"Life isn't fair, but you can be."
~ Commissioner Frank Reagan, Blue Bloods
April 8th, 2000
The doorbell woke Marc from dozing at the kitchen table, senior year math textbook providing a comfier pillow than expected. The bald, muscular teen rubbed his eyes as he got up, heading for the front door as the bell rang again. His deep, baritone voice grumbled, "Yeah, yeah... keep your shirt on, you're gonna wake..." Brown eyes blinked at the pair of suits on the far side of the door. One of them was holding up a badge. Cop, investigator. Homicide. "...something I can do for you, gentlemen?"
The one with the badge introduced himself and his partner. "Detective Hutchinson, Detective Reyes. We're looking for information on Frank Pierce."
Marc frowned, not opening the door any further. "He's an asshole. And he's not here."
Reyes glanced at a small notebook in his hands. "You wouldn't happen to be his son Marc Pierce, would you?"
"By birth, yeah," Marc answered gruffly. "By everything else, that bastard can rot in hell. If you ask him, I'm not even his kid. My name's Marc Anderson. Might wanna update your files."
While Reyes jotted down a note, Hutchinson asked, "Mind if we come in? We need to speak to your mother as well, if she's home."
Marc grimaced at the request. "Look, I appreciate your guys' work on the streets and all, and I'd love to hear that one of Frank's shady connections finally offed him, but my mom's sick. Cancer sick. Fresh batch of chemo, she can barely talk to me... I don't want you guys bugging her."
The two men glanced at each other, and Reyes said, "Under the circumstances, I think we can get what we need from you, without bothering your mother."
Marc sighed and opened the door wider. "Then by all means. Algebra was putting me to sleep anyways."
"Isn't it a little early for a nap?" asked Hutchinson as he came through the door and followed Marc's gesture towards the living room.
"My mom has cancer, " replied the Marc pointedly, closing the door behind Reyes. "And I have ROTC, plus I graduate this year."
"Right, right. Sorry," apologized Hutchinson. "Full plate for someone your age. Wish my kids had been so concerned with their education. Couldn't get either one of them to pick up a book to save my life."
Marc smirked as he followed the men into the living room. "Something tells me you aren't here to compare priorities." The teen took a seat on the couch while Reyes sat across from him and Hutchinson lingered by a set of framed family pictures on the wall.
Reyes nodded. "You would be correct. We're not here because your father 'got offed,' but because we believe he offed someone else."
Brown eyes blinked at that. "Surprised he had the balls. Too much talk, no action, but then the kind of shit he'd say, that was probably for the best."
Hutchinson spoke up by the wall. "I notice he's been stricken from the family photographs. Has he contacted you or your mother lately?"
"Last time he called was some three years ago," answered Marc grimly. "I told him to pay up for the years of child support back-payments he owes Mom. He hasn't called since."
"I see," said Reyes as he scribbled more notes. "Does the name Jerry Mulligan mean anything to you?"
Marc drew a blank, and it showed in his face. "No... never heard of him. Frank hasn't been a part of my life since I was ten. That's when Mom divorced him and his shady shit. I'm eighteen now, and I'd as soon put a fist in his face as look at him." He snorted softly. "Let's pretend I didn't just admit to wishful assault in front of cops."
Hutchinson shrugged as he put his hands in his coat pockets and walked over to stand by his partner's chair. "My old man used to beat hell out of my mother. He's lucky I didn't do worse than fists when I finally had enough. I'm lucky too, because deadly weapons don't look good on your record when you enter the police academy. Not that I'm encouraging you to get violent by anyone's definition."
"Heh," Marc chuckled wryly, "point taken. I'm looking at West Point myself. Gonna make a career out of serving my country, if I can survive boot camp."
It was Hutchinson's turn to chuckle. "You look like you have a handle on that already." He glanced down at his partner. "We need anything else from this good ol' boy?"
Reyes shook his head, then second guessed himself. "Actually..." He took a small photograph out of the notebook where it had been paper-clipped in place. He showed the photo to Marc. "This is Jerry Mulligan, the man your father allegedly murdered. Ever see him before?"
Marc frowned at the unfamiliar face. "No, I'd remember that guy if I saw him."
Hutchinson smirked. "A face only a mother could love, and I doubt his mother managed it either."
Reyes put the photo away. "He was killed in Florida, but we have leads that his dealings involved this state too. Your father may have followed him down there from here."
Marc looked worried now. "Think he's dangerous enough to try something stupid around here?"
Reyes shook his head. "We believe he's still in Florida, or hiding out further west. There's no sign he returned to this area, and it would be foolish to try. More people know him around his old haunt, and he has a lot of enemies amongst them."
"Hmm, yeah," was all Marc said in response.
"Well," said Hutchinson as he got out a business card and stepped closer to hand it to Marc, "we should let you get back to that algebra. Give your mother our regards and best wishes for her health. Call us if you hear anything interesting about Mister Deadbeat."
Marc smirked at the nickname as he stood to take the card and shake hands with the officers. "Definitely. You guys watch yourselves, it's a crazy world out there."
- - -
May 20th, 2000
Marc dialed home on his cell phone, leaning back against a wall outside the school library. "Hey Mom. How you feeling?"
Sora waited quietly, the pretty Asian hugging his backpack and watching students goof off around a cluster of water fountains. A girl screamed and scolded an older boy for splashing her with some of the water. Sora wrinkled his nose at the chaos and shook his head of black hair cut in a cute bob. Yes, it was hot today, but not hot enough to justify cold shocks of city water.
"Aww," said Marc with a worried frown, absorbed in his phone call. "Don't worry about dinner, I'll make something. Think you can handle chili?" He listened for a moment, and the ensuing smile still held concern. "Okay. Can Sora come over? His dad is still in Germany." The smile became a proper grin at the answer. "Cool, I'll pick up some groceries on the way home. Milk, carrots... right, rice. Think we need more onions for the chili too." A moment later he was saying, "Love you too, Mom," and hanging up.
Mismatched blue and grey eyes looked up at the much taller and larger teen. "Mama-san is so nice. Are you sure it's okay?"
"Yeah, she's doing better today. Let's rock." Marc pushed off the wall to start walking towards the student parking lot where his well-loved, shiny-red Mazda RX-7 waited. "Wanna stop by your place so you can get changed?"
Sora nodded shyly. "Hai, please." He wasn't brave enough to wear girl's clothing to school, even though Marc had promised to be the Asian's stalwart protector.
"Cool. We have some onions to rally."
"And milk, carrots, and rice!" reminded Sora cheerfully, forgetting to be shy for a moment before blushing furiously.
Marc chuckled and nodded. "Right, that too."
- - -
August 2nd, 2000
Marc lay on his back in the kitchen, a fluffy albino rabbit contentedly resting on his chest. The rabbit's twin was hopping around Sora's feet while the Asian prepared shrimp and salmon sushi rice rolls. There was a sudden squeal from Sora as Marc looked over, the bunny on his chest flinching at the noise.
"Baka, Jean!" Sora shook his foot as the culprit scampered away, then cleaned bunny nose as if nothing was the matter. The rabbit's name was pronounced the French way. "He did it again! Hentai bunny, mrrrrr."
Marc realized Jean must have been trying to hump Sora's foot again, and snickered. "Nah, he's just sweet on the sweetest thing here. I should be jealous... but you'd make an adorable couple." Big fingers rose to scratch the ears of the other rabbit, soothing the nervous creature.
Sora huffed, but he was also blushing as he opened a package of seaweed. "Baka, both of you."
"Guilty as charged," grinned Marc. Brown eyes watched Sora for a moment, the big teen growing thoughtful. "I had a dream about these two the other night. Forgot all about it until now."
"Oh?" said Sora as he carefully trimmed the salmon. "Was Jean being a baka-head there too?"
"Heh, yeah. By your definition, anyways." Marc winked up at the mismatched eyes that glanced his way, bringing that adorable, fading blush back strong. "Definite hentai, but not a bunny. Him and Aster were people, and the setting was, like, Musketeer era or something. Jean was an assassin and Aster was some kinda... court noble. Maybe. Could'a slept his way there, kinda had that vibe to it."
Sora could see Jean sneaking back towards his foot and hissed a warning. "Shh, Mar-kun is telling story-time! Go... bother your brother." He tossed a sprig of fresh parsley towards Marc, hoping to redirect Jean's interest that direction.
Marc chuckled as he watched Jean hop over to claim the tasty treat. "They were albinos in the dream, too. Aster was really pretty. I mean like, drop-dead gorgeous, long white hair and everything. Jean was handsome as hell too. And uh... yeah, it got dirty fast." The big guy grinned as Aster pawed his way off the muscular chest to go munch the other end of Jean's parsley.
"Hentai everywhere," grumbled Sora, the blush having gone nowhere.
Marc rolled onto his side, one arm propping his head up. "Dunno what I'm gonna do with these two hentais once I'm off to West Point. Mom's not well enough to look after them... and I can't take them to the dorms."
Sora chewed his bottom lip. "I could take them, I doubt Vater would mind... but I have so many cords, bakas would electrocute themselves in a minute. Although... if I bunny-proof the outlets and everything up to half-wall height, or even the ceiling... reroute wires... Vater's been talking about putting in crown molding... maybe even a chair rail... could make them hollow..."
Marc grinned as he looked up from the rabbits who appeared to be kissing while trying to get every last nibble of parsley. "Thought you didn't like baka hentais."
Sora blushed worse as he mumbled, "Well, I like you, so..."
- - -
February 19th, 2001
It was Marc's voice on the other end of the line. He was nearly a year into his education at West Point, already doing well by all reports. But he didn't sound well now. Sora perked up worriedly as he paused a script running on his computer screen. Jean yawned sleepily on Sora's lap, then curled up tighter to continue his nap.
"Moshi moshi," replied the Asian out of habit. Then he asked, "Are you okay, Mar-kun?"
"No," came the flat answer. "Mom died."
"Oh nooooo!" gasped Sora, instantly tearing up. He knew things had been bad for months, but it still felt like a shock. "Is there... a-anything I can do?"
"No... I'm... I'll be okay. The funeral is Tuesday, I'd... Mom would want you to be there."
Sora sniffled and braved a smile. "I-I thought she said, we should all just eat pizza and party when she finally k-kicked the bucket."
There was a sad smile in Marc's voice. "Yeah. There's pizza after."
- - -
January 20th, 2003
"Sora? What's wrong?" Marc closed the door to his dorm room so he could hear his cell phone better, blocking some of the sound of a floor party in the halls.
"It's Aster... he wasn't eating, so I took him to the vet. He... th-they can't do anything." Sora could be heard sniffling miserably. "Tumors. Little ones. Couldn't... couldn't see it coming."
"Damn," sighed Marc as he leaned against the closet door. "How's Jean?"
"Not good. There's n-nothing wrong with him but... I think h-he knows. He... he stopped eating too. The vet has them both f-for observation."
Marc rubbed a hand over his bald head, brown eyes squeezing shut. "I'm sorry, Sora. You shouldn't have to be dealing with this."
"Anything for Mar-kun," came the quiet reply. "You're n-not the one who should be apologizing."
"This isn't your fault, Kittyface. They're both getting old... had a good run in bunny years. I'll try and make it down this weekend. If I don't get there in time... do what you gotta do. Actually, give me the vet's number. I'll handle it."
"O-Okay. Will you... still come visit this weekend?"
"Yeah. Yeah, I'll make time for my Kittyface. Maybe we can get a real kitty-face. Black one from the shelter, just like you've been wanting."
- - -
July 9th, 2006
Marc snapped to attention at the planning table inside a large tent. Hot desert air ruffled papers as the tent flap fell back into place.
"At ease, soldier," said General Hammond as he took off his uniform hat. "I'd like you to meet our new field tech, quite the accomplished hacker. He tells me no introductions are necessary."
Marc stared at the petite figure that had arrived with the general. "Sora? But you're... how..."
Sora giggled and blushed, then cleared his throat. "I, umm, sort of hacked the Pentagon and asked for a job. 'Dear Government-san, I can work with Mar-kun please?'"
Marc grinned widely, impressed and chuckling. "There's a lot less internet out here, Kittyface, but it'd be nice to have someone competent on the comms."
Another voice spoke up from the back of the tent, someone who had not stood at attention because he was not an official member of any United States armed force. "Ooh, is this Sora-chan?" The Asian man of indeterminate age and short, wiry stature had a face that could belong to a J-pop star, better visible now as he got up from lounging in a chair.
"Sora-kun, Ashe" corrected Marc pointedly, but the general just chuckled.
"Not from what I hear!" grinned Ashe as he came closer to Sora, inspecting the blushing new recruit. "Hah! You are taller than me! Very kawaii. Definite Tuesday."
Sora stammered nervously, "T-Tuesday?" If he really was taller than the stranger, it wasn't by much, and he wasn't sure why it mattered.
Marc shook his head and rolled his eyes. "Don't ask. Got ourselves a totally baka hentai for a sniper."
"O-Oh," mumbled Sora, taking a step back from the much-too-friendly sniper.
General Hammond cleared his throat. "Behave, children. Let's get the others in here and go over our mission briefing."
- - -
"Repeat your last message, Tank?" Sora watched his screen worriedly, headset locked into Alpha team's frequency.
Static and gunfire tried its best to obscure Marc's words again. "...under fire... point beta!"
"Understood," replied Sora. He muted his mic and raised his voice. "Alpha team leader under fire at point beta, sir! Getting a lot of static." Slender fingers danced over the keyboard as he tried to stabilize the signal. It felt like someone was trying to jam up the airwaves.
Hammond studied the tactical map on the planning table. "Reroute team Bravo to that location. We need that radio tower."
"Yes sir," replied Sora quickly, and passed on the orders over comms. Then he switched the frequency back. "Tank, can you hold position? Bravo is on the way."
"Affirmative!" Still the static, still the gunfire. Marc had yelled the word just to get it to carry over completely.
Sora muted his mic again. "Alpha team holding position." Mismatched eyes narrowed at what he was seeing on the screen. Someone on the other side knew what they were doing, and the jamming signal strength indicated it most likely came from the tower itself. "Sir, I think we have smart unfriendlies using the radio tower to jam frequencies."
"Is Ashen in range?" asked the general.
Sora switched to another frequency, and noticed one thing immediately: no static. "Ashen, are you in position to recon point delta?" The hacker put the frequency on speakers as the general walked over to listen in.
Ashe's reply was quiet, but clear. "Hai. Unknowns visible. Two... ie, three confirmed." Distant gunfire could be heard over the speakers, most likely the skirmish holding down team Alpha.
Hammond frowned, instincts telling him that even though they had no direct confirmation on target allegiances, they certainly weren't friendlies and were hampering efforts to secure the area. "Take them out."
Sora relayed the order, "Ashen, you are cleared to fire on delta unknowns." He switched off the speakers and muted his mic. "His frequency is clean, but the jammer might be cycling through by hand." Sora's own hands were moving fast across the keyboard.
"Let's hope Ashen can put a stop to that." The general walked back to the table to move team position markers.
Returning to Marc's frequency, Sora gave a new command. "Alpha team, switch comms to channel four. Repeat, switch comms to channel four." He could hear staticy confirmations from three voices, including Marc's.
A moment later, Marc's voice came through loud and clear. "Oh wow, that's much better."
Ashen's voice held a grin. "Ohayo, Beefy-kun. One moment... doing a little weeding."
"Good boy," Marc replied. Something else could be noticed over his frequency. "It got real quiet here. Either you just broke your record, or they're tired of wasting ammo."
Sora frowned worriedly. "Tank, continue holding position. Stay alert for sneakies. Ashen is not weeding your location."
"Acknowledged," said Marc quietly.
Sora switched frequencies to give Bravo team a quick update, then returned to Marc's. The big guy was talking again, but not to Sora or Ashe.
"...hold it together, buddy. Just a few scratches, ammo's good, friendlies incoming. We've got this."
One of the other team members, a man named Rogers, sounded much less sure. "They grow out of the goddamned sand. Multiply like roaches." His voice was shaking and he was breathing much too fast.
"They have family and friends just like we do. Never forget that, soldier. Look... take a break. Sit over there. I'll watch this side."
Sora tried to hide his nervousness. "Everything okay, Tank?"
"Peachy," came the deep, hushed reply. "Bad guys are quiet. Tell me a story."
"Nani?" Sora blinked in confusion.
"We haven't seen each other in ages. Gotta be some news, right?"
Sora knew Marc was perfectly aware that while they had not spoken in person for some time, there had been plenty of phone calls and internet chats. Marc wasn't talking about that. He needed a distraction, maybe for Rogers, but maybe just as much for himself while waiting in the eerie quiet.
"Oh! Right!" Sora wracked his memory for something new. Well... there was one thing, but it had not come up because... "Umm... Vater is getting serious about becoming chancellor, what with that big scandal forcing the current one to step down. It looks like he might make it, too."
There was a quiet, "No kidding," from Marc. Sora's German father was definitely not the big guy's favorite subject, but it worked for the moment. "You must be proud of him."
"Hai, very," beamed Sora. "The people like him. Some tabloid talk, bakas... think he looks like the perfect Nazi poster child. Not his fault he's blonde and blue-eyed! But he's so good with money, the non-bakas are hoping he can help the economy. And he is handsome, poster child or not, while the competing guy looks like he should be auditioning to play a weasel. Maybe a squirrel, at best."
There were quiet snickers over the comms. It was Ashe who spoke up next, words rather hushed.
"Two weeds picked. One more missing petals. One just fine and very angry."
"Copy that." Sora muted his mic again. "Ashen reports two dead, one injured, and one healthy target."
"Excellent," said the general as he changed markers on the map. "Put him on recon-only for now."
Sora nodded and spoke back to Ashe. "Good job, Ashen. Revert to recon. Stay safe."
"Hai, hai." Ashe's hushed voice betrayed a pout. "My Pocky is all mellllted."
Marc snorted softly on the channel. "Damn. Snack food down, somebody call a medic."
A female voice piped in, the third member of team Alpha. "A true loss. July the ninth will always be the date we remember as the day the Pocky gave its life for our country. Flags at half mast. Candlelight vigils."
Marc could hear crunching over the comms. "Bastard's eating it anyways. No mercy for the noms." He could hear Sora giggling now too, and the big guy smiled.
- - -
September 17th, 2008
Hammond looked up from his desk, where Sora and Marc sat across from him in uniform. "You two will be missed. Navy knows they're getting a sweet deal, but don't let it go to your heads. I suppose you'll be taking that imp of a sniper with you?"
Marc chuckled quietly. "Not sure anybody has Ashe on a leash, sir."
"True, true," the general nodded. "I'm impressed he's taken orders from us as well as he has. I've approved your transfer, you're all set to report to Admiral Bates. Bit of an old salt, but a good man under all the gruff. Don't tell him I said that."
Sora giggled as Marc grinned and replied, "Sir-yes-sir!"
- - -
March 17th, 2017
Marc had made SEAL in almost record time. Nine years in the Navy brought him to today, thirty-five years old and standing at attention in full dress uniform. Brown eyes solemnly watched a casket being lowered into the ground before him at Arlington National Cemetery. He had helped carry that casket, the weight of its contents nothing compared to the emotional cost. Another fallen soldier, another fallen friend.
Sora stood in a small gathering of nearby mourners, petite form wearing a modest, lacy black dress. Nobody was supposed to care that he was gay now, although the new president might have something to say about that after getting bored building that idiotic wall. Sora sniffled and wiped his eyes with a red silk handkerchief. The handkerchief was a treasured gift from his father Karl, who had spent almost a decade now as Germany's prosperous chancellor.
One short figure was missing from the gathering, though Marc could see someone standing by a distant grave: black trench coat, dark sunglasses. Those shades were not focused on the gravestone, but on the funeral. Ashe was too hot a target to join the official ceremony, but that didn't make him any less a part of the team.
When it was over, Marc walked over to give Sora his arm. There were hints of tears shining in brown eyes as the big guy said, "C'mon Waifu, let's go home."
Sora blinked as he looked up, black-gloved hands taking the offered arm. "We're not going to the reception?"
Marc shook his head. "Nah. We'll have our own. Pretty sure we'll have company." Also, the deceased's nearest family members were obnoxious asshats, but he didn't say that out loud.
"Mm, hai," said Sora quietly as he walked with Marc towards the parking lot.
- - -
Marc answered the knock at the hotel room door, now much more casually dressed in camouflage cargo pants and a Pokemon t-shirt. The short guy on the far side wore a baseball cap pulled low, street clothes, and carried two large pizza boxes.
"Hentai in a box! Free delivery on Tuesdays!"
Marc smirked at the voice he recognized. "Get in here, asshole. That better be real pizza."
Ashe grinned as he slipped through the door. "Smell real, ne? No feed Beefy-kun air food. Maybe dick-in-box. Mmmmm." The door clicked shut behind him as he dropped his hat on a side-table.
Sora cleared his throat as he got to his feet in the small seating area off to one side of the bedroom. "No Tuesday nonsense, Troll-kun." The rounded, spacious white couch almost completely surrounded the circular, mirrored coffee table at its center.
Ashe handed the pizza boxes to Marc and walked over to give Sora a tight hug. "Maybe not today, ne? Bad day for... many things."
Marc set the pizza boxes on the coffee table. "Not for beer and pizza. We've got the beer, and you must be psychic." He walked over to fetch three bottles of German import lager from the minibar fridge.
"Mother's sixth sense." Ashe grinned mischievously as he flopped down onto comfy cushions. "Passed down for generations."
Sora returned to his own seat, sniffling and rubbing his nose with the back of his hand. Marc opened the first bottle and handed it to his wife, then the next to Ashe before taking a seat beside Sora.
Ashe raised the bottle, suddenly solemn. "To Davies Marion Keller. May he rest in peace."
Marc raised his own bottle. "Here here."
Sora didn't trust his voice, just raised his bottle. Toast complete, Marc opened the top pizza box, revealing a very real pepperoni and Italian sausage pizza. It didn't last long.
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