Price passed away in his sleep.
It'd been a few years since Price had lost Soap.
Even longer since attending the memorials of Ghost and Roach, whose bodies were never recovered.
He would've stared longer at their faces if he knew it'd have been the last time he was going to see them on this earth, trying to memorize their smiles and remember their laughs for a rainy day and a bottle of whiskey at a rundown bar in Manchester. He often took an extra shot of scotch, just for Soap. Ghost wasn't a drinker, Price knew, but he'd always give him and Roach a toast in his mind, raising his glass to hover above the bar counter top.
He missed his lads.
Price's grief had hit him weeks after killing Makarov. The adrenaline died down, the congratulations, the thrill of completing that mission. But it wasn't a happy ending to him, and only after that ego inflating month did the realization hit him that he'd lost his family. The world would never know their fallen heros, and maybe, it was right that Price was the one to carry the burden. Nobody deserves to know them.
Sometimes he'd scroll through his phone, looking at their encrypted contact IDs until he couldn't stop himself from calling Soap.
He knew Soap was dead. He knew. But even though his young prodigy would never hear it, he'd leave a voice message so he wouldn't feel so alone. Other times, he'd call up Mac, and they'd talk about it. Macmillan was his father figure; he knew the scot would understand the loss that Price faced in Soap's absence.
It was long nights of mourning, curling into himself and pounding a fist into the wall in his grief until he couldn't cry for them anymore. He'd dump his heart out and fall asleep into another dreary day, and it reminded him of how much Ghost loved this weather.
Soap hated it; as did Price and Roach, but Ghost always loved the rain. He'd say how refreshing it was, with the smell of moss and wood. They had been stationed up in the mountains, cold, rainy. For a moment, they all stopped, letting the silence of the morning soak in, the scents of pine and rain.
Whenever it rained here, it smelt foul.
The years passed him by with little events. He'd be stationed here, do a mission there. Whenever he was deployed, it washed away the pain, it made him focus on this new goal. When it was over, it went back to the usual empty days. Each month, it hurt a little less. It went like this until he was nearing the end of his service; he was slowing down, loosing his passion for the job, grayness beginning to claim his mustache.
He would never reach true old age, however. The universe had other plans for him.
When he opened his eyes, there was blackness. He felt nothing beneath his feet, empty space between his fingers. He felt no pain, no sensations. He imagined this is what floating in space was like. He couldn't feel himself move as he tried to pivot, maybe there was a light behind him. The one that you're supposed to follow to heaven. Maybe this was hell.
It wasn't like how he thought dying would be like. He knew he was dead; something within his being told him so. That this was it. That he had passed, and now, his soul was here.
He didn't know where here was. But it was quiet. Peaceful. There wasn't any light, and maybe it would of been frightening, but Price was above that.
He could of drifted through that blackness forever, never breathing, moving.
Just existing with his thoughts.
At first, it seemed he'd imagined it. It almost felt like he'd stepped onto a matress, the ridges of his boot digging into it before he stepped, the space behind him disappearing. Light flooded him, and at the suddenness, he lifted an arm to shield himself from it, but it was everywhere.
He stood there for a moment, now aware that his eyes had been open during the time he'd floated through space, and that it really was as black and as empty as it looked. When he finally lowered his arm, he squinted. Everywhere, there were clouds; to him, it was stereotypical heaven, and in the distance, he could spot a golden, arched gate.
Was he inside, or outside?
Price slowly turned, realizing he was in his gear; which was odd. He always figured he'd have gone to heaven in the clothes he died in, but now it seemed that he went as what he died as. A soldier.
In the distance, he could spot the tips of white and golden buildings over the roll of the endless sheet of fluffy clouds. He glanced back towards the gate. He must have been inside.
Odd. He figured he would of atleast had some sort of word with the man upstairs, especially being dragged through the shit so thoroughly by life. He dismissed it, and as he started to step in the direction of civilization, he could hear faint shouts.
His heart had learned not to hope, but it sounded so distinctly like someone was calling his name. He froze, his body becoming a statue, shakey stare locked onto the horizon of clouds that hid the angelic structures beyond.
He dared not to hope. He forced the feeling back down in doubt, but he knew even before Soap came racing over the hill that it was him, just by the sound of the yell alone, his voice. Beside him, Roach and Ghost ran, screaming his name as though it was a contest of loudness.
All of the voice mails he'd left, all of the words he said, and yet, he stood there, numb as he watched the scot run towards him, wordless. Soap looked exactly as he had the day he died; only, no bloody hole in his chest, no death pale face. Roach was grinning through tears, Ghost's speed speaking for itself. They looked as vibrant, as alive as ever, sporting their own sets of angel wings, and before Price could stop it, his eyes became tear blurry, his knees weak from the wave of emotions.
"Soap..?" Was all he managed in a small voice, broken from years of mourning. He felt small, like a child in the midst of the vast universe.
They crashed into their mentor, joyful shouts ringing out as they tackled him down.
They sunk to the ground, the roughness of Soap's hug knocking the breath out of him, Ghost and Roach dog piling on him immediately after the scot threw him to the ground. They only stopped when Price didn't move to hug them back, unable to meet their gazes as he looked downwards.
"Price!" Soap managed, his face soaked in tears and voice choked up from emotion, "We've been waitin' for you, sir!"
"Took you long enough, mate!" Ghost said, sniffling. Though it was playful, Roach jabbed him, giving a pathetic sniffle of his own.
At this, Price looked up, the tears in his eyes finally escaping as he smiled, almost breaking into sobs. "I've been waitin' for this day for years, lads."
He gathered them in his arms, embracing them all at once as he finally let his grief go, the ferocity wracking his chest breathless until he could no longer cry. A smile was plastered on his face, and instead of sorrow, his sounds turned to laughter, accompanied by his team's, who seemed to be laughing with him joyfully. They slowly parted, helping eachother to their feet, wiping tears.
Soap threw an arm around Price's shoulders, sauntering slightly on unbalanced feet. Ghost and Roach moved beside him as they began walking to the horizon, Soap jeering in a loud, quick voice, "Ghost's got a tea shop in town. We can catch up there, Captain."
Price rubbed a hand over his face, like he was trying to wipe the grin off, glancing over at Ghost and Roach, "Just tea?"
Ghost's grin was visible under his skeletal balaclava, "Just tea, sir."
They walked off together, arm in arm, breaking into conversation, Roach going on a tangent about how he had to put up with Soap's shenanigans and Riley's sass while Price got to go shoot bad guys on Earth. Soap and Riley passed him glares, immediately shooting the younger soldier down with insults until they broke into childish banter.
He'd never admit it, but to him, there was nothing more perfect.