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As a general rule, Ghost does his best not to think of his mother.

His family in general, really— his childhood wasn’t exactly pleasant. But he did love his mother, and she sticks in his mind like honey, sweet and familiar and stubborn in her refusal to be locked away with the rest of Ghost’s past.

He likes to think he got his stubbornness from her. 

Well. No, he doesn’t, because he doesn’t like to think about her. At all.

But, as is the norm for Ghost’s life, no one really cares what he likes. And so, one Tuesday afternoon about two weeks after the incident with the missiles and Shepherd's betrayal and the godawful massacre in Las Almas, Ghost finds himself thinking of his mother once again.

He’s standing in the kitchen of Captain Price’s apartment, waiting for Price to actually get to chatting with Laswell about Markov (who they’re technically supposed to be going after, but they’ve hit a bit of a dead end) and trying to hide his overwhelming awkwardness. He doesn’t belong here— in a home like this, even one that is so rarely occupied. 

He’s not even sure why he was invited. They’ve hardly talked shop, though they’ve been here for hours, and Gaz, Soap, Laswell, and Price are treating this like some sort of family reunion. To an outsider, it would certainly look like one— Price’s walls are covered with pictures of Soap and Gaz and Laswell, candids and portraits, taken during missions and casual nights out. 

They do look like a family. They act like one, too.

And even an outsider could see that Ghost surely doesn’t belong.

So Ghost is standing in the kitchen.

He’s not hiding, of course. That would be below him. He’s simply taking a moment to himself (and if he happens to blend into the darkness of the shadowy corner he’s standing in, well that’s nothing more than a coincidence). 

He should probably make his excuses and go. He’s imposed long enough, after all, and—

“—seen Ghost? He didn’t leave, did he?”

Soap’s hushed voice reaches Ghost’s ears, and he presses pause on the downward spiral of his thoughts, listening.

“I’m not sure. Didn’t hear the door, though,” Price replies as he steps into the kitchen, opening a cabinet and rummaging around.

Soap follows him in, looking surprisingly forlorn. “I don’t think he likes being here with all of us.”

They don’t see him, Ghost realizes.

Now would be the time to reveal himself.

His mother’s words come to him then, a well worn memory of a rainy morning when he’d been caught eavesdropping. His mother had discovered him (he hasn’t always been the picture of stealth) and, after a brief and halfhearted scolding, given him a tired smile. 

“Haven’t you heard what curiosity did to that cat? Listeners hear no good of themselves, Simon, don’t forget that.”

She’d patted him on the head and sent him on his way, and Ghost remembers feeling unspeakably relieved that she wasn’t going to tell his dad.

It’s a mundane memory (which is probably why he’s never tried his hardest to really suppress it), and in his line of work he finds himself thinking of it often, listening from the shadows or eavesdropping from the literal eaves.

Right now, he’s not on a mission, though. He’s a guest in someone’s home, and he’s not collecting intel, he’s listening to his… coworkers (“friends” doesn’t feel exactly right— he’s not sure they really like him that much) have a private conversation. Which just so happens to involve him.

Ghost should really let them know he’s here.

“I’ve known him for a long time, Soap. He’s just not very social. If he didn’t want to be here, he wouldn’t have come.”

Soap, who has clearly been struggling with something since he stepped into the kitchen, ignores Price’s words and blurts: “I think I like him. More than… coworkers like each other. Or friends.”

Ghost decides not to let them know he’s there. He’s not even sure his voice would work if he tried.

Price finally seems to find whatever it was he was searching for in the cabinet (a cup, by the looks of it), and turns to face Soap, a long suffering expression on his face. “Oh, kid.”

“I know,” Soap groans, burying his face in his hands. “It’s not my fault he’s so…”

Price laughs at Soap’s vague gestures. “Christ, Soap, what were you thinking?”

Objectively, Ghost thinks he should probably be a little offended, but he can’t say he disagrees with Price. 

The truth is, Soap deserves someone better than Ghost. He can’t pretend his heart didn’t skip a beat to hear Soap’s confession (though that won’t stop him from trying) but he knows it’s not something he could ever let himself pursue, no matter how much he wants it. Soap deserves to be happy, and happiness isn’t something Ghost can give people. He clenches his fists, trying and failing not to picture what it would be like to be with Soap, to wake up with him, to show his face for him, to just be Soap’s person. His partner in all things. 

“I wasn’t thinking anything, Captain. I just— it’s not like I expect he’ll love me back or anything—”

“Love?” Captain Price asks, a bit louder than necessary.

Love?! Ghost thinks, beginning to sweat.

Soap looks sheepish at Price’s outburst. “Did I say that? I meant ‘like.’”

Price walks over to the sink, filling the cup with a tired expression on his face. When he’s finished, he walks back over to Soap, hands him the cup, and claps him on the shoulder.

“Here’s your water, dumbass. Listen, I’m not going to pretend to understand why you’ve fallen for Ghost of all people— he’s a damn good soldier and an even better man, but he’s fuckin’ cold, Soap. I’ve never seen him look twice at anyone. The last thing I want to see is you getting hurt because you have unreasonable expectations.”

“I don’t,” Soap replies. At Price’s dubious look, he scoffs. “I don’t. I’m happy being his friend. I just like talking to him, that’s all. I mean, I won’t pretend his voice isn’t one of the reasons—”

“Alright,” Price says, voice loud and slightly panicked. “I don’t need to hear this. Get outta here, we don’t wanna give Gaz too much time to talk shit about us.”

Soap’s laugh echoes in Ghost’s brain even after he and Price have left the kitchen, leaving him standing alone in the darkness. 

Soap is his friend.

Soap loves him.

Ghost sinks to the floor and buries his face in his hands.

Maybe his mother was right. 

Ghost has got to stop ending up in these situations.

He’s begun to realize that he has a very bad habit of intentionally overhearing other people’s conversations. In his defense, it’s not like people really try to be quiet around him (though that’s often because they don’t know he’s there) and they aren’t really saying anything private. He wasn’t invited to listen, though. They don’t know he’s doing it. 

It’s rather impolite, now that he really thinks about it. 

And it’s starting to have a serious negative impact on his already tortured psyche. 

He’s only being a little dramatic in saying that. Ever since he overheard that exchange between Price and Soap in the kitchen, it’s taken all of his energy to keep his mind off of Soap and the feelings he’s apparently been harboring for god knows how long. 

He feels a little bad for avoiding him like the plague for the past week, but he really needs to pull himself together, and he can’t do that with Soap gazing into his eyes like he’s actually worth something.

He might not even have to worry about it though, if the little interaction he’s currently observing is anything to go by. 

Ghost is leaning against the wall of some little conference room in France, where the 141 is meeting up with another special ops squad for a mission he’s pretty sure has something to do with drugs. Probably. Ghost needs to look over the file again.

Soap is standing with an American, and Ghost clenches his jaw and crosses his arms as the stupid Yankee brushes his fingertips over Soap’s bicep, grinning at him.

“You must work out a lot, huh?”

Soap smiles back (and Ghost tries not to feel betrayed, because it’s not like he actually even believed Soap’s feelings for him were real) and shrugs. “Gotta stay in shape in this line of work. Besides, the ladies love it.”

“And what about the gents?” the American probes, and Ghost fights the urge to roll his eyes (or to bash the man’s face into the nearest wall, but it’s probably best not to think of that as an option). 

“Aye, them too,” Soap shoots back, winking, and Ghost finds he can no longer stay here. He does have that file to look over, after all.

He strides quickly and quietly from the room (though not quickly enough to miss the American asking whether Soap is free later tonight) and doesn’t stop until he’s down the hall and around a corner.

He bites his lip and casts a glance around to make sure he’s still alone before pulling his balaclava up over his nose and sucking in a few deep breaths. 

Why is he so affected by this? It’s not like he was expecting anything to come of Soap having feelings for him.

Doesn't mean he didn’t want it, though.

That’s the crux of the issue, really. He wants Soap, wants his love and his respect and his body. He’s not immune to Soap’s many charms.

But Soap deserves someone better, and while Ghost loathes the thought that ‘someone better’ might be that American (though that’s unlikely— he finds comfort in the knowledge that it’ll probably be nothing more than a one night stand), he can admit that he’ll be happy just so long as Soap is happy.

He just doesn’t think Soap would be happy with him.

“There you are, L.t.”

Speak of the devil.

Soap sidles up next to him and leans on the wall, looking up at him. Ghost belatedly realizes that he still has his mask pulled up above his nose and hastily tugs it down.

They stand together in silence for a moment, and Ghost can feel Soap’s anxious energy. He’s trying to work up the nerve to say something.

He glances over, and sure enough, Soap is pursing his lips like he always does when he has something to say but isn’t sure how to say it.

Ghost decides to put him out of his misery. “What’s the matter, Johnny?”

Soap hesitates, but upon catching Ghost’s eye, sighs and shakes his head.

“Did I do something wrong?”

Ghost blinks at this, startled. “No,” he quickly reassures, then tries to lighten the mood by adding: “Unless you’ve started dealing arms to the Russians, too.”

The joke doesn’t even earn him a playfully unamused look, and now he’s really starting to worry. 

“Johnny, you’ve done nothing to upset me if that’s what you’re asking.”

Soap nods slightly and runs his hands through his hair. “You probably think I’m stupid for even bringing this up. I just— you’ve been avoiding me. Don’t try to deny it, I can tell when I’m getting the brush off. I just want to know why.”

Ghost takes a moment to process this, wondering how the hell he’s even supposed to respond, when Soap shakes his head and starts to back away.

“Forget it, L.t., I shouldn’t’ve asked. I—”

“I’m sorry.”

Soap pauses, surprised. “You are?”

Ghost nods. “I didn’t mean to push you away. There’s a lot on my mind, right now. I… needed time to myself.”

He feels a little foolish saying it out loud. Talking about his feelings (or what’s on his mind) is up there with snakes and talking to children on the “Simon Riley’s Top 10 Most Hated Things” list.

It seems to have been the right thing to say, though.

“Oh,” Soap says, sounding surprised and far less upset than he did just moments ago. “You don’t have to be sorry. I missed you, is all.”

Ghost doesn’t know how to respond to this. Fortunately he doesn’t have to, as Soap isn’t done talking.

“Do you maybe wanna go for drinks tonight, then? Or just stay in for drinks? I have a bourbon in my room you might like.”

Ghost raises an eyebrow, and despite his mask, he’s fairly certain Soap knows what sort of expression is on his face. “You have bourbon? Why?”

Soap just waves him off, face flushing slightly. “Doesn’t really matter, does it?”

Ghost cocks his head, debating whether or not he should ask what’s weighing on his mind. He decides he might as well.

“Didn’t I hear that American making plans with you? You still got time for me?”

Soap just scoffs. “I think I’d rather get drinks with you, sir. If you’re up for it.”

Ghost smiles, and the answering grin on Soap’s face tells him it’s obvious, even beneath the mask. “Yeah, Johnny. I’m up for it.”

His heart thunders in his chest.

He’s so fucked.

Ghost is halfway back to his room when he realizes he forgot his sweatshirt in the gym.

He sighs and makes his way back through the empty halls, reveling in the emptiness which comes late at night on this particular base.

He can’t wait until they’re back in the field and out of this godforsaken nightmare of a base. But maybe he’s being unfair. It’s not the base’s fault his life is shit.

This place isn’t even that bad; there’s practically no one else here, and they’re only staying for a day or two before they move out, but Ghost has still somehow managed to make his own life worse.

How?

They’ve had a lot of free time. The gym is available.

And Ghost has been finding it harder and harder to say ‘no’ to Soap lately.

So when he’d knocked on Ghost’s door, leaning against the frame and asking if Ghost would be interested in sparring with him, Ghost couldn’t bring himself to refuse.

He should have.

Because now, Ghost’s mind is buzzing with the memory of what it was like to spar with Soap. Soap’s body against his, Soap’s strong arms around him, Soap’s legs wrapping around his waist.

Soap underneath him, face red and breath quick.

God, the fuckin’ smell of him. The noises he made.

Ghost shakes his head, pushing open the door to the gym and silently making his way over to the bench where he’d ditched his hoodie.

Ghost hates himself. He must do, because why the fuck else would he torture himself like this, indulging in inside jokes and meaningful glances and sparring with the man he likes (loves, but he won’t be caught admitting it, even to himself). The man who likes (maybe even loves) him right back. Why indulge when he knows he won’t let himself have what he wants? What he could very well have?

He doesn’t have an answer.

(It’s because he’s a coward. Because he’s faced so much loss he’s not sure he could handle any more).

But he’s trying not to have these thoughts. So he carefully pushes away the memory of Soap’s breath in his ear and the little voice in his head that tells him to stop pining and actually do something, and focuses on figuring out where the hell he left his sweatshirt.

He casts about, knowing he’s in the approximate position of where he last had it and wishing he had a flashlight, when the sound of what must be someone’s voice catches his attention. He turns to see a stream of light pouring into the dark gym from the locker room, his hoodie on a bench right next to the entrance.

Mission success.

As he walks over to pick it up, he catches the sound of running water echoing through the locker room. 

Soap must be taking a shower— Ghost seems to recall him mentioning it as they parted ways. 

He pointedly ignores the heat creeping into his face at the thought of Soap in the shower as he grabs his sweatshirt and turns towards the door. He needs to get it together. He needs to stop standing here like a creep.

He turns to leave, resolutely thinking of the Queen Mother and absolutely nothing else, when he hears Soap say something, low and entirely unintelligible. He pauses, glancing back.

“Ghost,” Soap says, voice breathy, and Ghost freezes. 

How does Soap know he’s here? He can’t. There’s no way. Ghost has been dead silent, as always, and besides, even if he had made noise, it’d be difficult to hear over the sound of water running in the echo chamber that is the empty locker room.

He stands still and silent, wondering if he even heard anything in the first place. 

He’s about to leave, to write it off as some hallucination conjured up by his sick, twisted brain just to torment him, when Soap’s voice reaches his ears again. “Ghost… Simon, fuck.”

Ghost is startled by the use of his given name, and it suddenly becomes very clear what he just walked in on when he hears a low moan.

Fuckin’ hell. 

“Simon.”

Fuckin’ hell.

Ghost stumbles backwards, face flushed so hot the balaclava feels like it’s searing his skin. His heart stumbles like he’s just run a mile, and it’s with a rising sense of horror that he realizes he’s already half hard.

This is wrong. He shouldn’t be here, shouldn’t still be listening, but oh. His name on Soap’s lips— his name on Johnny’s lips— is undoing him faster than he even thought possible.

His entire body aches. He has to get out of here.

It’s a tactical retreat, Ghost reminds himself as he scampers out of the gym, jogging down the hallways to his room. He’s not running away, he just had to get out of there before he did something stupid and ruined a perfectly good friendship.

Reaching his room and slamming the door behind him, Ghost releases a strangled breath. He tosses his hoodie on the bed, then tears off his mask and tries his best to take deep, even breaths.

He has to get himself under control. He—

He can’t take this. He’s so hard it’s becoming hard (maybe difficult is the better word, but Ghost’s brain isn’t really doing him any favors right now) to form coherent thoughts.

Throwing himself down on the bed, Ghost has his fly open and his hand down his pants before he can even consider how guilty he’s going to feel about this when he inevitably has to make eye contact with Soap in the morning.

God, Soap’s eyes. The way he looked at Ghost when he had him pinned to the mat as they sparred earlier, the way his thighs shook as he fought to get free. He imagines fucking into those thighs and has to bite his lip to prevent a low moan from escaping his throat.

When was the last time he was this wrecked by the mere thought of a person? 

He can’t remember. Can’t remember anything but the feel of Soap’s arm locked around his throat and the needy noises he was making in the shower, the way he said Ghost’s name— Simon’s name— like he didn’t know any others.

He barely has time to wonder how Soap would sound if Ghost actually got his hands on him, stroking the way he’s stroking himself now, fast and desperate, or what he could do to Soap with his mouth alone, before he’s coming hard, panting out a harsh “Johnny,” and making a mess of himself.

Ghost groans as he lets his head fall back onto his pillow. Now that the hot desperation has faded, he’s left only with the cold certainty that he’s completely done for and a strange sense of terror at the knowledge that Soap could take him apart so quickly without even being present. 

But if anything came from this (other than him), Ghost can at least say that he now knows two things for certain.

One— he’s in love with Soap, and hopelessly attracted to him to boot.

And two— he really needs to stop eavesdropping.

“I’ve made it to the target, L.t.,” Soap’s voice crackles through the radio. 

“Good,” Ghost replies, getting to his feet and shouldering his AW-50. “Collect the files and meet me at the rendezvous in ten.”

“Copy that,” Soap replies, and Ghost moves out.

It’s just the two of them on this mission, if he doesn’t count Laswell, who dropped them off and who will be back to retrieve them at 01:00 hours. It’s simple, as much of a milk run as any of their missions are— he covers Soap from a nearby building with his rifle, and Soap goes in and steals some files without getting caught. They’re fit for the job, and it hasn’t been particularly difficult or dangerous thus far.

Ghost has the strangest feeling it’s not going to last.

“Reminds me of Las Almas,” Soap says, and Ghost smiles at that, almost letting himself believe that’s why he’s so paranoid. Maybe it is just the old memories getting to him.

“Don’t tell me you’ve been shot.”

A scoff. “Hasn’t been anyone to shoot me. I believe I have you to thank for that.”

“At your service,” Ghost replies absentmindedly, scanning the narrow cobblestone street as he steps outside.

“At my service, eh,” Ghost can hear the grin in Soap’s voice. “I should be taking advantage of that.”

Ghost’s heart stumbles, but he keeps his voice steady as he replies. “And what would you have me do?”

He moves steadily onward, keeping to the shadows as he silently makes his way to the RV point. 

After a pause, Soap responds. “Maybe I’d have you stop making terrible jokes.”

“Oh, but that reminds me—”

“Ghost, no,” Soap groans.

“D’you know how to make holy water?”

“Lieutenant, please.”

“You boil the hell out of it.”

There’s a brief moment of silence, and Ghost allows himself a small smile, imagining the look on Soap’s face. 

“That was the worst one yet, I think. When I get out of here— oh shit.”

There’s a burst of gunfire and Soap cuts out. Ghost stops dead in his tracks, turning back towards the building Soap was supposed to be collecting the files from. He’s suddenly having trouble breathing.

“Johnny, how copy?”

He’s met with silence. He gives it a moment, aware that Soap may have his hands full, so to speak.

The moment passes and Ghost is on the radio again, barely keeping the panic from his voice. “Johnny, how copy?”

When he once again receives no response, he makes the executive decision to go find Soap (or, god forbid, what’s left of him) and figure out what the hell is going on.

In moments, he’s at the entrance of the target building. The door is ajar, which means there is definitely someone else inside, and Ghost clenches his jaw, pulling out his knife and moving stealthily inside.

He makes it up two floors before he hears the voices, angry and loud, and he has to restrain himself from storming in, guns blazing. The last thing he wants is for Soap to get hurt, or more hurt than he already is, and he’ll only achieve that by being careful. He reaches the first doorway and pauses, listening.

“I will only ask you this, one more time, so I suggest you answer. Who do you work for?” It’s a man’s voice, tone harsh, and when he doesn’t receive a response, the unmistakable sound of the butt of a rifle slamming into a human head follows.

Ghost sees red. 

Peering around the doorframe, he sees two men. One is standing with his back to the door, the other, taller man holding a rifle and standing above Soap’s unconscious form.

“Tie his hands,” says the first man. “We’ll load him up and take him with us.”

Ghost, though he will never admit it, is not one to miss a perfect opportunity for dramatic timing. He stands, throws his knife with deadly accuracy into the taller man’s throat, and rasps: “No, you won’t.”

The first man turns, and Ghost makes quick work of him as well, before moving to crouch next to Soap. His head is bleeding sluggishly and he’s out cold, but Ghost has seen worse. He’ll pull through.

The same can’t be said for the men who did this to him, and Ghost’s only regret is that their deaths were quick and relatively painless.

He thinks to grab the files before he leaves, and as he’s tucking them into his vest, his radio hisses with static.

“Bravo 0-7, Bravo 7-1, how copy,” Laswell asks.

“Solid copy, Watcher-1,” Ghost replies, picking Soap up and slinging him over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry. “Ran into some trouble, but on our way to rendezvous now.”

“Copy that. See you there.”

When he arrives at the gas station which serves as their RV point, Laswell levels him with an exasperated look.

“You might’ve mentioned he was unconscious.”

Ghost says nothing, just opens the door to the backseat of Laswell’s truck and gently lays Soap down, removing the bulkier pieces of equipment and placing them on the car floor next to him.

When he’s done all he can, he steps away and turns to find Laswell looking at him with an unreadable expression. He is, once again, grateful for his mask and its ability to conceal his emotions. Laswell makes him supremely nervous.

“Casualties?” she asks.

“Two.”

“Did you get the files?”

He glances at Soap before pulling the files out of his own vest. He hands them to Laswell, who nods her thanks.

“I’m assuming the casualties did this,” she gestures to Soap. “To him?”

Ghost nods silently, and Laswell narrows her eyes. “I told you in the briefing, this was to be a minimally destructive operation. Anything that might draw attention to the missing files was to be avoided at all costs.”

“You also told me that our lives come first.”

“Tell me, Ghost, could you have gotten him out without killing them?”

Ghost is silent for a moment, and Laswell shakes her head with a sigh. 

“They’d seen his face, Chief.”

“Call me Kate,” she says absentmindedly, brushing her bangs out of her eyes and collecting her thoughts. 

He’s not prepared for what she says next.

“He’s your weak spot, Ghost.”

He doesn’t reply, but she seems to read his knee-jerk defensiveness just fine by his posture alone. “Please. Be honest, at least with yourself if not with me. You care about him. That's not inherently a bad thing. But you need to get yourself under control. He’s going to get hurt. It’s part of the job. And you can’t ignore mission parameters every time someone hits him over the head just because he’s your friend.”

Ghost shifts when she says that, and it’s with horror that he sees the realization dawn in her eyes. “Oh. You’re in love with him.”

“Kate, please. I don’t want to have this conversation.”

She nods, seemingly aware of the professional boundary she’s broken, but as she moves towards the driver’s seat, she turns back to look him in the eye. “One last thing, and then I promise I’ll drop it— it’s okay to let yourself have this. Love isn’t a bad thing, and you’re not unworthy of it.”

And with that terrifying insight into the deepest darkest part of Ghost’s soul, the conversation is over, leaving Ghost feeling stunned and stripped bare.

It's entirely unpleasant.

Ghost glances at Soap again. The car doors are open, and he’s shivering slightly in the cool night air. Ghost closes up the car and moves to sit in the passenger’s seat, leaving Soap the entire back bench to spread out.

“Let’s get back to base,” Kate says, throwing the car into reverse.

Ghost startles as a weak voice replies: “Just don’t let Ghost drive. I’m lucky to have survived the last time he took the wheel.”

Ghost turns to shoot Soap a glare, and is met with a surprisingly soft expression. Wrong footed, he turns back quickly, trying to ignore his racing heart.

Kate laughs quietly as they tear out of the parking lot and turn down a dark country road. “Copy that.”

The car falls silent and after a few moments, Ghost freezes, struck by a frightening realization. He has no idea how long Soap has been awake. How much he’s heard. 

He’s not sure he wants to know.

“So,” Soap says, when they’re finally back in the room they’re set to share at this base, after about an hour of waiting around in medbay just to find out that Soap is totally fine, minus a small scratch on his head and some bruising around his eye. It’s nearing 02:00 in the morning, and they’re both exhausted.

“So,” Ghost echoes, unlacing his shoes and sliding them off.

“You’re in love with me.”

Ghost chokes, whipping around to stare at the man that he is, in fact, in love with. 

When he doesn’t say anything, Soap continues, crossing his arms over his chest. “Luckily for both of us, I’m in love with you, too.”

“So you did overhear,” Ghost says stupidly, the first thing that pops into his mind forcing its way out.

“Aye. And I want to know how long you were planning on waiting to tell me.”

Ghost says nothing, simply shrugs and looks at the floor.

“Not at all, then, eh?”

Ghost looks up then, meeting Soap’s defiant stare. “It’s not that I don’t want to be with you.”

“So then what is it? Because I don’t think I need to tell you how much I want to be with you. I follow you around like a lost puppy, for god’s sake. I haven’t exactly been sending mixed signals here.”

Ghost just collapses onto his bed, resigned, and decides he might as well explain himself, even if it means Soap realizes how terrible a man Ghost actually is. Even if it means Soap changes his mind and leaves.

“I’m not a good person, Johnny,” Soap opens his mouth to interject, but Ghost silences him with a sharp look. “I’m nothing like you deserve. You need to understand that I’m not easy to… to love, and I’m not safe to be around. I’ve got a list of enemies about a mile long, and a past I might never be able to tell you about. You deserve to be happy, and I can only hold you back from that.”

Soap stands abruptly, and Ghost refuses to look, a bit startled that his words would make Soap leave so fast.  

But Soap, unsurprisingly (at least to anyone who isn’t Ghost), simply crosses the small room to sit on Ghost’s bunk next to him. “You’re an idiot.”

Ghost does look, then, shooting Soap a glare, but Soap just rolls his eyes. “If you think I didn’t know all that— the true bits, anyway— before I even met you, you’ve got another thing coming. That’s just the job, L.t., it’s what we do. I have enemies too, and while I won’t pretend anyone’s trauma measures up to yours, we all have a few skeletons in our closets.”

Ghost can’t think how to respond to that, but Soap isn’t finished.

“And as for the not-true bits— if you’re so hard to love, why can’t I go a day without thinking about you? Why was it so easy for me to fall so hard for you that I haven’t even been able to look at anyone else the same way since the first week we met? And I can’t even fathom how you got the impression that you don’t make me happy.”

Ghost realizes, with a bolt of horror, that his eyes are welling up, and he turns his face away, staring at the ground. 

Soap is having none of that.

He places his hand on the side of Ghost’s face, and Ghost can feel the heat even through the knit of his mask. “Look at me?”

Ghost, against his better judgment, turns to meet Soap’s eye, and what he finds is enough to make him want to let go completely, just to see that look on Soap’s face every day for the rest of his life, however long that may be. 

Soap is gazing at him like he’s never seen anything more beautiful, and that can’t be right, because Ghost is broken, his body and soul worn and wartorn. But the way Soap’s eyes shine almost makes him wonder if he’s missing something when he catches his reflection in the mirror.

He sucks in a sharp breath as Soap leans forward and presses a soft kiss to his cheek, nearly impossible to feel through the balaclava shrouding his face. His heart is beating so loud he’s sure Soap can hear it.

“Take it off?”

It’s a request, a plea, not a command. Ghost knows that if he chooses to keep the mask on, Soap won’t fault him, won’t push, and the moment won’t be ruined.

But…

He wants to feel those lips on his skin. And as terrifying as it is, he wants Soap to see him, to really see him by the one piece of himself he always keeps hidden away. He loves Soap. And he thinks he might trust him, too.

He reaches up and tugs the mask off, brushing his hair away when it tumbles down into his eyes. Soap doesn’t try to hide his sunny smile at the sight of Ghost’s face, and Ghost feels himself blush.

“You’re so pretty,” Soap breathes, and Ghost can’t help his surprised laugh.

“Pretty?”

Soap just keeps grinning, either unashamed or unaware of the look of sheer adoration painted on his face. “Yes sir. Pretty. Beautiful, even. I love your face.”

Something catches in Ghost’s throat at that, breathing becoming difficult, and he has to lean in and claim Soap’s lips before he loses his mind completely. Soap responds enthusiastically, tangling his hands in Ghost’s hair, and Ghost can’t help but groan at the scratch of Soap’s stubble against his face.

He lets Soap push him back until he’s laid flat on the bed, and he watches, enraptured, as Soap runs his hands over the tactical vest Ghost is still wearing.

“Mind if I take this off you?”

Ghost can’t do much more than stare, eyes wide and face hot, so he just nods, fairly certain his voice would not work if he tried to use it.

Soap sets to work on the various buckles and straps, and he has the vest off in under thirty seconds, pulling it over Ghost’s head and tossing it to the ground in a way that Ghost would probably object to were he not being kissed within an inch of his life.

He is being kissed within an inch of his life, though, and when Soap slings a leg over his hips, bringing their bodies flush together, his mind is wiped clean of thoughts entirely.

“Johnny,” he whines, the cry escaping him entirely involuntarily. He hardly has the time to be embarrassed, though, as he feels Soap twitch where they’re pressed together, too close to hide anything.

Soap bites his lip, then pulls back to survey his face, and if Ghost looks as wrecked as Soap does, pupils blown wide and lips swollen and slick, he’s sure he must be quite the sight. 

Soap certainly seems to think so, bending to kiss and suck at his neck and whispering sweet little words into his skin. “ Sweet bloody Jesus, aren’t you wonderful? So good for me, so loud. God, Si— L.t., you have no idea what you do to me.”

Ghost actually does have a pretty good idea of what he’s doing to Soap— he can feel him pressed against his thigh, hard and hot. But he’s not really focused on that now, more concerned with—

“Call me Simon.”

Soap pulls back to stare at him, brows raised.

Ghost nods in answer to Soap’s unasked question. He’s sure. “Call me Simon, Johnny.”

“Hm,” Soap hums, making a show of considering it, sliding a hand under Ghost’s shirt and skimming his fingers along his bare skin. “Alright, Simon.”

Ghost reaches up, seizing Soap’s face and dragging him back down for a kiss, and the slide of Soap’s tongue against his own makes his head spin, the rush of pleasure dizzying in its intensity.

Soap’s hands glide up Ghost’s still clothed chest, one of his thumbs briefly catching his nipple, making his breath hitch, and Ghost suddenly realizes there are far too many layers separating their skin. Unacceptable.

He grabs hold of the hem of Soap’s t-shirt, tugging upwards, and Soap thankfully gets the hint, pulling back to look at him with a cheeky grin.

“Want it off?”

Ghost just narrows his eyes, and though he’s sure the force of his glare is diminished without his signature mask (and by the fact that he’s splayed out on his bed, flushed, hard, and panting), Soap doesn’t continue to tease, pulling his shirt off and tossing it on the floor alongside Ghost’s vest.

“Your turn, Simon,” he growls, the sweet smile on his face doing nothing to hide the desire in his eyes. “I want to see all of you.”

Ghost is momentarily glad he’s laying down, sure he would have swooned were he standing. He’s quick to comply, sitting up briefly to tug his shirt up and off, and it joins the rest of their discarded clothing on the floor.

Before he can really process the sight of Soap’s bare chest, the softness of his relaxed muscle, the slope of his shoulders and those fucking arms, Soap is kissing him again, sucking on his bottom lip and clearly fighting a smile when Ghost groans at the sensation.

He pulls away suddenly, but Ghost has no time for confusion before Soap is leaving wet kisses along his neck, nipping at his collarbone as he migrates down. 

Ghost, on pure impulse, pets a hand through Soap’s hair, which earns a pleased sound, and he’s just catching his breath, reveling in the feeling of Soap’s full, undivided attention, when Soap licks over his nipple and a loud moan forces its way from his throat. 

Soap, the fucking bastard, takes this as a sign that Ghost likes this (he does, but is that really Soap’s business?) and redoubles his efforts. Ghost finds himself biting his lip hard enough to taste blood, trying to contain the needy noises that seem eager to slip out without his permission.

Soap pauses, pulling away, and moves to meet Ghost’s eye, gently running his finger over Ghost’s mouth.

“Nuh-uh, none of that. I want to hear you, love,” he rasps, and fuck if it doesn’t pull another desperate sound from him.

Soap grins. “Good boy. You’re so hot, you know that? So pretty and so hot… the things you do to me, Simon. My love.”

Soap punctuates this statement by grinding down against him, and Ghost cries out again, the combination of Soap’s words and movements punching the breath from his lungs. Soap settles his hips into a rhythm, and Ghost can’t do much more than gasp for breath, the friction maddening.

“Do we have any lube?” Soap pants in his ear, and when Ghost, after a moment of struggle, recovers his ability to think, he shakes his head.

“Believe it or not, I didn’t think I’d be doing this.”

Soap hums. “Well. At least I know you weren’t planning to fuck anyone else.”

When Ghost snorts, Soap pulls back, a look of gleeful disbelief on his face. “You weren’t planning on… getting fucked?”

Ghost’s silence is answer enough, and Soap groans, burying his face in Ghost’s neck, biting and licking and sucking and saying tortuous things that go straight to his cock.

“Oh, god, Simon, I want to fuck you so bad. I want you to ride me. I want to be inside you, I want to feel you, I want to fill you up, make you scream for me.”

Soap punctuates every few words with another roll of his hips, and Ghost can feel his briefs sticking to him, wet with the precum that’s steadily leaking from his achingly hard cock. He’s not sure he’s ever gotten this worked up this quickly.

“I want to hear you say my name while I take you.”

“Johnny,” Ghost keens, distantly aware of how close he’s getting. He should probably let Soap know that if he keeps it up, this is going to be over before it can even begin. “Johnny, I-”

“Just like that,” Soap growls, turning his head and kissing Ghost hard. “Just like that Simon, you have no idea— I want you so much.”

He sucks at Ghost’s bottom lip, breaks away to press wet kisses all over his face, his cheeks, his nose, his chin. “I love you. Bloody fuckin’ hell, I love you so much.”

The next movement of Soap’s hips, fast and hard, sends him over the edge.

There’s nothing he can do but lay there, clutching helplessly at Soap’s shoulders when he comes hard , crying out Johnny’s name as his vision whites out.

When he can breathe again and he’s blinked the spots away from his vision, he looks up to see Soap staring at him like a starving man might look at a five course meal. He feels his face heat up.

“Sorry—”

Soap just groans, cutting him off with a kiss. “Don’t be fuckin’ sorry, love. That was probably the hottest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Soap kisses him again, desperately, and for a few moments they lose time in one another, the feel of Soap’s hands on his body and Soap’s teeth scraping at his bottom lip all he can focus on.

He allows his own hands to roam, and they skim down Soap’s back, landing on his ass, and Ghost is almost embarrassed to admit to himself how badly he’s wanted to do this. Soap hums, rolling his hips, and it’s then that Ghost remembers Soap is yet to find release.

That won’t do.

He pushes Soap away, rolling out from underneath him and sinking to his knees on the cold concrete floor. Soap looks at him with wide eyes as he beckons him closer.

“Sit on the edge of the bed.”

Soap visibly swallows. “Simon… you don’t have to—”

“I want to. Now are you going to do what you’re told, or should I consider this insubordination?”

Soap shifts to swing his legs over the side of the mattress, obviously doing his best to control his breathing as Ghost settles between his legs, letting his fingers trail along Soap’s waistband, and leaving kisses along the same path. Soap whines as Ghost finally undoes the fly, lifting his hips to help as Ghost slides his jeans off entirely.

Ghost hesitates, nosing at Soap’s navel, enjoying the way he squirms, hands clenched in the sheets. “I forgot to ask… Do you want this?”

Soap makes a frustrated noise, hips twitching upwards just barely. “Yes. Now get on with it.”

Ghost doesn’t need to be told twice, hooking his thumbs into the waistband of Soap’s briefs and yanking them halfway down his thighs. His cock comes free, flushed and leaking, and Ghost grins up at Soap, looking at him through his lashes as he kisses his shaking thighs.

“Simon, please .”

“Please what?”

Soap actually whimpers, and Ghost has to smother a grin, watching as he tries to get his breathing under control. “Just— please, touch me, put your fucking mouth on me, Simon—”

His voice cuts off with a shaky moan as Ghost takes pity on him and wraps a hand around his cock, running a thumb over the head and stroking experimentally. Soap gasps, his hips twitching, and Ghost runs his hands up Soap’s thighs, pinning his hips before licking a stripe up the underside.

“Fuck, Simon,” Soap hisses, sounding pained, and Ghost decides (in his infinite kindness) to put him out of his misery.

When he finally gets his mouth around him, Soap jolts and cries out, loud and unashamed. 

His hands clench harder in the sheets, and Ghost is suddenly desperate to know what one of those large, calloused hands would feel like in his hair. He reaches out and grabs one, bringing it to his head and groaning when Soap’s fingers immediately tighten, tangling in his curls and pulling, the sensation wrenching a whine from Ghost’s throat even as he takes Soap deeper, holding his hips in place as he bobs his head, lost in the smell of him and the taste of him, blocking out all other sensation.

“Simon— Simon, I’m gonna come,” Soap stutters out, sounding as though he’s trying to remember how to speak. 

Ghost pulls off with a sound that is, quite frankly, obscene. He tightens the hand that’s been lazily working the base of Soap’s cock and strokes faster, then straightens, grasping the back of Soap’s neck and pulling him into an open-mouthed kiss. Soap winds his legs around Ghost’s ribcage, pulling him closer, and Ghost breaks away from his sweet mouth to bite at his earlobe. 

“I love you, too, Johnny.”

It’s like flipping a switch. The moment the words fall from his lips, Soap is coming, clutching Ghost to his chest and keening into his ear. 

Oh— that’s the first time he’s actually said it, wasn’t it? He hadn’t denied it earlier, but not-denying you’re in love with someone is a lot different than actually saying it. 

He feels himself melt, giddiness bubbling up in his chest as Soap’s breathing evens out and he runs a gentle hand through Ghost’s hair. 

He does love Soap. And Soap loves him. It’s enough to make anyone giddy.

Ghost pulls away slightly, watching as Soap kicks his briefs all the way off and uses them to wipe himself down before shifting to lay on the bed properly. He meets Ghost’s gaze, and whatever it is he finds there makes him smile softly.

“Are your knees alright?”

Ghost laughs, burying his face in his hands, and Soap makes an offended noise.

“Sorry for asking,” he huffs, and he sounds so genuinely offended, Ghost is quick to stand, shaking his head.

“No, it just surprised me, is all,” he says, smiling. “It’s a very sweet question.”

“Shut the fuck up,” Soap gripes, but he’s smiling too, looking up at Ghost with a soft look in his eye.

“To answer your question, my knees are just fine,” Ghost says, gesturing down at himself, and Soap laughs, startled to see that Ghost has on all of his tactical gear from the waist down, thigh holsters and knee pads still strapped in place. 

He sits on the bed, efficiently removing his gear and hesitating only a moment before dropping it with the rest of their clothing to be dealt with in the morning. He kicks off his jeans and underwear, wrinkling his nose at the mess, and after doing his best to clean himself up, collapses into the small bed next to Soap, who has been watching him intently, eyes roaming his naked body.

Ghost feels suddenly self-conscious. “What?”

“I just like the way you look. There something wrong with that?”

He runs a hand over Ghost’s belly, and Ghost smacks his hand away playfully “Don’t even start. I’m exhausted.”

“I’m not trying to start anything, L.t.,” Soap says, rolling his eyes and reaching over again to pull Ghost’s back against his chest. He leaves his arm slung over Ghost’s waist, and Ghost finds that he doesn’t mind it one bit. “We have tomorrow for that.”

“You’re a menace,” Ghost grumbles as Soap pulls the blanket over them. “We should probably shower.”

“We have tomorrow for that, too. Turn off the light, would you?”

Ghost sighs, reaching over to flick off the lamp on the rickety metal bedside table, plunging them into darkness. Soap nuzzles into the back of his neck and Ghost shivers.

He can’t remember the last time he felt this content. It’s a strange feeling.

As he drifts off, he thinks, fleetingly, that his mother might forgive his eavesdropping, just this once, if she saw where it landed him. 

She would have loved Soap.

He certainly does.