely sure what Vaas was planning, but the privateer was probably going to hate it. They’d had to hit him a couple of times to make sure he would behave, but he was still coherent enough to try screaming as soon as Vaas picked up one of the nearby grenades.

“Thank you,” Vaas said as he shoved the grenade in the other man’s mouth. “I thought I’d have to tell you to open your mouth hermano, but you really saved me the trouble.”

Vaas patted the other man’s cheek and then stood up.

“Here,” Jason said, throwing Vaas a shotgun he was pretty sure the other man would like. “There’s a few really nice blades over there too.”

Jason kept an eye on their prisoner while Vaas took a moment to pick out a couple of new guns and knives. The privateer looked up at Jason, clearly terrified and maybe hoping that Jason would show him mercy. Jason just smiled at him, and their prisoner then tried to remove the grenade from his mouth by swinging his head backwards and forwards.

Jason chuckled, drew his gun and pushed it against the grenade, simultaneously stopping the other man from shaking his head and forcing the grenade further into his mouth.

“I don’t think so,” Jason told the other man.

The man’s eyes pleaded with him.

“If you didn’t want this to happen then you really shouldn’t have insulted my soulmate,” Jason told him.

The man’s eyes grew wide, and then Vaas was right beside Jason, a few new weapons slung over his shoulders and strapped to his belt.

“You think he’ll explode enough to take care of the rest of these?” Vaas asked Jason.

“Yeah, there’s another crate of grenades at the back there,” Jason told Vaas.

“Oh. Right,” Vaas said. “That should explode nice then.”

He leaned down so that he could look their captive in the eye, patted the other man’s cheek again and smiled.

“Well hermano,” he said, “it’s been fun, but this is goodbye.”

Vaas leaned down, pulled the pin from the grenade in the other man’s mouth, and then he and Jason were running away from the man and the stockpile of weapons, laughing as they did.

They stopped once they were both sure they would be far enough away from the explosion, and turned around just in time to see the explosion. The initial explosion blew the privateer to tiny pieces, and took out a decent portion of the weapon stockpile, but then it quickly spread, jumping from pile to pile until the entire marquee went up in flame.

Jason watched, completely mesmerized as the fire spread to other sections of the encampment, licking over some of the short grass on the hill, and swallowing wooden beams and canvas sheeting whole.

The fire danced across to one of the privateers’ jeeps, and after a few seconds one of the machines exploded, sending flaming vehicle parts high into the air and causing Vaas to let out a loud whoop of joy.

Jason grinned at his soulmate, and when Vaas’s eyes met Jason’s the pirate poked his tongue out at him as though they were nothing more than a pair of children playing. Jason found himself laughing at the sight, and even when his laughter faded he found he couldn’t stop grinning.

He glanced around at what was left of the encampment. There was blood and fire everywhere. They’d done a pretty good job all things considered. There was no way that anyone, even Hoyt, could look at this mess and not feel at least a little bit worried.

Together they moved the weapons towards the hijacked car they’d driven there, which was luckily parked far enough away that it was as yet unexploded, and then they should have been ready to leave.

They should have.

Vaas started walking towards him, and as he did Jason became all too aware of the blood pumping through his veins, and that somewhere amongst all the violence and mayhem he’d grown hard.

Vaas smiled at Jason and brought one of the pistols he had grabbed from the shipment up to his face. As Jason watched Vaas’s tongue darted out and slowly licked up the barrel of the gun, pausing for a second on the tip.

That was all it took. Jason threw himself at Vaas, hands twisting in the other man’s singlet and pulling him in for a bruising kiss. His mouth tasted like metal, and when they parted a couple of seconds later Jason was already panting.

The tiny part of Jason’s mind that was still thinking logically told him that they probably shouldn’t stay there too long. Thanks to the destruction they had wrought there was now a large plume of smoke rising into the sky that could probably be seen for miles around, but all of those thoughts disappeared as Vaas backed him up against the nearest expanse of wall, which thankfully wasn’t on fire, and ground into him, their erections pressing against each other and wringing a low, feral-sounding groan from Jason’s throat.

He began tearing at Vaas’s clothes, desperate to get them off. Desperate to feel the press of skin on skin and the warmth of his soulmate’s body against and inside his own. God, he just needed Vaas. All of Vaas.

The other man tasted like blood and metal and smoke and it was just so right. Jason needed more, needed as much as Vaas could give him, and when Vaas’s lips left his own he was mortified when he heard the desperate keen that came from his own throat.

Then Vaas’s head moved down and his lips and teeth sunk into Jason’s shoulder and Jason screamed, more from pleasure than from pain.

“Yes. God, yes. Vaas. Vaas. Fucking need you. Vaas!”

Jason realised that half of his thoughts were just spilling from his mouth. He was begging and screaming and crying and Vaas wasn’t even inside him yet. Vaas clung to him and shuddered, and Jason realised he wasn’t the only one that was so caught up in the moment.

Vaas pulled back for just a moment and looked Jason in the eyes. Somewhere along the line Vaas had managed to pull both of their trousers down far enough that Jason could feel the tip of the other man’s erection as it pressed against the inside of his thigh. It was so much of a tease that Jason could barely think of anything else, at least until Vaas’s tongue darted out to lick at his bottom lip and Jason’s eyes fixed firmly on his soulmate’s mouth. He wanted to taste it again; needed to have it pressed against his own again or he might burst.

“God, Jason,” Vaas muttered as he slowly leaned in towards Jason once more. “I fucking love you amante.”

Vaas leaned down just as Jason leaned up, and their lips met one another again. This time the kiss was a little slower; less desperate but more passionate.

Vaas guided Jason’s hips until their bodies were aligned and brought them together so quickly that if Jason were not already so high on lust and adrenaline than the pain might have actually bothered him. As it was it just joined the cornucopia of sensations that were already flooding his system, reminding him that he and Vaas were there together, strong and triumphant and undoubtedly two of the biggest, sexiest badasses that Rook Island; fuck that, the world; had ever seen.

Jason clung to the other man and moaned into Vaas’s mouth. His erection rubbed against their stomachs as they moved, and that, combined with the feeling of Vaas sliding inside of him, and Vaas’s hands clutching at his backside joined the euphoria that the battle had already invoked inside Jason to quickly send him over the edge. He came with a scream that may or may not have been Vaas’s name, and clung even harder to the other man as he shuddered and cried through the aftershocks.

Vaas wasn’t far behind him. He came as hard as Jason, and probably would have screamed as loud if it weren’t for the fact that he bit down on Jason’s shoulder again, this time hard enough that his teeth drew blood.

Jason whimpered and buried his head in Vaas’s shoulder. The other man leaned against Jason, letting his soulmate take most of his weight, which probably should have annoyed him, but right at that moment Jason was pretty sure nothing could have really upset him. As they stood there, arms wrapped around one another, the two of them surrounded by the smell of blood and sex and fire, Jason felt nothing but an overwhelming sense of peace and contentment, as though everything was right with the world, and he was exactly where he needed to be.

"Hoyt must be shaking in his boots right about now. I know I would be if I was in his position," Willis said as he folded his hands on the table in front of him and smiled at Jason and Vaas, who were sitting on the other side, doing their best to look interested.

"We’ve crippled his operation,” Willis continued, “and any moment now we'll be ready to take him down for good, and as much as it pains my sense of personal and national pride to say this, we couldn't have done this without you Vaas."

"Damn fucking right you couldn't have," Vaas muttered. The pirate was looking up at the ceiling, and Jason could tell that his soulmate was already sick of Willis's hyperbole.

“Okay,” Jason said, wanting to get the ball rolling more than it currently was. “So, do you think we’re ready to take on Hoyt now?”

“After that stunt you two pulled with his weapon stash I think we might just be,” Willis said, grinning at the two of them.

“All right,” Jason said. “So, let’s work out a plan of attack.”

“Vaas, I’m counting on you to relate any relevant information on to Sam,” Willis said.

“Yeah, yeah,” Vaas said, waving his hand and the American. “I’ll talk to your fucking Nazi bitch.”

“Right, so taking down Hoyt should be priority one,” Jason began, hoping that if he spoke then he could avert any argument that might erupt between Willis and Vaas, “but how do we get to him, how do we take out any of his men that remain loyal enough to protect him or want to kill us really fucking badly, and how do we secure our position as the new rulers of the island?”

“Well, that first part’s fucking easy,” Vaas said, leaning back in his chair. “Sam and I walk straight into Hoyt’s fucking office and put a fucking bullet in his head.”

“And then everyone else in there turns around and shoots you without hesitation,” Jason said. “Not good. We need to get Hoyt away from most of his men before we try killing him.”

“That is not going to be easy son,” Willis said. “Hoyt may be a monster but he’s also incredibly smart. He knows someone is coming for him. He’s going to be keeping his guard particularly close at the moment.”

Jason was silent for a moment as he thought.

“What if we did come for him?” Jason asked. “What if his men were too busy dealing with us to come to his rescue?”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Vaas asked.

“This could work,” Jason muttered, already thinking several steps ahead of what he’d vocalised. “Okay, so you and Sam make sure that you’re close to Hoyt. When you’re in there with him you send… I dunno, a signal of some kind to me, and Willis too if you’re up for it.”

“Perhaps,” Willis said. “I don’t really want to sit out of the final round, but if your plan sounds completely suicidal then you won’t find me within a mile of that place.”

“So Willis and I will be waiting near Hoyt’s base,” Jason continued, “and when you send us the signal we attack. Hoyt’s men will all come out to fight us, and you and Sam will be right there to ‘protect’ Hoyt. When things are at their most chaotic, you shoot Hoyt, announce to the camp that you’ve taken over, and anyone that tries to resist will have to answer to either me or you and Sam.”

“There are so many ways this could go wrong,” Willis said, shaking his head.

“I like it,” Vaas said, sending a grin Jason’s way.

“I don’t think we’ll screw up,” Jason said, directing a frown at Willis, “but I’ll admit that if we do screw up with this particular plan then we’re pretty much fucked. Hoyt will know about Vaas and Sam’s betrayal, and he and all the privateers will know that I’m still alive. We need to be prepared to get the fuck out if anything goes wrong.”

“I’ll be standing by with a chopper,” Willis told them. “We definitely need an exit strategy for this.”

Jason nodded.

“I’ll make sure my friends have a boat ready to go too,” he said. “If we get caught then it would only be a matter of time before Hoyt worked out they were still alive too.”

“Okay,” Willis said. “So this is beginning to sound like a plan.”

He leaned back in his chair and smiled at the other two men for a moment.

“You know something boys?” Willis asked.

“What?” Jason and Vaas both asked, even though Jason wasn’t sure he wanted to know the answer.

“The two of you are a pair of gosh-darned heroes,” Willis told them, “and I don’t say that lightly.”

Heroes was it? No matter how he looked at it, Jason couldn't bring himself to mentally apply that label to his soulmate, or to himself. They might have been doing something good for the world, but he was pretty sure that heroes shouldn't enjoy themselves in the way that he and Vaas did. Never mind that they had started this mission for completely selfish reasons. Still, if it made Willis feel a little better about helping them then he'd allow the other man his delusions.

“It’s a good thing that the two of you are soulmates,” Willis continued, seemingly ignoring the way the two other men frowned as he continued. “You may not realise it, but your bond may have saved dozens… no hundreds, of innocent lives. I’d say this whole corner of the globe should be grateful that god put the two of you together.”

Jason forced himself to smile and nod at Willis, but there was something incredibly satisfying about being able to look over at Vaas and see the exact same pained expression on his soulmate’s face.

The finer points of their plan had taken a little while to work out, but soon Jason and Vaas were free to leave the tiny house that had served as their secret meeting place for the last couple of weeks.

Jason breathed a sigh of relief, glad to be back out in the open and the relatively fresh air, and away from Willis’s bullshit. He chuckled and shook his head as he and Vaas gathered the weapons they had left just inside the front door.

"So, all that bullshit about us being soulmates because it would help everyone?" Vaas mentioned as he tucked his knife into a different pocket.

"What about it?" Jason asked.

"You buy any of that shit?"

"Fuck no," Jason replied, pausing for a moment to sling his now favourite assault rifle over his shoulder. "I can think of at least a dozen better reasons why the two of us should be together. Not the least of which being that right now we are two of the sexiest motherfuckers I've ever seen."

Vaas grinned.

"I fucking love you Jason.”

Jason grinned, leaned forward and pressed a quick but passionate kiss to Vaas’s lips.

“Love you too,” he muttered as they parted. “Look, I’m headed back to the temple. Next time I see you we’ll be taking on Hoyt. Keep safe until then all right?”

“You know me,” Vaas said, grinning as he did.

“I do,” Jason replied, “which is why I’m worried.”

“Don’t worry amante,” Vaas said, pressing his hand to the side of Jason’s face. “I’m not gonna fuck things up now. We’re gonna fucking kill Hoyt, and once we have we’re gonna spend the next week having the best fucking sex of our lives. No way would I risk being dead and missing out on that.”

Jason grinned, then turned his head a little and kissed Vaas’s palm.

“A week of nothing but sex,” Jason purred. “I bring the knives, you bring the drugs, and anyone that interrupts us get a bullet through the skull?”

“Sounds fucking perfect amante.”

“It does, doesn’t it?”

Jason paused and pressed another kiss to Vaas’s lips, this one lasting a little longer than the last.

“It’s a promise, okay?” Jason muttered as they parted, “which means we both have to live long enough to see it happen, right?”

“A motherfucking promise amante,” Vaas said, pressing his forehead to Jason’s and half-smiling at the other man.

Jason smiled back, and Vaas’s grin grew, until they were both grinning like idiots.

Jason was quite shocked when he realised he had only been on the Rook Islands for a little over a month. His life had changed so much in that time. He’d gone from being a mildly respectable, though single and jobless layabout, to a killing machine, looking at potentially running a drug empire on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, with a dangerous, psychotic, ridiculously fucking sexy soulmate at his side.

If you asked him, his life was looking pretty fucking awesome.

“So, this is it huh?” Daisy asked him.

Jason glanced over at his friend. There were still dark circles beneath Daisy’s eyes, but she seemed to be dealing with Grant’s death a lot better these days, mostly by keeping busy around the camp and helping Doctor Earnhardt when she could.

“Yeah,” Jason agreed. “I guess it is.”

Most of the camp was scurrying around the temple, gathering what few possessions they had salvaged or created during their time on the island, and making sure they were ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

“You’ll have the boat ready, right?” Jason asked Daisy. “I don’t think we’ll need it, but I want to make sure you can all get off the islands in time if this all falls to pieces.”

“Of course,” Daisy assured him. “But you realise we probably won’t be staying for very long once Hoyt is taken care of anyway, right?”

Part of him had known that would be the case, and yet hearing it come from Daisy’s mouth was somehow a shock. No matter how ready he might have been for it, saying goodbye was never going to be easy.

“I know that you fit in here now,” Daisy continued when she saw the frown that had appeared on Jason’s face. “This place probably feels like home, and I guess that makes sense, considering what you’ve… well, considering the person you’ve become, but we don’t belong here Jason. Liza’s been pretty miserable here for a while now, and Riley needs to get back to a normal life, okay?”

“It’s okay. I know,” Jason muttered. “I know. I’m just going to miss you guys.”

Daisy half-smiled at Jason, and for a moment he was tempted to wrap his arms around Daisy and give her a hug, but he wasn’t really sure if she’d welcome it, and then the moment was gone as quickly as it had come.

“We’ll miss you too,” Daisy offered.

“I guess this might be goodbye,” Jason muttered, realising how true it was even as he said it. If everything went wrong then this would be the last time he saw Daisy or Riley or any of his friends ever again.

“It might be,” Daisy agreed.

Jason glanced around the temple, looking for one person in particular, and feeling his heart clench as his eyes landed on Riley. Jason had no idea where his younger brother had come across the weapon, but Riley was holding an assault rifle a lot like Jason’s own, and chatting excitedly to Keith while he showed off the weapon to the older man.

Jason made his way over to the couple, forcing himself to smile at them both as he grew close.

“Hey,” he greeted them.

“Hey,” Keith replied. Riley just smiled widely at Jason.

Jason’s eyes widened as they landed on his brother’s wrist. There was no band there, just Keith’s name, all in white. A quick check of Keith’s wrist found similar results. Jason wondered when the hell that had happened, and then immediately decided that he already knew too much about his little brother’s sex life.

Riley had caught him looking though, which just caused the youngest Brody brother to just grin even wider, like a big cat with a fresh kill.

“I’m happy for you both,” Jason told them, and was surprised to realise he actually meant it.

He leaned forward and wrapped his arms around Riley in a tight hug.

“Look, you already know that Vaas and I are going to take on Hoyt. No running off on your own,” he told his younger brother. “I mean it this time.”

Riley chuckled as they parted, and Jason smiled in reply, although he was really having to concentrate to keep the smile from slipping.

“Look after each other, all right?” he told Keith and Riley, “and tell Mom I’m sorry, okay? She’ll probably be pissed.”

“Yeah, she’d be pissed that you didn’t bring Vaas home for dinner,” Riley joked.

“I don’t think Vaas is the family dinner type,” Jason replied.

They both laughed at that, and Jason was just about to say goodbye when Riley threw his arms around his older brother again and pulled him in for another hug.

“I’m going to miss you,” he told Jason.

“Hey, don’t be such a downer,” Jason said, trying to make light of the situation as he parted from Riley. “We’ll get a chance to say a proper goodbye once this is all over, right?”

“Right,” Riley said, although Jason could tell his younger brother was fighting back tears, and that hurt worse than he ever would have expected.

Jason and Riley parted, and Jason made sure to say goodbye to the rest of his friends. It wasn’t easy to say goodbye to any of them, but luckily none of the other farewells hurt nearly as much as Riley. Jason told himself that they were probably being overly sentimental anyway. There would be plenty of time for goodbyes later, when Hoyt was dead and he and Vaas were firmly established as the rulers of the Rook Islands.

Still, Liza clung to him, and Ollie offered him more fist-bumps than Jason could count, and before long he had left the camp and his friends and brother behind, and was heading towards what was, if all went according to plan, the final attack on Hoyt.

Hoyt had summoned Sam and Vaas to him. Usually there wouldn’t be anything unusual or suspicious about that, but it was on the very day that they were planning to take him down, and that alone was enough to have Vaas spooked. Life was never that convenient.

“It’s not his fucking office,” Vaas muttered. “Where the fuck is he asking us to go?”

“Do not worry Vaas,” Sam told him. “I have played poker with Hoyt in this room before. You are worrying about nothing.”

“Yeah, but why not his fucking office? I don’t like this hermano,” Vaas muttered as they approached the room.

“This is probably a good thing,” Sam said, his voice barely more than a whisper. “Hoyt has lost so many of his men. We are two of the only competent ones he has left. It makes sense that he wants to keep us close, ja?”

Vaas frowned, but followed Sam into the room, trying not to be too intimidated by the half dozen privateers that were stationed outside of it.

Hoyt was inside, as they had both known he would be, and looked far too relaxed for a man that was on the brink of ruin.

Sam leaned over to Vaas as they moved.

“Relax, ja?” he whispered to Vaas. “You are going to give the game away if you keep acting so tense.”

Hoyt caught sight of them and smiled at the two men as they approached.

“Vaas! Sam!” he called out. “Just who I wanted to see.”

The two men took seats on the opposite side of the table to Hoyt, Vaas trying to relax but finding himself completely unable to do so.

 “Would either of you like any refreshments?” Hoyt asked them. “A nut perhaps?”

Sam and Vaas both declined, and Vaas took a moment to glance over at his German companion, wondering how Sam wasn’t freaking out like he was. Hoyt calling them in like this when they wanted to get him alone was just way too convenient for his liking.

He had absolutely no doubt that something else was going on here, but hopefully he and Sam could make whatever it was work in their favour.

“Suit yourselves,” Hoyt said.

Vaas almost expected Hoyt to pour himself a drink, or perhaps for him to light up a cigar, but he did neither of those things. He just continued to smile at the two of them.

“Well,” he said. “I guess I’d better get to the point. You’re probably both wondering why I called you here. The truth is that I have a bit of a problem. One which the two of you might already be aware of.”

“And what problem is this?” Sam replied, leaning forward a little and doing a pretty good job of pretending to be concerned.

Hoyt took a deep breath, stood up from his desk and began pacing backwards and forwards behind the table.

“Everyone knows that things have been pretty rough for this organisation over the past few weeks, right boys?” Hoyt began, smiling at Vaas and Sam as he talked. “Someone has been targeting me, systematically taking down this organisation, piece by piece. I’m going to be completely honest with you both. We are crippled. Some would even look at the state we are in now and tell us we are fucked, and that there is no point left in fighting. If I didn’t have powerful friends and a keen mind, then I might listen to them.”

Hoyt finally stopped pacing backwards and forwards, and leaned onto the table, his fingers spreading and crushing the soft covering of the table in front of him.

“But you know something,” Hoyt continued, “I have both of those.”

A lot was happening, but no-one would ever guess it considering how quiet the temple was. Jason was gone of course, and Daisy and Keith had gone with Doctor Earnhardt to get the boat and their supplies ready. Ollie and Riley were still on guard, but they were both being pretty quiet too. Ollie was always mellow, and Riley had been too for the last couple of days, although Liza had a feeling that Riley’s reason for being relaxed was very different to Ollie’s.

“You and your friends have been very busy over the last day or so,” Dennis said from his position still tied to the wall near where Liza had just taken a seat. “I would guess that something very big is about to happen.”

Liza smiled at the man, and put the food she had brought for him down on the floor.

“We’ll be going home soon,” she told him.

“Ah,” Dennis said, nodding slowly. “Have you decided what my fate is going to be?”

“Technically we haven’t yet,” Liza said, scooping up a spoonful of food and offering it to the tied-up man. “But I’m going to convince them to let you go. Don’t worry. I’ll fight for it if I have to.”

“Jason will take some convincing,” Dennis said, after he had swallowed the food.

“I know, but hopefully he’ll be too busy celebrating with Vaas and saying goodbye to everyone that he won’t even notice me sneaking you out.”

“Jason is staying on the island and the rest of you are leaving,” Dennis sighed. “I do not like my chances of survival once you are gone.”

Liza paused for a moment and thought. She really didn’t want Dennis to die, but what she was about to suggest would be incredibly risky. It would be worth it though, and if Jason or Daisy or any of the others had a problem with it then they would have to go through her.

“Maybe you can come with us,” she suggested. “The boat’s big enough.”

“You already have one picked out? It will be enough to weather the long journey to Thailand?”

Liza nodded.

“Some of the others are getting it ready right now. We should be able to go whenever we want.”

“They are away from the camp? Who is left here to guard it apart from you then?”

“Just Riley and Oliver,” Liza said. “That’s enough though.”

“And if Hoyt or the other Rakyat were to attack right now?”

“We’d think of something,” Liza said. “Look, don’t worry about us okay. Right now making sure that the boat’s ready to go in case things go bad is way more important than guarding this place.”

“Is it?” Dennis asked, raising one eyebrow at Liza.

Liza pursed her lips and got to her feet.

“Look, you should probably worry about yourself more,” she said.

Dennis’s comments had worried her a little though, and she moved to the door so that she could get a better look at the rest of the temple. Sure enough it was still relatively peaceful. Ollie was leaning against a pillar not too far away, and when he saw Liza looking at him he waved at her before moving on at a relaxed pace.

“I have come to care for you Liza Snow,” Dennis said. Liza turned around and smiled at him. “I would like to think that we are friends.”

“If you’re trying to convince me to untie your hands and let you fight for us then it’s not going to work,” Liza said. “Maybe it if does get a little crazy then I’ll think about it, but we’ve got to do this right if we’re going to get you out of here alive, and we don’t want to piss off Jason.”

“I was not trying to convince you of anything,” Dennis told her. “I was trying to apologise.”

“Wait, apologise for what?”

Dennis got to his feet, the ropes falling off his hands and dropping to the ground.

“What are you doing?” Liza screamed. “How did you…?”

Liza’s eyes just caught the shard of stone that Dennis let fall to the ground. It was small, and not particularly sharp, but over time it had done the job, and she’d never even suspected. Dennis had been so friendly, so calm.

“We can get you out of here,” she pleaded as Dennis strode towards her, trying to keep her voice low in case she alerted the others. “Please. Whatever it is you think you’re going to accomplish, I can help you. You don’t have to consider me your enemy.”

“I do,” Dennis said, “considering what I plan to do, and that is why I wanted to apologise.”

Liza glanced around the room. There was a gun in here somewhere. She knew there was. They’d made her keep one near her at all times.

Dennis was on her before she could even spot the weapon though. The man grabbed hold of her and wrapped an arm around her neck, using the other one to keep her in place. She struggled, trying to get away, but Dennis was much stronger than her, and she didn’t manage to do anything to him except leave a few deep scratches on his arms.

Soon her vision started to blur, and then everything went black.

Jason tried not to fidget as he waited on the hill overlooking Hoyt’s encampment, but it was difficult. He couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right. Part of it might have been the great big fucking helicopter that they had with them, and which he was sure was bound to attract someone’s attention sooner or later, or the fact that Willis couldn’t seem to settle either.

“It shouldn’t be long before Vaas and Sam give the signal. You right to go? Everything’s ready?” Jason asked the other man.

“I’ll be a damn sight better once this is all over,” Willis commented. “Sorry about the… you know… the French.”

He paused and patted the side of the helicopter’s turret as though the weapon was a loyal animal companion rather than the death-machine it was.

“Sam and I have been on this island for too long,” Willis told Jason. “It’ll be good to leave and get my feet back on American soil. I don’t know if you’ve noticed it, but this place tends to get to you after a while.”

Willis scratched the back of his head and leaned back against the helicopter.

“I’ve been lucky,” he continued. “Everyone else in my squadron was taken by this place. If it wasn’t for Sam being here with me then you know, I think I might have lost it a little.”

Jason could almost imagine it; being alone here on this island, surrounded by pirates and animals and other monsters that were convincingly disguised as human beings, all of which wanted to kill you. It wasn’t hard to imagine losing a little bit of yourself to that.

He was already pretty damn grateful that Vaas had been there on the island, but it hit him hard then, and he found all of his thoughts returning to Vaas and the mission at hand, where they probably should have been in the first place.

“I wonder what’s taking so long,” Jason mused. “They should have sent the signal by now, right?”

“Don’t worry about it,” Willis said. “Sam and Vaas are both perfectly capable, and trust me, if Sam was in trouble then I’d know about it.”

Jason kept a close eye on the encampment, while Willis made some adjustments to the turret.

“You might not be able to feel it yet,” Willis told Jason, “but when you’ve been together as long as Sam and I have you get to know when…”

There was a loud crack and Willis fell to the ground, a large bullet wound right in the middle of his forehead. Jason looked around, but the shooter was nowhere to be seen.

“Oh fuck,” Jason cursed. He grabbed his gun and ran for the cover of the helicopter, hoping that wherever the sniper that had shot Willis was located, they did not now have their sights set on Jason.

The conversation with Hoyt had been calm, right up until the moment Sam let out a loud scream and began clutching at his left arm.

Vaas looked over at the other man, not needing to be told what Sam’s pain meant, and immediately worried because of it, but Hoyt did not seem to be at all concerned. He smiled as he leaned forward on the table.

“I have my wits,” Hoyt told them, “and I also have plenty of patience. You know what they say Vaas; patience is a virtue. A fucking virtue! I find I couldn’t agree with them more.”

Vaas glanced between Hoyt and Sam, who was now doubled over and still clutching at his wrist. His instincts told him to just get up and try to kill Hoyt, but luckily he had enough presence of mind to realise how risky and stupid that would be.

“The two of you could learn a little something about patience,” Hoyt continued. “Considering how monumentally stupid you and your soulmates have been. I wish that I could say I admire this little suicide mission of yours, but I’ve never really liked lying, especially when it’s done as poorly as the four of you do it. Really, all I needed to do was wait until you showed your hands.”

He walked out from behind his desk. Vaas spotted the pistol in Hoyt’s hands, but didn’t fully realise what it meant. He was too busy worrying about other things. More important things. Willis had been with Jason, and now Willis was dead. Jason was alone, and Hoyt had a better grasp on the situation than any of them had been anticipating.

“Sam, are you going to be all right?” Hoyt asked as he moved closer to the two of them.

The German had stopped screaming, but he looked up just in time for his eyes to meet with the pistol that Hoyt had pointed straight at his face, and both Hoyt and Vaas could see that there were tears running from his eyes.

“I hear the pain of losing one’s soulmate can be excruciating,” Hoyt continued.

Sam glared at Hoyt for just a moment before the gun went off. The bullet passed straight through Sam’s head and out the other side, killing him instantly and causing his body to fall to the floor.

“It’s good then that your American wasn’t alive to feel that, hrm?” Hoyt asked the now dead man.

Jason… Jason was in trouble. Vaas’s arm wasn’t hurting though, so that had to mean Jason was okay, right? Sure, his mark wasn’t there anymore, but it would still hurt when Jason died, right? It had to. Jason was… Jason was fine. Of course he was fine. Jason knew what he was fucking doing.

They were still in trouble though. More trouble than any of them could have anticipated. Hoyt grinned at Vaas and Vaas felt his blood boil.

He threw himself at Hoyt, but the slaver was ready for it, and pointed his gun directly at Vaas before he could so much as touch the other man.

“I’m disappointed in you Vaas,” Hoyt told him. “Really, I am. I didn’t think you were this stupid!”

Hoyt slammed the gun down on his desk. Vaas couldn’t help but flinch.

“The American was with your soulmate when he died!” Hoyt continued. “That means that Jason’s pretty little head is in my sniper’s sights, right now. Do you really want to fuck with me when I have Jason’s life in my hands!? Really, the four of you have made this all so fucking easy! All four of you in the one place; so easy to manipulate and use against one another. Really Vaas, you have been stupid.”

Vaas threw his head back and began to laugh. He was pleased to note that the slaver lord seemed quite uncomfortable with this apparent change of mood.

“I’m fucking stupid?” Vaas chuckled. “Your sniper had Jason in his sights and he took out the other guy instead. Someone here is stupid, but it’s not me boss.”

Hoyt glared at Vaas and raised the gun once more.

Vaas raised his hands. The smile did not leave his face, even as the barrel pointed straight at his forehead. At this range there was no way Hoyt could miss.

“You underestimate Jason,” Vaas said. “You really shouldn’t do that. You’re really gonna regret underestimating him in a few minutes when he comes to kill you, boss.”

“I wouldn’t be so cocky if I was you Vaas,” Hoyt said, gesturing around the room.

The privateers that had been standing guard outside of the room were now pouring into it, taking up positions around Vaas, and every single one of them brought their gun up to point at Vaas’s head or chest.

Hoyt smiled and took another step closer to Vaas.

“You see, even if I don’t have your Jason,” Hoyt said, “I do have you, and a rather well planned exit strategy. We’ll see whether Jason will risk blowing up my car or boat when his soulmate is also on board.”

“You fucking pussy,” Vaas growled. “You’re planning to run.”

“A smart man knows when to retreat,” Hoyt told him, “which is why I’ll win in the long run. By the end of this day you and Jason Brody will both be dead, and I’ll still be in charge of this island.”

The temple was pretty quiet, but that didn’t stop Riley from being anxious as he patrolled the temple. Every tiny movement was catching his eye at the moment, although so far everything that had made him jump had either been an animal, Ollie, or a figment of his imagination.

He saw something move out of the corner of his eye, and whirled around to check it, but this time he wasn’t fast enough. Dennis had seemingly come out of nowhere, and within seconds Riley’s gun was in the other man’s hands, and pressed against Riley’s forehead.

“What the fuck!” Riley screamed. “What are you doing!?”

“I am taking you hostage,” Dennis told him. “What does it look like I am doing?”

“Let me go you son of a…”

Dennis pressed the barrel of the gun harder against Riley’s head.

“If I was you then I would be very quiet Riley Brody,” Dennis said. “We do not want to attract any unwanted attention.”

“What did you do with Liza?!” Riley yelled, ignoring the other man’s warnings.

“Do not worry about your friend,” Dennis said. “I knocked her out and tied her up, but Liza Snow is going to be fine. My grudge is not with her.”

Dennis’s unspoken words did not go unnoticed. Dennis had a grudge with someone all right, and at that moment Riley just hoped that it wouldn’t end in his death.

Riley tried to hit Dennis with a knee or elbow, but Dennis was pretty good at avoiding his attacks. Riley growled and tried to elbow him again, but at that moment both Riley and Dennis realised their scuffle had not gone unnoticed.

Ollie turned a corner slowly, not realising how bad the situation was until he saw their escaped prisoner holding Riley.

Dennis pointed the gun at Ollie before the younger man could do anything.

“Holy shit!” Ollie cursed, throwing his hands up in the air.

“Now will you behave?” Dennis asked Riley.

Riley stopped squirming and trying to attack Dennis, the threat against a life that was not his own working just as well as Dennis had guessed it would.

“Holy shit,” Ollie muttered again. “What the fuck are you doing man?”

“Do not worry,” Dennis told them. “As long as the two of you behave then I will not hurt either one of you. I will be taking Riley to Orphan Point. When one of you decides it is time to rescue him then they will be able to find us there.”

Riley frowned. Why would Dennis want the others to know where they were going?

“Orphan Point,” Ollie repeated. “Right. I got it.”

Dennis smiled at the young stoner and then started walking away from the camp, dragging Riley with him. As soon as they were a decent distance away from Ollie, Dennis moved the gun so that it was pressing against Riley’s head again.

Riley growled and tried once more to escape the other man’s clutches, but it was beginning to become clear that it would not work.

“Keep squirming and I will knock you unconscious,” Dennis told him. “You do not need to be awake for this.”

“I can’t believe you’ve done this, and after I fucking defended you and everything. When my brother finds out what you’ve done then he’s going to come and kick your arse.”

“I think Jason is going to be a little busy,” Dennis said. “Haven’t you heard? Your brother is trying to kill Hoyt and take over the islands right now.”

“Keith will come and save me then.”

“I certainly hope so.”

There was another shot from the sniper, but Jason had been ready this time and ducked inside the helicopter mere moments before the sniper’s bullet plunged into the side of the machine. The sniper had unwittingly given away his direction too, and Jason peaked out of the helicopter just long enough to spot the man, crouched on top of one of Hoyt’s buildings.

There were about a dozen other men that would be able to shoot at him as soon as he tried to get closer to the camp, but the sniper at least would be easy to take out, and would make attacking the camp a hell of a lot less dangerous. Jason drew his own sniper rifle and readied it, praying that he would be the faster shot this time.

He took a deep breath, leaned out of the helicopter and lined up the shot. The other man’s rifle was pointed at him as well, but Jason was quicker, the privateer falling before he could fire off another shot at Jason.

The other privateers immediately turned their attention to Jason, but Jason had a sniper rifle and a turret, and that was all he needed. He started picking off the privateers one by one with the sniper rifle, and then when they started to get a little too close for comfort he switched to the turret.

A bullet tore through his shirt, scraping his arm, and another one grazed his hip, but he ignored the pain. He could worry about his injuries later.

Hold on Vaas, he thought as another heavily armoured privateer fell to the turret’s bullets. I’m coming.

“Sounds like your men ain’t doing so good,” Vaas chuckled. “I told you not to underestimate Jason. He’s gonna come in here and kick your fucking arse, and you holding me hostage is really not gonna put him in a mood to be nice to you. You should see what we did to the last guy who fucking threatened me. Jason is a fucking monster when he wants to be.”

“Oh, shut the fuck up Vaas,” Hoyt yelled, pressing the gun harder against the pirate’s skull. “What your soulmate doesn’t realise is that we’re not going to be here when he arrives.”

“You!” Hoyt said, gesturing to a couple of the nearby privateers. “Get my car ready.”

Jason was about to take aim at a larger group that had just emerged from one of the buildings, until he realised that two of the figures in the middle of the group looked very familiar. Most of the group had their weapons pointed at a figure in a red singlet in their middle. Hoyt was holding Vaas hostage, and was doing a pretty good job of making sure Jason never had a clear shot.

Jason cursed. At this distance there was no way he could take down Hoyt without risking Vaas’s life as well. At least, not with the turret. He switched back over to the sniper rifle, but by the time he did Hoyt and the others had already moved to a vehicle and piled in.

Jason took aim at one of the tires, hoping to stop them from leaving, but the vehicle started moving just as his rifle went off. Jason guessed that he had missed the shot by only a couple of centimetres, and cursed loudly in frustration.

“God fucking damn it!” he yelled as he ducked back inside the helicopter again, narrowly avoiding being riddled with a round of bullets from one of the privateers still left inside the encampment.

He needed to follow Hoyt and Vaas. He needed to kill the slaver and make sure that his soulmate was going to be okay.

Taking the helicopter would have been perfect, but Jason had no idea how to fly it, and for once he found himself actually wishing that he’d let Riley accompany him. He looked down at the encampment, trying to spot a car that wasn’t surrounded by privateers, and which would be reasonably easy to take.

He wasn’t having much luck when he heard the sound of a vehicle approaching. He whirled around, readied his assault rifle, and stopped short of actually shooting when he realised the driver and passengers of the jeep were some of Vaas’s pirates. Not just any pirates either.

“Carlos?” Jason asked.

“Come on,” Carlos said, gesturing to the empty passenger seat beside him. “Get in!”

In the back of the car a couple of other pirates were already shooting at the privateer encampment, and smiled at Jason when they saw him.

“What the fuck are you doing here?!” Jason yelled as he clambered into the front passenger seat. “How did you know we needed help?”

“You’re kidding right?” Carlos said as he turned the car around and then slammed down on the accelerator. “Vaas and a couple of crazy Americans trying to take down Hoyt? You think our comm chatter consists of anything else right now? I er… had a feeling you guys could probably use a helping hand.”

Carlos drove the jeep as fast as he possibly could, but it wasn’t long before they heard the sound of another couple of vehicles approaching them from behind. Jason glanced back to discover that two armoured vehicles had left the encampment and were now chasing after them.

Jason took a deep breath, grabbed his assault rifle, leaned out of the jeep and started shooting at the vehicles behind them.

Hold on Vaas, he thought again. I’m coming. I’m going to save you. I promise.

Chapter Text

Jason hollered in happiness as one of the vehicles behind them blew up, then cursed when he realised his phone was ringing. He looked at the number and cursed under his breathe when he realised it was Oliver.

“Not a good time Ollie,” he said, wedging the phone against his shoulder as he continued to shoot at the remaining vehicle behind him.

“Sorry man,” Ollie said, “but it’s really important.”

“What the fuck?” someone else spoke, and after a second Jason realised it was Keith. “One of you sounds like you’re under some heavy fire there. You need help?”

“You’ve got us on conference call?” Jason asked, rolling his eyes at Ollie and then wincing as he was forced to dodge a hail of fire from their pursuers, almost losing the phone in the process.

“Yeah, well, it’s really important,” Ollie said.

Jason ground his teeth as he reloaded his assault rifle. It had damn well better be important, or he was going to kick Ollie’s ass the first chance he got.

“Yeah, well, trying to kill Hoyt and save my fucking soulmate is really important too,” Jason shouted into the phone.

“Dennis took Riley,” Ollie told them.

“What?” Keith replied, sounding scared. Jason meanwhile was too shocked to say anything. His hand even stopped pulling the trigger of his rifle, hovering uselessly over it instead as he simply stared at the vehicle chasing them.

“What do you mean he took Riley?!” Keith continued.

“I mean he took him,” Ollie said. “He escaped somehow, and then he had a gun to Riley’s head and he fucking left.”

Jason sat back down in the front of the car and took a moment to process what Ollie was saying. Out of all the god damn fucking times for Dennis to pull something like this, why did it have to be at that exact moment?

“What the fuck?” Jason muttered, more to himself than to Ollie and Keith, but they heard him anyway. “Why the fuck would Dennis do this?”

“Fucked if I know,” Ollie said. “It gets weirder. He said that he’s taking Riley to someplace called Orphan’s Point.”

That was weird. If Dennis actually wanted to get away or do whatever it was he was planning to do with Riley then telling them where he was going seemed like the stupidest idea in the world.

“Why would he tell us where he’s going?” Jason asked, once again thinking aloud rather than actually asking.

“It doesn’t fucking matter,” Keith growled. “I’m going after him. Nobody puts Riley through shit like this and gets away with it. Nobody.”

“Wait, no!” Jason yelled into the phone, just before Keith could hang up and go running off on what was more than likely a suicide mission.

“God damn it Jason!” Keith roared into the phone. “What do you expect me to do? Just sit back and let Dennis… Fuck you, you fucking hypocrite! I’m going after them.”

“Keith. No. I think that’s what he wants you to do,” Jason shouted into the phone. “Think about it. Why else would he tell us where he’s going? If he wanted Riley dead he’d already be dead so he obviously wants something else. What if… Stick with me for a second guys; Riley took away Citra, the person Dennis loves most, so what if, to get revenge, Dennis is planning to take away the person Riley loves most too. That’s you Keith.”

“What?” Keith muttered, sounding confused. “Dennis kidnapped Riley so that he could kill me?”

“I don’t know,” Jason said, “but it seems possible. Look, don’t do anything just yet. I don’t think Dennis and Riley are going anywhere. I’ve got to kill Hoyt and save Vaas and then I’ll help you out with Riley, all right?”

“All right,” Keith and Ollie both muttered, although Keith sounded less than happy about waiting.

“Let me know if anything changes,” Jason said. “Meanwhile, I’ve got a soulmate and a fucking island to save.”

He hung up before the others could say anything else, slipping the phone into his pocket and taking a moment to reload his gun.

The two pirates in the back of the vehicle had been working on getting rid of their last pursuer while Jason was busy on the phone, and the armoured car went skidding to the side of the road, crashing into a ditch before Jason could even fire off another shot. On the one hand he was disappointed that he didn’t get to take the vehicle down himself, on the other it meant that now they could all concentrate on chasing after Hoyt and Vaas.

Hoyt’s car was just visible on the road ahead. Jason’s trigger finger itched, urging him to just pick up his sniper rifle again and try to take out one of the vehicle’s tires, and if Vaas hadn’t been in the car with Hoyt then he might have been tempted.

Hoyt’s car eventually started to slow down, and turned onto what looked to be a small dock. There was an expensive looking boat waiting for Hoyt, as well as half a dozen more privateers that immediately started firing on Jason and the pirates as soon as they saw them.

Jason and the two pirates in the back jumped out of the car, while Carlos drove the jeep straight into the chaos, flattening a couple of the privateers and letting the jeep come to a rest on the sand before jumping out himself.

Carlos winced as a couple of the privateer’s bullets found purchase in his arm and leg.  He ducked down, taking cover behind the vehicle. The privateers were moving in on Carlos’s position, and Jason readied his sniper rifle, taking down a couple of them and hopefully improving Carlos’s chances, before turning his attention to the expensive car near the end of the docks.

Hoyt was climbing out of the car, pushing Vaas in front of him. Jason caught Vaas glance back, and just for a second their eyes met, before the privateers that were accompanying Hoyt and Vaas immediately moved to block Jason’s view.

Jason cursed and started crawling closer, trying to stick to cover as much as possible, and hoping that Carlos and the other pirates would be able to take care of the other privateers by themselves. Hoyt and Vaas were pretty close to the boat. If he didn’t stop them before they could take off then Hoyt might be gone for good, and once he was safely away from Jason then he would have absolutely no reason left to keep Vaas alive.

There wasn’t much cover on the docks either, meaning Jason’s usual tactics were going to be severely restricted. Jason crouched behind Hoyt’s car, took a deep breath and let all of the fear and anger he was feeling channel itself into adrenaline. He was going to save Vaas, and he was going to tear Hoyt to pieces.

He leaned around the car and aimed at the first of Hoyt’s four guards. All of them were heavily armed, but if he had to take them all down to get to Vaas and Hoyt, then so be it. Jason’s sniper rifle was aimed straight at the back of the privateer’s head, and it found its mark easily. At this distance the man’s helmet could not protect him from such a powerful shot, and before the privateers really knew what was happening, Jason’s target had fallen to the ground, and he already had his second in his sights.

The second privateer fell. Two down, two to go. The others were starting to panic and to zero in on Jason’s position. Hoyt and Vaas were getting very close to the boat too, but Vaas; beautiful, insane, Vaas, chose that moment to try and make a break for it.

He plunged his head backwards, doing just enough damage that Hoyt lost his hold on the pirate for a moment. Vaas scrambled towards the vague direction Jason was shooting in, but didn’t get very far before the two remaining privateers were on him.

Jason lined up his shot again, taking down the third privateer. Vaas grinned over at him, and attempted to attack the final privateer by kicking him. It did very little, as Vaas no doubt knew it would, but it made the privateer flinch, giving Jason the much needed few seconds he needed to reload his sniper rifle.

Hoyt was on Vaas again before Jason could even finish reloading though. Jason flinched as Hoyt pistol-whipped the back of Vaas’s head. Vaas may have been able to take a lot of punishment, but that had still really hurt, if the way Vaas immediately fell to his knees was any indication.

The remaining privateer forced Vaas to his feet, and then Hoyt’s gun was back to pointing straight at Vaas’s head, while the other privateer stood guard, ready to take out Jason as soon as he showed himself.

“Come on out Jason Brody!” Hoyt yelled. “Or have you forgotten that I have your soulmate hostage here?”

Jason breathed in and then exhaled loudly, mentally cursing Hoyt and trying to work out what his next move should be. He wanted to kill Hoyt. He wanted it so badly.

“And for fuck’s sake stop killing my men!” Hoyt yelled. “What did they ever do to you, huh? You fucking crazy asshole!”

Jason could think of about half a dozen different reasons why he should kill Hoyt’s men, but at that moment the only one that really mattered was the fact that they were standing between him and Vaas.

Hoyt wasn’t moving his pistol from where it was pressed into the side of Vaas’s head. Jason stayed where he was too, waiting for the inevitable slip-up, for a single moment of opportunity, but none was presenting itself. For fuck’s sake, why did the docks have to be so out in the open?

“I’m getting sick of this bullshit,” Hoyt stated. “So I’ll tell you what. I’ll give you until the count of three to step out into the open and surrender, or I’m putting a bullet straight through Vaas’s skull. One…”

Vaas scowled at Hoyt, and Jason could tell that his soulmate was getting ready to attack Hoyt as soon as the count reached three. Vaas probably wouldn’t survive, but he’d take Hoyt down with him. Jason wasn’t sure whether he could really call that a fair trade. At this stage he was almost ready to let Hoyt go if Vaas was left unharmed. Almost.

He leaned out, sending one last sniper shot at the final privateer. The man had no idea the shot was coming, and fell to the ground with a cry of pain.

Hoyt paused for a moment, then rolled his eyes and pressed the gun harder against Vaas’s temple.

“Two…” he growled, still smiling.

Jason scowled, trying to picture the moment when he sent a bullet into Hoyt’s smug, arrogant face. The bastard still thought he was winning.

At the other end of the docks Carlos and the other pirates and privateers were still stuck in their own little showdowns, seemingly too concerned with each other to spare a thought for what was happening closer to the water. Jason dropped his sniper rifle, cursing as he did.


Jason stepped out from his cover, scowling as he did. If Hoyt expected him to come out with his arms raised however then he would be severely disappointed. He’d dropped his sniper rifle, but he’d replaced it with a simple pistol, knowing that it would be much easier to use at a short distance, and stepped out with the gun pointed straight at Hoyt and Vaas.

“Not what I was expecting,” Hoyt commented. “I told you to surrender.”

“You did,” Jason growled in reply. “I didn’t listen.”

Hoyt immediately shifted himself so that he was as well hidden behind Vaas as possible. The pirate was being surprisingly co-operative, and Jason wondered why until he realised that his soulmate was just smiling at him. Vaas had every confidence that Jason was going to get them out of this mess, although Jason still wasn’t exactly sure how he was going to do that himself.

“Let Vaas go,” Jason growled.

“Or what?” Hoyt replied, almost laughing as he did. “You’ll shoot me? You’re not going to shoot me Jason Brody! I have the best fucking shield imaginable; your fucking soulmate!”

Vaas just continued to smile at Jason though, and Jason wondered if the other man had been put in mind of their own argument at the temple as much as he had. You’re not going to shoot me…

Wasn’t he?

Jason had to concentrate to stop his hands from shaking as he took aim. Vaas and Hoyt were both still smiling at him, although Jason knew Hoyt’s smile would soon be gone. Hoyt thought he had won.

Hoyt wasn’t going to win though. Not this time.

He nodded at Vaas, hoping that his soulmate would get the message and be able to prepare himself somehow. Hoyt was still being careful to keep Vaas’s head in front of his own, so that was not an option, but the torso, that was a different matter.

Jason squeezed the trigger and the gun went off.

The bullet shot true, plunging straight through Vaas’s body and into Hoyt’s.

Hoyt stumbled back, his hand still on the gun, but seemingly too shocked to actually do anything with it. He looked between Vaas and Jason as though he couldn’t believe that Jason had actually taken the shot.

Vaas was stumbling too, his hand reaching up to press against the bullet wound. Jason forced himself to not worry about his soulmate, at least for the moment. He ran up to Hoyt, the other man’s shock giving him the perfect opportunity for a more permanent attack. He knocked the gun out of Hoyt’s hand, brought his own up to face the tyrant, and sent one bullet through the man’s chest, just a couple of inches lower than the one he had just put in the man’s shoulder, and then sent another two bullets straight into Hoyt’s face.

The slaver fell to the ground, open eyed, with the shock he had felt still clear on what remained of his face.

Jason let out a breath he hadn’t realised he had been holding and turned his attention back to Vaas. He heart skipped a beat as he saw his soulmate doubled up in pain on the floor, blood spreading out from the bullet wound that Jason himself had created.

He ran over to Vaas, crouching down in front of him and gently pressing his hands to the side of Vaas’s arms, hoping that the damage wasn’t too bad.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck!” the other man cursed. “Fuck Jason… Fuck…”

There was real pain in Vaas’s voice, and Jason started to worry that he’d fucked up. He had deliberately aimed high, and the bullet should have passed through Vaas’s shoulder without too much damage, but what if he had been wrong?

“Holy shit,” Jason muttered as he helped Vaas to sit down on the floor. “You’re going to be fine, right? I thought that you wanted me to take that shot!”

“I did,” Vaas muttered. “Doesn’t stop it from fucking hurting though. Oh fuck… My eyes have gone all blurry amante.”

Jason jumped to his feet and looked around for the other pirates, knowing that he would have to get Vaas help straight away.

“Carlos!” Jason yelled as he spotted the now-familiar face of the other pirate. “Get help! Bandages, drugs, I don’t know. Vaas is hurt!”

“Tell them Hoyt’s dead too,” Vaas moaned. “Can’t let those fuckers under Hoyt’s command think that they’ve won.”

Carlos was already gone, but Jason relayed Vaas’s message nevertheless, knowing that the news might help to get the remaining privateers to stand down, and then turned his attention back to Vaas.

“Are you going to be all right?” Jason asked his soulmate.

“Doesn’t feel like it,” Vaas groaned, making Jason panic for a moment. “Fuck you amante. You hit me right where the other fucking bullet wound was. Do you know how much that fucking hurt?”

Not lethal then. Just really painful. Jason was so relieved that he started laughing and threw his arms around Vaas. Vaas frowned, but allowed Jason to pull him close, which Jason did gladly, not really caring that he was getting Vaas’s blood all over himself in the process.

“You’re going to be fine then?”

“Fuck no. I would not call this fucking fine amante, but I’m not gonna die, and there had better be some really good drugs in my near future.”

“You wanna try standing up?”

“Okay. Okay, but you’re gonna have to give me a hand up, all right?”

It took a lot of effort, even with the two of them, and Vaas almost fell back down twice, but with a lot of cursing and shaking they got Vaas to his feet, and slowly started to make their way back to the sandy shore.

The other pirates had radioed for what little backup they could find, and as Jason and Vaas watched, their red shirted allies came piling out of a couple of vehicles and immediately got to work cleaning up the rest of the encampment, quickly forcing the privateers into a surrender now that Hoyt was dead.

Vaas came to a stop near the middle of the beach, where he shrugged off Jason’s support and took to leaning against a nearby barrel instead. He glanced around the docks, making sure nearly everyone was paying attention, before beginning to speak.

“These islands,” Vaas began, although he was looking very pale. “These islands are ours now you motherfuckers. All you sons of bitches can start working for me and Jason, or get the fuck off of Rook. I don’t fucking care which one you pick, but you better pick one soon because I just inherited a fuck-tonne of new toys that I wanna try out.”

“Hoyt is fucking dead!” Vaas continued. “If any of you fuckers actually respected him enough that you want to give him a fucking funeral or cremate him or whatever then his body is right over there. I honestly don’t give a fuck. Maybe you hated him more than I do and want to turn his fucking body into a piñata? That’s fine too.”

“Vaas,” Jason muttered, quietly enough that only his soulmate would be able to hear him. “Babe, you’re getting off track, don’t you think?”

“So anyway,” Vaas continued, after raising his eyebrows at Jason for a moment. “Make sure all your fucking privateer friends know; we’re in charge now. All of you fuckers are gonna be reporting to me and Jason and… fuck… do whatever Carlos says as well yeah, unless he comes out with some bullshit that goes against what Jason and I are saying, okay? You see, the two of us; we rule this fucking kingdom!”

Vaas threw his arms up in the air, and if he winced a little as he did it then the assembled pirates didn’t really care. They just let out a loud cheer that soon started echoing around the small cove.

Vaas kept his arms up in the air for several more seconds as the cheering continued, but Jason could see how faint he was becoming, and moved to support Vaas just moments before the pirate half-collapsed against him.

Jason helped his soulmate lower himself to the ground again. Luckily Carlos had found first aid supplies in one of their vehicles, and rushed over to Vaas and Jason, holding the necessary supplies, and what Jason already knew were some pretty heavy duty painkillers.

Jason took the medical supplies from Carlos, thanking the pirate as he did.

“Carlos,” Vaas muttered, waving at the rest of the docks. “Make sure all these fuckers behave themselves okay. I’m a little bit fucked up right now, so you’re in charge of making sure this lot doesn’t kill each other or tries to fucking kill us, all right?”

“You got it boss,” Carlos said, patting Vaas gently on the shoulder for just a second, before getting back to his feet and immediately barking out orders at the remaining privateers and pirates.

Jason pulled Vaas behind the nearby oil drums, hoping that they might be able to get just a little privacy as he worked to clean up Vaas’s wound. Vaas was being incredibly co-operative, although Jason had a feeling that was just because he was in too much pain to do anything else.

He was being pretty quiet too, and apart from the occasional hiss or curse he didn’t say much as Jason worked, choosing instead to look out at the ocean, where the sun was making bright diamonds of light dance over the ocean.

It was surprisingly beautiful, and Jason was forced to remember, for the first time in a very long time, why he had come to the island; not to meet his soulmate, not to take down a tyrant or a slave trading ring or help the whole South Pacific or whatever the fuck else it was that Willis wanted them to believe they were doing, but just to enjoy stupid pretty touristy bullshit like that.

God, that all seemed so fucking shallow and meaningless now.

“Hey Jason,” Vaas muttered as Jason finished tying off the bandage around his shoulder.

“Yeah?” Jason asked.

“We won,” Vaas said, his face slowly slipping into a grin as he turned to face Jason. “I didn’t think we would, but we totally fucking won, and we’re both still alive and Hoyt’s fucking gone. Amante, we did it.”

“We did,” Jason replied, smiling as he did.

He leaned forward, took Vaas’s face in both of his hands, and pressed a long, slow kiss to the other man’s lips. Vaas kissed back, and the two of them entered a deep, slow pace, for once more full of passion than lust. When they parted, they were both out of breath and both grinning like idiots.

Jason would have been happy to stay like that for a long time, but then his phone rang, bringing him back down to earth with all the speed of a missile strike.

“Sorry,” Jason told Vaas as he reached for his phone.

“Look Jason,” Keith immediately began before either of them could say a word. “I know you said to wait but I’m really fucking worried about Riley, and I don’t think I can wait any more.”

Holy shit. How the fuck had he forgotten about Riley?

“Look, hold on okay?” Jason told the other man. “Don’t do anything. I’m going to go save Riley right now. Where did you say Dennis took him?”

“I didn’t say shit, but it was Orphan Point,” Keith replied. “Look, are you sure…”

“I’m sure Riley would be heartbroken if I let you run off and get yourself killed,” Jason told the other man. “I’m heading to Orphan Point right now. You’ll see Riley again, soon, I promise.”

“Okay,” Keith said, but he sounded anything but. “Let me know as soon as Riley’s safe, okay?”

“Okay,” Jason replied, before hanging up.

Vaas had watching Jason patiently during the phone call, but now frowned at him as Jason began checking his weapons and getting ready for another confrontation.

“You’ve gotta go save your brother now?” Vaas muttered.

“I’m afraid so,” Jason replied as he got back to his feet.

“Then I’m coming with you,” Vaas said, trying to get to his feet, and not making it very far before Jason pushed him back down, making sure that his soulmate stayed where he was.

“I don’t think so,” Jason said, as he forced Vaas to lay back against the drums. “You’re not going anywhere.”

“I don’t fucking like you going off on your own,” Vaas said. “Need to keep you here where I can keep an eye on you.”

“Dennis is just one man,” Jason said. “Look, I’ll be fine, all right? You just stay here and rest, and I’ll be back before you know it.”

Jason leaned down and pressed a quick kiss to Vaas’s forehead, before getting to his feet again.

“All right,” Vaas murmured.

Jason stayed just long enough to make sure Carlos would be able to look after Vaas and the others in his absence, before grabbing one of the smaller, less conspicuous boats that were parked at the docks, and heading straight for Orphan Point, feeling pretty optimistic as he did. They’d already taken down Hoyt, right? How much more difficult could it be to save Riley from Dennis?

Dennis had picked a good spot. Orphan Point was little more than a small island, surrounded by water and almost impossible to approach without being spotted. Jason had every intention of trying it though. He’d already tried scoping out the island with his sniper rifle, but it was way too far from any other shore to risk taking a shot.

He’d spotted Dennis and Riley near the island’s small pier, and drove the jet-ski he’d ‘borrowed’ around to the far side of the island, left it on the shore and scurried further onto the island.

As he moved closer to Dennis and Riley Jason grew more suspicious. There were no traps, and Dennis hadn’t brought any back-up. Jason was beginning to get the feeling that Dennis wasn’t actually playing to win, and as he drew closer Jason stopped trying to stalk the other man completely, approaching instead like they were just two normal men, about to solve a problem in a civilised way. At least, it would have been like that if Jason wasn’t still holding a gun and pointing it towards Dennis, just in case his suspicions proved wrong.

Riley looked to be almost completely unharmed too. After all the shit he’d been through that day this seemed like a nice change of pace, and Jason started to hope that maybe he’d just be able to talk Dennis into giving up, they’d all be able to go their separate ways, assuming of course that he didn’t just kill Dennis anyway for pissing him off, and he’d be able to return to Vaas, curl up next to his soulmate and enjoy their hard-won victory.

“Hey,” Jason called out to Dennis and Riley as he drew close.

Dennis whirled around, gun at the ready, until he realised Jason was not the person he had been expecting, and quickly shifted to pressing the gun against Riley’s head again. He shook his head and laughed at himself.

“Jason Brody,” he muttered. “You are not who I was expecting.”

“I know,” Jason replied. “You wanted to kill Keith, right?”

Riley’s eyes went very wide at Jason’s words, and he went very still in Dennis’s arms.

“Look, I get it,” Jason said, trying to get Dennis to lower his guard and hoping that they might be able to solve this without any bloodshed. “We killed Citra. You cared about her. You want revenge.”

Dennis just shook his head, as though he didn’t want to hear anything that Jason had to say.

“But Keith’s not coming,” Jason told Dennis, “and you know what? I’m in a pretty good mood considering we just killed Hoyt so if you drop that gun right now and let Riley go, then I’ll consider not killing you.”

“I am supposed to be grateful for that chance?” Dennis chuckled. “You think you have it all worked out, don’t you Jason Brody? You will consider not killing me?”

Jason rolled his eyes at the other man and raised his hands above his head, so that his gun was no longer pointing at Dennis.

“Fine,” he said. “I promise I won’t kill you, but only if you let Riley go right now.”

Dennis lowered his own gun in response, so that it was no longer pressed against the side of Riley’s head. He didn’t let the younger man go though. Not yet.

“Jason?” Riley whimpered.

“It’s going to be okay Riley,” Jason told his younger brother. “I promise.”

Before they could say or do anything else, Dennis lifted his pistol once again. Jason brought his own gun up in response, ready to attack Dennis if he so much as threatened Riley again, but the younger Brody brother was not Dennis’s target.

The dark-skinned man pointed the pistol straight at Jason, and fired a single shot directly at him. Jason flinched as the bullet found its mark, tearing into the flesh of his chest and coming out the other side of his body.

At first Jason could only feel shock. Dennis couldn’t have shot him. There was no fucking way. Not after everything that he had been through.

But then the pain began to sink in, spreading throughout his chest from the point of impact and making his whole body feel like it was burning. Something felt very wrong inside of him. Jason brought his hand up to his chest, not knowing what difference it might make, but needing to try something, anything to make sense of what was happening or make that terrible pain and sense of wrongness go away. His hand just came back covered with his own blood.

“Jason!” Riley screamed.

Jason could feel his body slowly starting to shut down, and he stumbled for a moment before falling to his knees on the ground. He couldn’t feel his heart beating anymore.

His heart. Oh fuck. Dennis had shot him in the heart. He’d seen that before; knew exactly how that would end. Maybe he would have stood some sort of chance if they had been back in America, or anywhere really where he could have gotten proper medical attention and emergency surgery, but now he’d be lucky if he stayed alive long enough to see Vaas again.

Riley started struggling against his captor, and this time Dennis just let him go. Riley ran over to his older brother and knelt down beside him. He started muttering something, but it sounded very far away, and Jason didn’t catch any part of it aside from the occasional curse word.

“You may not be his soulmate,” Dennis’s voice cut through Riley’s panicked mutterings, so simply and clearly that it was easy for Jason to zero in on those words.

“But from what I have seen Riley cares about you just as must as his soulmate,” Dennis continued. “This is not what I had planned, but perhaps in a way it is better. I think that Lady Citra would be happy that I removed you from this world Jason.”

Every breath was starting to feel like it took forever, and part of Jason just wanted to lie down and close his eyes, even though he knew that he wouldn’t wake back up, but he stayed kneeling and watching Dennis, at least long enough to watch the other man bring his own pistol up to the side of his head.

“Goodbye Riley Brody,” Dennis said. “And goodbye Jason Brody. I go now to see Citra.”

The gun went off, Dennis falling to the ground in what had been a much quicker death than Jason’s was proving to be. Riley let out a short scream and clung to Jason for a moment, the two of them just staring over at the other man’s body.

Jason took another couple of breaths, but they felt shallow, and his strength was fading with every second. He couldn’t hold himself up any longer, and he fell to one side. Luckily Riley was there, and lowered Jason so that his head was resting in his younger brother’s lap.

“Hey, come on Jason,” Riley murmured. Tears were already starting to appear on the younger brother’s face, which didn’t really surprise Jason considering what he’d just been through, but they sort of made him feel like shit when he started thinking of the tears as being for him.

“You’re going to be fine, right?” Riley tried, but Jason shook his head slowly in reply.

“I’m dying,” he told Riley. “It’s a pretty fucking stupid way to go after everything else I’ve been through, but life’s a bitch, right?”

“I’m sorry,” Riley choked, crying for real now. “If I hadn’t…”

“No,” Jason interrupted him. “This isn’t your fault. Don’t blame yourself for this, okay?”

“I’ll try.”

“And tell Vaas… tell him I’m sorry,” Jason said. He knew that Vaas wouldn’t take his death well, but he forced himself not to imagine what might happen to Vaas or the islands once he was gone, or the god-damn awful look that would appear on Vaas’s face when he heard the news.

It was too late. He thought of it, and picturing the look that was going to inevitably appear on Vaas’s face was enough to bring Jason to tears as well. It wasn’t fair. He and his soulmate had won. They were supposed to live happily ever after now, or some bullshit like that, weren’t they? It just wasn’t fucking fair.

“Tell him…” Jason muttered through his tears. “Tell him I love him, and that I don’t… I don’t regret anything. I just wish… fuck, it’s going to be a lonely week for him.”

He knew Riley didn’t know the relevance for half of the bullshit that was spilling out of his mouth, but he didn’t care. His thoughts were growing messy, and his head was getting heavy, and all he could think about was how miserable Vaas was going to be once he found out Jason was gone.

“Tell him… Oh god, I don’t know what to tell him,” Jason sobbed. “I don’t want to die Riley. Not now. Not when I have so much…”

He was crying as much as Riley now, but then he remembered that he was supposed to be the older brother, the sane soulmate, the strong, responsible one. He shouldn’t be crying, or afraid. He needed to be strong for Riley and Vaas.

“Tell Vaas that I’m going to try and stay with him somehow, all right?”

“All right,” Riley muttered. “Whatever you want Jason. You’re not really dying though, right? Jason?”

Breathing was getting really hard now, and he was beginning to feel really fucking tired. There was blood everywhere; all over the sand, and all over his chest and all over poor Riley’s hands. His blood.

Jason closed his eyes.

Carlos and a couple of the other pirates had done a pretty good job of constructing a make-shift bed, and of moving Vaas over to it, despite their leader’s very loud and slightly violent objections.

He was pretty relaxed now though, and between the half dozen different painkillers and opiates that Vaas had taken, he had been drifting pretty close to sleep for a while. Suddenly something caused him to wake up completely though, sitting bolt upright on his pallet and fur cot.

At first he thought it was the pain in his shoulder, but no, that was still pretty bad, especially now that the first round of drugs was starting to wear off, but there was another pain that was even worse beginning to flare up on his left wrist.

Vaas’s eyes went wide. He knew what that meant. He glanced around the encampment, hoping that he might see Jason already back and sitting beside him. There was no Jason there though.

He brought his wrist up closer to his face, hoping that perhaps something would happen that would make him realise he was just fucking high and imagining things.

He fixated on the scarred mess where Jason’s name had once been, wondering how the fuck he was supposed to know whether or not Jason was still alive, and then the letters of Jason’s name began to return for a while, appearing brightly from beneath the scar and filling Vaas with more hope than he would have thought possible. His wrist still hurt, but there was still the hope that maybe, just maybe, this was just Jason’s name growing back, which would be amazing.

The letters flared up for a moment, glowing brighter than they ever had before, and then they quickly began to bubble and fade, spreading out over Vaas’s wrist and leaving another scar on top of the one that was already there.

Vaas had been through hell in his life, had been shot, stabbed, bitten and injected more times than one man ever should, but none of that compared to the pain that was now stretching out from his wrist and threatening to engulf his entire body. Worse even than that was knowing why he was feeling that pain; knowing that somehow he had lost Jason.

It didn’t make any sense. They had killed Hoyt. They had won. The island was theirs. Jason couldn’t be gone. Not now. Not when they’d already fucking won!

“No,” Vaas muttered. “No, no, no, no, no. This is not fucking happening. We promised that we were gonna fuck for a whole week. We were gonna rule this fucking kingdom together. Together Jason! FUCK!”

Carlos seemed to realise that something was wrong, and came running over to the pirate leader’s side.

“Where is it?” Vaas muttered as he tried to rummage through the items near his makeshift pallet.

“Where’s what?” Carlos asked.

“Where’s the fucking walkie talkie!?” Vaas yelled at the other man. “I need it now. I need to talk to Jason. Jason’s got the other one because I was supposed to send him a fucking signal, yeah? And he’s still fucking got it, right? I fucking need to talk to him. I need…”

There was a click, and then a voice broke through the static.


That one word almost made Vaas drop the walkie talkie. It was Riley that had answered, and he sounded like he was crying.

Vaas flopped back onto the pallet, feeling like half of the life in his body had immediately fled it, leaving just a hollow, empty feeling where his heart had once been.

“Can you put Jason on?” he asked Riley, even though he already knew what the answer would be.

There was a crackle of noise at the other end, but Vaas couldn’t hear anything except perhaps a soft sobbing on the other end. Then, after a few moments of radio silence, Riley came back on, and this time it was very clear that the younger man was crying.

“I’m sorry,” Riley sobbed. “I’m so sorry Vaas. Jason’s gone.”

For a long while Vaas couldn’t say or do anything. He felt like the entire world had disappeared from beneath him, like he’d just been told that the sky and sand and sea didn’t exist anymore, like there was no oxygen left in the world.

He felt numb, and like his brain and heart were being torn apart at the same time. On the other end of the walkie talkie Riley was calling after Vaas, trying to get some sort of reply, but Vaas couldn’t give it.

“No,” Vaas finally muttered. His eyes stung as though he was about to cry, but no tears would fall, no matter how much the rest of him hurt.

“No!” he screamed. “This is not fucking happening! If anyone was gonna die then it was supposed to be me you stupid fucking… Fuck! Didn’t I tell you that you would die if you stayed here? Why didn’t you listen? Why didn’t I make you listen you stupid, selfish…”

Then Vaas just screamed, a loud, wordless sound that startled several of the pirates and privateers on the beach. He paused for a moment, taking a second to breathe as he felt the first of many tears begin to fall.

He started to scream again, and this time it was longer before he paused, and then he just screamed, and screamed, and screamed, until there was nothing left of him but a broken man, curled in on himself and sobbing into the makeshift bed beneath him.

The sun was high in the sky, there was a nice cool breeze blowing across the island, and in Vaas’s opinion the first day of life post-Jason should not have been allowed to be this picture fucking perfect. There should have been tidal waves, or a volcano that tore apart the islands, or a fucking storm at the very least, but no, it was a nice fucking day as far as the weather was concerned. The weather, in Vaas’s opinion, was an inconsiderate asshole.

Vaas and Jason’s friends and brother were gathered near the docks. The crappy boat they had commandeered had been replaced with Hoyt’s personal vehicle, which Vaas had insisted they take. Jason would have wanted them to be comfortable and safe after all, and it wasn’t like Vaas would ever be seen in such a pointlessly fancy boat.

The group was ready to go, minus saying a few goodbyes. Admittedly there wasn’t much left to say at this point. Daisy had already tearfully hugged Doctor Earnhardt goodbye and had made Vaas and Carlos swear that they were going to look after him. Vaas had absolutely no problem agreeing to that. Doctor Earnhardt was a damn good chef after all, even if he did tend to sample his own product a little too much.

Liza had been quiet the whole time, and she couldn’t look Vaas in the eye, which was annoying. It wasn’t like Vaas blamed her for what had happened, although the thought had come to him that perhaps he should. It would have been nice to have someone to get revenge on. Maybe then he could focus on hating them rather than being stuck in the never-ending numbness he currently felt.

“Are you going to be okay?” Riley asked Vaas as the first of Jason’s friends climbed into the boat.

“I’ll fucking cope. I’ve lived through worse than this,” Vaas lied. He couldn’t imagine anything worse than losing Jason. This was a million times worse than any bad trip or hangover he had ever experienced, and at least a hundred times worse than all of the shit Citra or Hoyt had ever put him through combined. At least through all of that there had been hope; there had been something to look forward too.

Riley looked like he believed Vaas about as much as Vaas believed himself. Jason’s younger brother glanced between Vaas and the boat, before sighing loudly and looking Vaas right in the eye.

“Before Jason died,” Riley began, immediately getting all of Vaas’s attention. “Before he died he told me to tell you that he loves you, and he’s sorry, and he’s going to try and stay with you somehow.”

Vaas nodded slowly, gritting his teeth together as he did, just to make sure that he didn’t get too emotional in front of Jason’s friends.

“How the fuck is he going to do that, huh?” Vaas asked no-one in particular. “Gonna come back and haunt me as a fucking ghost? You always were fucking stupid Jason.”

Vaas shook his head and looked at Riley for a moment, wondering if he should ask anything else about Jason’s final moments. He had seen the wound though, had known how his soulmate died, and had clung to Jason’s lifeless corpse for hours before he’d let anyone take the other man’s body away. He wasn’t sure what else Riley could tell him that those hours of silence had not.

Jason was gone. Compared to that nothing else really mattered.

“Jason died for you,” Vaas muttered, “so you better make sure you have the best fucking life imaginable, okay?”

Riley practically shrunk into himself as Vaas said that, and even Vaas could tell the stupid kid was still blaming himself for Jason’s death too, at least partially.

“I’m serious,” Vaas growled. “You owe it to him to be fucking happy, got it? You wanna do something, you do it, and if anyone wants to fuck with you then you just me their names, okay, and I’ll come to America and fucking rip them to pieces.”

“Okay,” Riley mumbled in reply, looking as though he was trying to force a smile as he spoke, and almost very nearly getting there.

Vaas looked Jason’s younger brother up and down. The kid was still a wreck, but he’d probably get over it eventually. He had a soulmate to help him through it, after all. Speaking of which…

“And you!” Vaas yelled, practically stabbing Keith with his finger as the other man passed on the way to the boat.

“You better take real good fucking care of this little shit. Like, really, really good care of him. If you make him cry then I will personally travel all the fucking way to LA and kill you myself, and it will be slow.”

“Sure,” Keith practically squeaked. “Don’t worry. I’ll um… I’m gonna make sure Riley is ridiculously happy. You don’t have to worry about a thing.”

“Good,” Vaas muttered. “That’s what I wanted to fucking hear.”

Vaas didn’t have too much to say to the rest of the group, except to Ollie, who had already let Vaas know that he was more than willing to help introduce Rook Island produce to California should Vaas ever want help, but they’d already traded numbers, the younger man having apparently completely forgiven Vaas for Vincent’s death. Vaas knew he never would have been able to do the same.

Vaas stood on the dock and watched as Jason’s friends and brother sped away from the island. Riley waved back at him for a moment, and Vaas half-heartedly waved back. He stood there for a while, watching the boat closely, and wondering how they could all be so eager to leave their memories of Jason behind.

Vaas leaned back and put his legs up on Hoyt’s desk… No. His desk. It was his desk now, and this was his office. He was going to have to make some changes. Right now the room was boring as fuck. Maybe some animals or coloured lights would brighten it up a bit.

He would have liked a photo of Jason, but all he had was the blank-faced headshot from Jason’s passport. Maybe he could find his soulmate’s phone. There had been videos and photos on that, although from memory they were of a younger, more restrained Jason, with no piercing and without the fire in his eyes that Vaas had come to love. Maybe he could kidnap an artist and get them to paint Jason, or maybe make a big fucking statue or something.

Looking at his wrist was just really fucking depressing now, so he’d wrapped it back up, hiding the scar there from himself more than anyone else. It would have almost been like Jason had never been there, if it wasn’t for the fact that Vaas could still feel the scar inside himself, where Jason had torn out a massive part of him, just leaving a giant empty nothing in his place.

The phone on the desk began to ring, and Vaas glared at it.

“You gonna get that?” Carlos asked as he walked into the room. He’d never admit to it, but Vaas was glad Carlos was there. He had a much better head for all of the business bullshit he was going to have to deal with.

“Yeah, yeah,” Vaas muttered, as he answered the call and put it to speaker.

“What the fuck do you want?” he asked the person on the other end of the call.

“It’s been two god-damn weeks!” the male, vaguely familiar-sounding caller yelled. “Where the fuck is my shipment?”

“How the fuck should I know?” Vaas muttered. “Was this drugs or people?”

“Is that… is that you Vaas?” the caller said. “Put Hoyt on. This is serious.”

“No can do hermano,” Vaas said, pulling the knife from his belt and flicking it in his hands as he talked to the other man. “He’s a bit dead right now.”

“What… what do you mean Hoyt’s dead?”

“Yeah, you’re gonna have to deal with me now, so what the fuck was this about a missing shipment?”

“I was supposed to receive a dozen men and women by now. I don’t care what problems you’re having there. I have some very annoyed buyers that are expecting product soon, so you’d better find some way to make this right.”

Vaas sat back in his chair and thought for a moment. When Jason had been alive the plan had always been to get out of the human trafficking business, but now he wouldn’t have to deal with Jason’s pesky morals. Sam and Willis were gone too, and Jason’s friends and brother were so far away from the island that they couldn’t possibly object.

“Sorry hermano,” Vaas said, looking up at the ceiling and frowning. “We’re not dealing with that bullshit anymore. Go find your slaves somewhere else.”

“Wait. What the hell are you talking about? I’ve been doing business with Hoyt for years. Where the hell am I supposed to get new product if not from you?”

“Do I sound like I fucking care?”

“I am looking at losing business or worse, and you don’t fucking care?!” the caller began screaming. “What if I send some men to the island? We’ll see how much you care then!”

Vaas held the bridge of his nose and shook his head. He was craving half a dozen different drugs all at the same time, and the stupid fucker on the other end of the phone call was giving him a headache. How the fuck was he going to deal with this business if he was fucking sick of it already?

His eyes landed on the pistol he had placed on the table in front of him. It would be so easy to just pick that up, press it against his own head and end all of this bullshit now. So fucking easy. Maybe he’d even get to see Jason then.

“Or you could use it on the son of a bitch that’s threatening you right now,” a very familiar voice said by Vaas’s ear.

Vaas’s eyes widened. He knew Jason wasn’t there. He fucking knew it, and yet he’d heard the other man’s voice as clear as day.

“Actually I kind of hope he follows through with that threat,” Jason continued. “Killing his men would be pretty fun, right?”

Vaas knew he was probably going insane, but Jason’s voice, real or imagined, was one of the most beautiful fucking things he’d ever heard.

“And of course we’d kill them,” Jason continued. “No matter how many he sends.”

Of course they would, Vaas silently agreed. Like he’d ever fucking doubted that, even for a second.

“We’re the biggest bad-asses in the whole fucking world, remember?” Jason growled. “Whoever he sends is going to get torn to pieces.”

Vaas leaned forward and grinned at the phone, through which Hoyt’s old client was still busy yelling obscenities and threats.

“Send whoever you fucking want,” Vaas told him. “They come here and we’ll show them what their insides look like. It’ll be fucking educational, learning all the names for those weird squishy bits.”

“You can’t...!”

“I’ll see you and your men soon, okay hermano?” Vaas interrupted the other man, who continued to sputter and yell as Vaas hung up, effectively ending the discussion.

“That could go badly,” Carlos muttered.

“Yeah, probably,” Vaas admitted.

“There aren’t that many of us left,” Carlos pointed out. “You think we’re ready for the shit-storm that’s going to come our way when everyone discovers you’ve quit the slaving business?”

“I don’t fucking know,” Vaas said.

“Fuck yes we are,” Jason’s memory, or ghost, or the part of Vaas’s brain that had finally lost it, said from where he was now sitting quite comfortably on Vaas’s desk.

Vaas smiled and chuckled at himself. The scar on his thigh was itching a little, and Vaas found himself wondering if he could get someone on the island to turn the fucked up butterfly Jason had carved into his leg into a more permanent tattoo. Jason’s name may have faded into a scar, but Vaas rather liked the idea of being branded by Jason in a more permanent, more unique way.

Carlos blinked a few times and looked at Vaas as though he was worried about the other man, which perhaps he should have been, but Vaas was still looking at Jason, sitting on the desk as though the motherfucker owned it. In a way, Vaas supposed that he did.

“You know something hermano?” Vaas said to his second in command. “I think everything’s going to be fucking fine.”

Jason smiled at Vaas, and Vaas smiled back.