[fic] Soft

Title: Soft
Fandom: Metal Gear Solid
Rating: PG
Word count: @1330
Summary: Hal Emmerich is soft, and what is soft is malleable.
A/N: ...I've spent the last few days watching MGS walkthroughs, and Otacon is officially my favorite woobie nerdboy. This takes place right after the Otacon ending for MGS1.

You don't really need to know who the characters are, but hey, just in case: Hal Emmerich/Otacon and Solid Snake (warning, that wiki page for Hal tells his terrible backstory right off the bat.) During the game, they looked like this.

...I'm still like "WTF, MGS fanfic, I'm writing what?" Self-depreciating LOL @ self.

--

They hadn't been traveling what seemed like very long before Snake realized there might be something wrong.

"You hanging on back there?" he called over his shoulder.

There was a long pause before a small, wavering voice answered him back. "I'm...I'm fine."


"No, you're not," Snake said, rolling his eyes and slowing to a stop. He turned and got a better look at the man sitting behind him on the snowmobile, and the problem was instantly obvious. Otacon--Hal--was shivering, and his lips had started to turn blue. He'd huddled as much as he could in the heavy winter coat he'd had on, but it was obvious now that it wasn't enough. "We'll stop for a while. Build a fire," Snake said, and turned back around.

Otacon's voice was soft, apologetic. "I'm sorry."

"We'll need to get something to eat anyway," Snake said, not responding to Otacon's apology. "I only have a few rations left. We should save them just in case."

"Something to eat would be nice," Otacon said, his voice faint.

Snake let out a snort of laughter. "All right, all right. We're stopping as soon as I find us a decent place."

"Sorry," Otacon said again, and Snake just rolled his eyes again.

"Let's go. Oh, and hold on to me," Snake said, turning the snowmobile back on. "Because if you fall off, I leave you in the snow."

Otacon's gulp would have been audible even if they hadn't been so close, and as soon as Snake felt Otacon's arms tentatively reach around him, he gunned the snowmobile, and laughed to himself at the way Otacon yelped.

--

"Here, I killed dinner," Snake said, and shook his head when Otacon turned green at the sight of the dead rabbits Snake was holding by the ears.

They had found a good cave, about thirty minutes after they had first stopped, and Snake had left Otacon there with firm instructions to not let the fire he built go out, or to go wandering off somewhere. Otacon had stayed put, looking like he hadn't wanted to budge so much as an inch from the fire once Snake had gotten it going, and by the time Snake came back, Otacon's face had gone from the unhealthy bluish-tinge to faintly pink.

And now it was going white as the blood draining out of it as he stared at the dead rabbits. "You...you killed bunnies?" Otacon finally managed, looking horrified.

"It was that or club some baby seals."

The look Otacon gave him was priceless, and Snake started snickering. "It was a joke, Otacon."

"A bad one," Otacon said with a frown that was almost a pout, and Snake chuckled.

"Tomorrow it's Bambi's mom."

Otacon gave him a betrayed look. "That's not funny, Snake."

"That one wasn't a joke. We've got a long way to go, and we'll need supplies that we don't have. We can use the bladder as a water pouch and the pelt will help keep you from freezing to death, and it'll provide us with food to last us for a while. I'd have tried to bag a deer or larger prey this time, but it's getting dark. It'll have to wait. These were the best I could do for now."

"Oh," Otacon said, still looking miserable.

"Go get some more firewood. And look for a couple of long, thin branches as well. About this thick," Snake said, indicating the size with the finger and thumb of his free hand. "We're spit-roasting."

Otacon stared at him and pushed up his glasses. "But...my leg, I shouldn't--" he began.

"Go get some firewood, or stay here and watch me gut dinner," Snake said, waving the rabbits, and he almost laughed at how quickly Otacon scrambled to his feet and out of the cave.

--

Night fell, and by the dying embers of the fire, Otacon was sleeping, curled up as best he could manage under his coat, shivering slightly and his glasses within easy reach. Snake poked at the fire once, half-heartedly, and went back to staring at the sleeping man.

Hal Emmerich was soft. He was soft in pretty much every single way, and it was something Snake couldn't quite wrap his brain around. Everyone he knew--everyone in his life--had been hard. Physically and mentally, everything trained to diamond sharpness. Even those who weren't as strong physically, they had that same unbending hardness to them--their personality, their spirit.

But Hal Emmerich was different. Everything about him was soft; weak. Without his glasses, he could barely see, and his hands were the soft, uncalloused hands of someone who had never used them. His body was soft; wire thin but no muscle, and the cold affected him far more than it would have Snake. His words were soft, even his voice, slightly high-pitched and quiet.

Hal Emmerich was soft.

The first time Snake saw Otacon, the man had been pissing himself in sheer terror--and that had been the beginning of things. Otacon had never developed a hard shell to keep his emotions inside, protected, calloused. Whatever emotion he felt, he felt it strongly, and he had no way to hide it--his pain, whatever it was, had to be given an immediate, physical release. And so he screamed, so he collapsed, so he cried.

Snake couldn't begin to imagine what would happen to allow someone to be as soft as Hal Emmerich was. Snake had been hard his entire life. There had been no other path, no other way for him to be. And so he never would have thought that they had anything in common--but they did. The two of them, neither one understood humanity and had hidden--had been hidden--away from it. Snake had spent his entire life learning how to hide from others; he knew full well how to recognize when someone else was trying to evade notice. And that's what Hal Emmerich did--through his every soft word and manner, he hid himself in plain view, made it so the eyes and notice of others would slide off of him. He used his softness the same way as Snake used his hardness--to hide himself.

But.

Something that was already hard couldn't change. It could break, but it couldn't change. Snake knew that all too well.

He banked the fire, and walked around it, over to where Otacon was curled up under his coat, sleeping.

It was cold and growing colder.

He crept over quietly, so not to wake the sleeping man, and slipped in behind him, under the coat he was using to try and keep warm, careful of the twisted ankle he'd wrapped for Otacon.

Otacon went tense and let out a surprised "Ah!" as he woke up, and he looked back at Snake, his eyes sleepy and unfocused. "Wha--?" he mumbled.

Snake rolled his eyes. "Don't go getting any funny ideas, Otacon. We have to keep warm. Go back to sleep."

As soon as he heard Snake's voice, that strange moment of tension, like a wire about to snap, vanished, and Otacon went limp again, soft. He mumbled something, the words fuzzy, soft and indistinct, and he turned his head and settled back into sleep. Underneath the coat was warm, and it was nice to simply feel the warmth of another person's body heat, and to feel the prickling of the blood flowing quickly through his hands again as they warmed.

On a whim, Snake poked Otacon's arm, lightly, and it went with his finger, giving completely; moving rather than resisting. And in his sleep, Otacon moved closer to Snake; closer to his warmth.

Hal Emmerich was soft.

And what was soft was malleable, changeable. It was a weakness that could become a strength.

Hal Emmerich was soft, and it was precisely because of that, that Snake figured of the two of them, after all this, Otacon most had a chance.

--
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Comments

(Anonymous)

I'm only vaguely familiar with MGS, but I really did like this.

I think you had an editing error, though. The line Snake let out a snort of laughter. "All right, all right. We're stopping as soon as I find us a decent place." is repeated.
Thanks!

And I just noticed that goof-up (and a spelling mistake) and I corrected them, but thanks for the heads-up anyway!