Remind me to [ b r e a t h e ] …
”Good,” John said. More of an after thought really because this warped mess of a relationship they had between them was far from good. It was twisted up and gnarled near past recognition but it was still there under the blood and filth. Rheks was still talking quietly over the comms, warning the others to stay on guard even as he helps Boss past their defenses and into the hornet’s nest so to speak. Fingers linger at the other’s armored shoulder and he halts the next step to instead guide Boss to take a different route that wouldn’t lead him to stumbling over a trap.
It’s far from alright and it’s far from what he needs to be. But here in the ruins of the slums of the Citadel, John makes an effort to change things at the heart of it all. Lifting himself upwards through the gap of the debris, John lands with a grunt and bends low to offer his hand once more down to help Boss into following. “With Joker hospitalized and Kaidan missing in action the Alliance has more than enough ammo to aim at my head, you know that. Temari has the Normandy and she has the crew.”
She has you to protect her, he doesn’t say.
John is not heartless though as callous and uncaring as he seems. He still worries for the crew, for his sister, and for the few people he’s loved in his life. The galaxy is upturned around them, skewed to the point a hero is a criminal. He wonders how it came to be, well, John is no philosopher. He’s a soldier through and through where things are cut and dry, a series of choices rather than mere destiny playing itself out.
”I won’t ask you to stay,” he says in the darkness of the fallen building. “I won’t even ask you to forgive me for what I’ve done to get here. But I want you to understand that this isn’t me running, this is me fighting.” John pauses, looking evenly at the other man from beneath the visor of his helm. “You wanted me to not give up, Boss. I can’t do that with the Alliance anymore.” Brows knit together and though the other man has said he doesn’t expect apologies much less from John of all people—- A soft sigh filters out and in the space of the shadows between them he speaks softly, almost intimately, as if confessing.
”I’m sorry I’m not still the man you knew.”
The steps were in no particular order—something Boss wasn’t surprised about. Nothing about John was orderly anymore. He had to cover his tracks, of course. Unpredictability was the name of his game despite all of Boss’ interests to say otherwise.
"That’s what matters."
Truthfully, if Boss never saw John again at all, he’d be content just knowing that he was alive. And that he would stay alive. Neither one of them could promise that that outcome would be the only outcome, though. So many choices, so many decisions, so many possibilities of what the future would hold.
His hand slid into John’s, taking every bit of help he could get while navigating. This last jump made him stumble a bit, stopping himself quickly while he still had the other to keep him. “I’m working on removing some of that ammmo. Not the most legal ways but I can’t see a friend go down like this. The others are doing fine…for the most part.”
Boss didn’t dare speak of how he was managing to do this, unwilling to let John in on his methods in case something took a turn for the worse. Reduce potential collateral damage and casualties. That was his game.
"I don’t think you’d allow me to stay, John." The glow of his visor and the headbeams automatically kick in, removing some of the darkness from around them. "I’m glad that you took my advice to heart. Not giving up. Even if you aren’t with us, I’m just glad you’re alive." It was then that he realized he still had John’s hand in his. The lights shone on them as he looked down before pulling away, looking back up at the helmet that greeted him.
"Stop it. You’re still John Shepard, the man I would follow into hell. War changes people…believe me. I’ve seen enough of it." A bitter laugh came from him at that. "Listen to me. Acting like I know what it’s like when my entire life has been shrouded in conflict. But I— Just. Don’t leave us alone. Don’t leave me."