Not Alive, Nor Dead
[PREV PART] [AO3]
Okay, maybe I felt a little bad for leaving y'all on such a cliffhanger, so here's the next chapter, special delivery.
Ghost’s footsteps echo on the mall’s floor, his muscles screaming at him to stop and rest.
He ignores them, not like he can feel it much. His entire being is focused on finding Johnny.
While he was walking down south, he kept having this intrusive thought to open Limbo again. Just to check if… he could find a face there, ink-covered and muted, of Johnny.
He growls. He doesn’t entertain the thought.
Ghost starts shouting for Johnny, hoping for the best case scenario, where his comms are the only thing damaged on his person.
He should’ve known to never hope.
After time stopped having any meaning, the minutes of silence piling up like heavy rocks on his chest, Ghost starts truly fearing Johnny might be gone.
He sees the south exit, the doors closed shut. Something numb spreads through him.
Ghost heaves, stare fixated on the damning evidence that Soap never left the building, when he hears a groan.
“...ugh…” a familiar voice pierces him.
Ghost turns to it, heart finally beating, and he finds Johnny on the floor, body struggling to move.
He hesitates only for a moment before breaking into a run towards him, the blood burning from his chest to his legs, heralding the message ‘he’s alive! He’s alive!’
Ghost slides to a stop, about to take his Sergeant in his arms and never let go, when he sees the blood.
Soap’s face, contorted in pain, covered in dark red on the left. Ghost shakily turns his head to the side, watching as blood oozes out of the bullet wound… his temple is pierced. He turns him the other way, a matching gash on his right.
Soap groans weakly, and Ghost lifts him slightly to let his head rest on his thighs. He knows he’s cold, or he feels so at least, but the floor is colder.
His breath stutters thinking of where the bullet went through. He said middle was a few things… Soap might not wake up until he heals.
Ghost brushes a hand over Johnny’s hair, some of it matted with blood. He carefully untangles the ends when the man stirs.
“... Johnny? You with me?” he mumbles softly, and it still sounds too loud for his ears.
Soap’s eyes scrunch under his brows, “urgh…fuck… ma heid’s minced…” his beautiful eyes open to look up, blinking to focus. His face is contorted in confusion.
Ghost can feel himself smile in relief, “morning”.
Johnny blinks a little more before abruptly pushing himself off Ghost, growling with a gravely voice, “the fuck are you doin’?!”
Ghost instantly crawls back, his heart dropping, “shit, did I hurt you-”
“Who teh fuck are ye?!” Soap shouts, glaring at him.
“Wha- you don’t-” Ghost sputters, at a loss.
The Sergeant ignores him, clutching at his head, “where are we…? Where did you bring me?!” he seethes through clenched teeth.
What? He doesn’t remember the mission-
He doesn’t remember.
“How old are you?” Ghost hopes against hope he’s wrong.
“The fuck’s it to ye?” Soap snarls. He sighs a moment later, looking away with contempt, “seventeen.”
Fuck… Ghost can feel his hands shaking. Johnny just went back ten years mentally. Of course he doesn’t remember the mission, or him.
He doesn’t remember his own death.
Soap seems to search for something, unsheathing a knife he found strapped to his shoulder, and clumsily jumps at Ghost.
“Listen here you creepy bastard, ye better tell me what the fuck is going on before I make ye!” he waves the knife in front of his eyes.
Ghost’s eyes haven’t left Johnny’s. He never looked at him with such… hate.
Ghost directs the knife’s point away from his eyes, “I’m a Lieutenant under the British army, you better settle down, soldier.” it hurts to talk to Johnny like a stranger, but he can’t risk him deeming himself an enemy.
Soap immediately backs away, surprised, “ah-sorry, sir. I just… I cannae remember shite…” he trails off.
Ghost sighs, “we were on a mission, it went to shit. You hit your head at some point, probably have temporary amnesia. Sit down before you hurt yourself further.”
That seems to calm Johnny, and he carefully lowers himself to the ground.
“What do you remember, Sergeant?”
“Sergeant?! Fuck, how much did I forget?!”
Bloody hell, he needs to be more careful with what he fucking spouts. “It will come back to you, Johnny.”
Soap frowns, “stop callin’ me that. I think I would’ve remembered a fella like ye, with the fuckin’ Halloween getup ye got there.”
‘You’d think that, wouldn’t you.’ Ghost bitterly thinks to himself.
He sighs, “talk to me then, tell me what you do remember.”
Soap tenses, “I don’t even know yer fucking name, and I’m supposed to tell ye everything?” there’s something behind the anger, that Ghost recognises from many weeks ago, in a dark barrack room, lit only by furious fire.
Johnny is scared.
Soap stops, and looks up. For a moment, Ghost can almost pretend he knows him, with the way Johnny’s eyes light up in reverence, somehow knowing how this is truly the first time he’s heard that name.
But the heavy fog of nonrecognition over his eyes is not clearing away. Still, Johnny starts talking, “I… I joined the army a year ago. Ma was furious.” He starts, “wait, no, that was… two years ago?”
Ghost inhales shakily. Soap moved to eighteen now?
The Sergeant leans back, wincing as he places his head gently against the wall, “I… tried for the SAS. They told me I’m too young.”
For some reason, imagining young Soap getting rejected makes him huff.
“I went on a few missions… oh.”
Soap’s face pales, “I… I remember the first person I killed. He… killed my squad mate. I…” He looks ashamed, “for a moment I was proud that I managed to shoot him first but - fuck, you must think I’m fuckin’ pathetic.” he looks at Ghost, the anger in his eyes mellowing.
“No shame in feeling guilt, shows you’re a good man.” he tells him again, “if it helps, I’ve killed more people than you can imagine.”
Johnny dead pans him, looking unimpressed, “aye, sir, very comforting.” he huffs sarcastically, before he gets that far away look he wears when memories flood his mind, “tried for SAS again…” He looks up, smile melting Ghost’s heart, “I got in! I actually got in! Youngest to ever do it!”
“Good man, John, knew you can do it.” the name acrid in his mouth, but he wants to encourage this version of Soap. Despite everything, he can’t help but be fond of him.
Soap chuckles, “feck off, Simon, I bet ye already knew it.”
Oh, his heart is a treacherous beast, with the way it’s banging at his chest at the sound of Johnny saying his name, wrapping around smiling lips.
The Scot quiets down, continuing to observe the memories trickling in, “after my first mission they started calling me… Soap? Shite, please tell me the name didn’t stick.”
Ghost has the pleasure to inform Soap, “you’re actually quite proud of that one.”
Soap grimaces, “awa an’ bile yer head!”
Johnny gives him a shit-eating grin, “means fuck off, sir”
“Much better. How old are you, Soap?”
The Scot contemplates his answer for a moment, “...twenty. Still going on a lot of missions, I’m studying to be a demolition expert- I am a demolition expert.” he corrects himself mid-sentence, “fuck, blowing shit up is so fun, do I still do that?”
Ghost bitter-sweetly reminisces over what lays in Johnny’s future, “you’ll see.”
Soap pouts, “cryptic bastard… I still don’t remember ye.” He starts getting up, Ghost immediately closing in to fuss over the Scot, “stay down!”
“Shouldn’t we go to exfil, sir? I can walk…” he raises an eyebrow at him.
He has a point, but Ghost worries Johnny’ll get overwhelmed when he learns he knows no one around him. He barely dealt with him without getting into a fight.
Then again, Ghost might be the most uninviting person on earth. Even fucking Shepherd looks more friendly than a giant man wearing a skull mask.
“It’s not your legs I’m worried about, Soap. Let’s not jostle your noggin around, alright?” he pushes lightly at his shoulders, making him slide back down. “Now, tell me what else you’ve got going for you.”
Johnny scrunches his face in concentration, and Ghost watches as terror slowly paints itself over his features. He wants to ask why before he remembers himself.
Soap is likely 21 now. 6 years ago-
“I died.” the flames on his fingers light for the first time since Ghost found him. “I saw moths, they were glowing like they were on fire…a Reaper… it told me…”
Johnny takes a deep breath, staring right at Ghost’s eyes, making his heart stop, “my team is dead. It saved me, not them, because of what I wanted.”
Bright fire flickers in the edges of his vision, but Ghost can’t look away from Johnny’s eyes, the emotions passing through them a window to his mind.
“It asked me what I wanted” Soap is barely breathing now, whispering the tale of his horrible second birth, “I said I wanted to live. It said…”
“I wanted revenge. On the man who killed my friends. He-”
Something dark makes itself known on Soap’s face, the flames now covering his entire forearms, white-hot and wild, “Konchar.” his blue eyes wide, he looks at Ghost with such hatred he feels something akin to fear.
“He killed them, Simon.” a voice so twisted comes from Soap’s mouth, “he murdered them, I needed to destroy him. I-”
Johnny’s face slackens, all rage replaced by agony, his eyes watering, and Ghost sharply inhales.
Johnny pushed himself away from ghost, further into the wall, mumbling, “n-no, no I couldn’t have- I didn’t- I didn’t want this!” he starts hyperventilating.
“Johnny” Ghost goes to place a hand on his shoulder, worry overruling panic, “you have to breathe-”
Blue eyes, dripping with little teardrops, plead Ghost for forgiveness, “I’m- I’m a monster - How could I do this-” Johnny chokes on sobs, “why did it choose me?! It should’ve let me die!” He curls on himself, shaking, yelling, “IT SHOULD’VE KILLED ME! IT SHOULD’VE-”
Simon took hold of Johnny, smothering his screams in his chest, wrapping arms around his body, as if he could protect him from the onslaught of the worst John MacTavish has ever known.
As if Simon was ever successful at protecting that which he holds dear.
Johnny grabs at his shirt, the flames burning so hot they scorch through his clothes, right down to his chest, to his lungs, to his heart.
Simon doesn’t let go, even after the fire dies down, the wailing dims, and Johnny is no longer shaking. He doesn’t let go, until Johnny pipes up from his place near his chest.
He relaxes his hold on him, letting Johnny lift his head, eyes red-rimmed and face watery. Only when he sees recognition in his eyes does Simon realize, that he never told Johnny his callsign.
“Johnny?” he gently says, damn hope making itself known in his words.
Soap gives him a weak smile, full of sorrow, but so tender, Simon wants to sear it into his brain, “I remember everything. You. The mission. I…” He rubs lightly at his right temple, the gunshot wound fully healed, “one of those weird things shot me right before I escaped. Did you… with Limbo…?”
Simon takes in a deep breath, with the way he finally found the Johnny he was looking for, “I did. Barely got them reigned in.”
“Secured with the kidnapped revenants, called in exfil for us.”
He liked the relief on Johnny’s face, “thank Reapers.”
“Rather you thank me, Sergeant.” Simon grumbles, smiling when he hears Johnny’s laugh, and feels his fist tap his shoulder.
“Awa an’ bile yer heid, sir”
“Oh, I know that one.”
“Ye feckin’ better”
Garrick spots them when they both make their way to exfil, their helo already waiting for them, and sprints at them at full speed. Ghost has half a mind to dodge him when Gaz decided to collide with Soap instead.
“FUCK BOTH OF YOU! WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY ANYTHING ON COMMS?! I THOUGHT YOU WERE DEAD!”
“I’m sorry, Gaz…” Soap mumbles under the weight of the Sergeant.
Gaz turns to glare at Ghost, “you! You’re the one that needs to apologize!”
Ghost huffs, shifting his weight uncomfortably. He really should’ve radioed Garrick that his Sergeant is alive, but he was… a little preoccupied with his heart splattering on the floor.
He looks behind Gaz, at two people laying inside the helo, “the revenants need medical?”
“You will need medical after I’m through with you-” Gaz starts.
“I called in a medic, he said they’ve just been drugged for transport by El Sin Nombre, they’ll wake up in a few hours.”
Ghost nods, “good lad, now” He lifts Johnny up, the poor sod stuck under Garrick, “we’re RTB. I’ve had enough of this fuckin’ mall.”
Soap smirks, “not a fan of shopping, sir?” he jokes, but his tone is flatter than usual.
Ghost looks over Johnny, at the state he was left in, at the sorrow fogging his eyes. He aches to clear it away, but at the moment nothing feels strong enough to bring Soap a wind of change.
“Not in the slightest, Johnny.”
On the helo, Gaz tried to lift their spirits, but both himself and Soap are too busy mulling over the day.
As the minutes pass, Ghost’s feelings take a backseat, and he combs through what Johnny told him.
Something ignites in Ghost. Johnny, unknowingly, has given him what might be a knife to cut the red tape that holds his file together.
He needs to talk to Laswell. If there’s someone that can find out what happened at Johnny’s Reaping by a single name alone, it would be her.
Johnny stares out of the window, tracing the hull of the chopper with a finger, its flame dimmed and mellow.
Ghost wonders what he sees, as the clouds pass by, what his eyes reflect.
And he wonders, just how much pain he hides behind them.
Finally, something is revealed about Soap's Reaping, just in the most painful way I could think of, with him literally reliving the worst day in his life :D
Not Alive, Nor Dead
[PREV PART] [AO3]
This is an extremely short chapter because I had to finish it in a cliffhanger. Don't worry, I won't let you suffer too long, writing the next one right after posting this :D
The early morning sky shines through the helo windows, brightening by the minute.
Ghost, Soap and Gaz have gotten to their transport after a small debrief confirming all the details of the mission. Their main objective is to find a connection from the anonymous PMC to the international human trafficking rings. Secondary objective is to rescue the two revenants El Sin Nombre gave them at the party.
Ghost mentally goes over the layout of the abandoned mall. Gaz will be combing through the top floor, the roof of the building eroded with time, letting the Sergeant fly in easily. Soap and Ghost will search the ground floor, starting at opposite ends.
He got authorization to use Limbo from Shepherd, as always, but while the mall is huge, it would be extremely risky to use it with the two Sergeants in the building.
If Johnny wasn’t a Limbo magnet, perhaps he would’ve considered it. But with his little problem, along with potential kidnapped targets, Ghost will once again have to rely on his non-supernatural abilities. That is, unless a very unlikely opportunity presents itself, and he can be sure all friendlies are secure.
The Sergeants have been discussing their powers for the past who knows how long.
“I think the worst time I used them was on a skyscraper, got knocked unconscious and came to while falling off, thought I would die again”, Gaz snickers. Ghost remembers the mission - Garrick was shaking and unresponsive when he dropped to the ground. He’s heard the story only about 50 times now.
Soap smiles, albeit forced, and turns to the window to contemplate.
“What about you, mate? What’s the worst you’ve had to heal from?” Gaz inquiries gently.
The Scot starts playing with the flames burning from his fingers, “losing legs always sucks, but the shittiest I had to deal with was a bullet to the head.”
Ghost stiffens, Garrick’s brows furrow, “fuck, how does that feel like?”
“Depends on where you get shot.” Johnny shrugs, raising a hand to his nape, “here it would paralyze me, till the wound heals at least.” the hand lifts to the back of his head, “hind brain could make me blind”.
He brushes through his hair, following the warhawk, “middle is a lot of things, memory, speech, can make me act like I’m… a child basically.”
Soap stops at his forehead, tapping it once, “and frontal lobe… that’s where yer personality is. How ye control yer movement and speech.”
The cabin is quiet for several long minutes, the howling wind and his fast beating heart a soundtrack for Ghost’s spiraling thoughts.
“How many times you got shot in your head…?” Gaz asks, the concern and horror palpable in his voice.
Johnny’s eyes are lost far in memories when he answers. “Once. Straight on.” He laughs, something broken about it, “it felt like I would never be myself again.”
No one said a word for the rest of the flight.
Gaz hops off first, not waiting for the helo to land before jumping down towards a large hole in the mall’s ceiling.
Soap goes next, getting off near the south exit of the building. He turns back to give Ghost a dazzling smile, thawing some of the ice built up in his veins, before squaring his shoulders and entering.
Ghost is taken to the north entrance, the chopper barely touching the ground before lifting off back to Los Vaqueros base. He takes stock of the mall, the wide windows haphazardly covered by tarp. There are no guards outside, and the doors are open.
He would consider himself lucky if he wasn’t suspicious of things appearing so deceptively easy. He checks his silenced pistol one last time before making entry.
The shopping mall is unnaturally empty, almost like Ghost walked in and everyone disappeared, stores still full of inventory.
He clears them one by one, half listening to the Sergeants do the same.
“Place gives me the creeps, are they feckin’ hidin’ from us?” Johnny mutters.
Ghost is reminded by what the Vaqueros said, that the PMC might have a revenant in their ranks helping them disappear. The store he’s standing in could be full of soldiers hidden by strange powers, and he would be none the wiser until they strike him down.
His eyes itch to close. If only he could use his powers safely… no matter how hidden any person is, no one escapes Limbo.
No one except the Scot currently complaining in his ear.
Ghost stops dead in his tracks and drops to a crouch when he hears footsteps. Not a second later a man walks by the store he’s in. The soldier is in a shaded part of the mall, the lights long gone, and Ghost can’t make out the details of his uniform, but he sees the rifle in his hands damn well.
“Got a hostile walking by, taking him down.” Ghost mutters into his radio before stalking closer to the soldier. He needs him dead, can’t risk going forward with a threat at his six.
He notices a mask on his face, an eerily similar look to the PMC he and Garrick observed in Sweden.
Ghost lines the shot at the man’s head, and the silenced bullet slices through the air, going right into his target.
He waits for the body to drop, and time seems to slow to a halt.
The soldier’s head, a hole clearly shining through it, turns agonizingly slowly towards him. Ghost feels his eyes widen, his focus pinpointed on the soldier’s features. What he saw was no mask. On a blank face, smooth, dripping darkness, a maw stares at his direction.
“Ghost, how copy?” Johnny whispers in his ear after he has gone dark for too long.
He watches the soldier search for whoever put the bullet in his head, moving, not dropping dead.
He lifts a hand to press the button on the comms, unable to take his eyes off the… thing currently hunting for him, “they’re not human”.
“Ghost, repeat your last-”
The creature snaps its gaze to something on the floor, and bends down to pick it up.
“The soldiers, the PMC, they’re not bloody human.”
The object shines as the thing rises, light catching on it, and Ghost recognizes his own bullet.
Soap answers confusingly, “I’m seeing three right here, they look human.”
The soldier’s head snaps forward, away from Ghost’s position. South.
Gaz’s voice comes through, “What the - they all saw something on my end. Soap, did you get spotted??”
“No! They just-”
Far off gunshots cut Johnny off, the monster in front of him now running at inhuman speed south.
“Soap! They’re going for you, RUN!” Ghost shouts at his Sergeant, finally revealing himself and shooting at the running soldier. He empties a whole clip before it drops dead, sizzling and melting to the floor.
Garrick calls in, “they’re not fucking dying! Soap, what’s your status?!”
Static and shots fill the line for a second, before Soap responds, “-too many– can’t– Limbo—”, the radio cutting off as he runs.
Johnny wants him to use Limbo?!
“Sergeant, get as far as you can from the mall!”, Ghost barks, starting to run the other way, “Garrick, search for the revenants, path should be clear of hostiles, clear the floor and get out!”
Gaz sounds frantic when he objects, “sir, I can get Soap out of there, just need to reach him-”
“Negative, someone needs to look for the targets-”
Ghost growls, holding on his radio so hard he can hear the plastic cracking, “that’s an order, Sergeant. Is that clear?”
Gaz is quiet for a moment, “...yes sir”.
Ghost resumes his mad dash north, his rib cage vibrating from his heart. He wants nothing more than to save Johnny, but he needs to finish the mission.
Explosions echo through the abandoned building, each a booster for his feet. His Sergeant isn’t weak, he tells himself, he tries to wholeheartedly believe, but the fear flowing within him refuses to accept that.
“Ghost!”, Garrick snarls, “found the revenants, extracting them now!”
Johnny tries communicating again, his voice desperate and out of breath, “-do it–far—NOW!”
Ghost slides to a stop, closing his eyes with a scream.
Limbo rushes to replace the empty walls of the mall, and Ghost feels his muscle tense, almost snapping with the struggle to reign the realm in. He feels the soldiers get swallowed by it, his victims dragging them off to rip and tear and melt them into nothing.
He counts from 5.
The victims eat away all that comes through, the soldiers disintegrating into smoke.
Shrieks bellow from the residents of the void.
His hands start shaking, the light around him flickering, letting in the eternal sharp cold of Limbo.
His victims stop, a quiet falls on them. They look towards the distance, an excitement washes over the not-dead.
Ghost shuts his eyes, gathering back Limbo just as it rushes to consume Soap. He is knocked back by the sheer force of it, Limbo fighting to stay open.
He lays there, shaking, feeling sweat track down his body. His muscles convulse violently, and he lifts an unsteady arm to his comms.
“Soap… how copy…?”
The silence that fills the air cuts through him more than the freezing lands he has reign over.
“Ghost, revenants secure, I’m good.” the Sergeant lets out uneasily, “I don’t- haven’t seen Soap, sir.”
He gets up, legs uncooperative, “call for exfil, I’ll look for the Sergeant.”
He hears a shaky breath from Gaz, “Ghost, there might not be a body to find after-”
“He is not. In. Limbo.” Ghost snarls, veins so cold his blood feels frozen.
Johnny isn’t there. He can’t be. He CAN’T.
Ghost almost falls back to the ground, stabilizing himself on a wall.
His breath is heavy and loud, panting like a fucking rabid dog, teeth bared under the skull mask.
He walks forward, in search of a flickering flame, a silly warhawk.
A warm smile to liquefy his blood once more.
Sorry not sorry haha