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 SHADOWS CREED - M Shadows/A7X Fic - R

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the mice endure

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PostSubject: SHADOWS CREED - M Shadows/A7X Fic - R   Tue Mar 22, 2011 5:19 am

DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. I do not own any members of Avenged Sevenfold or any other band mentioned in this story. I also do not own any of the partners/friends/family members of the band members. All OC [Original characters] characters are property of me. The plot is mine, so please, no stealing...I will ask Fic Matt to chase you down if you do Razz.

This tale is written for purely entertainment and not for monetary gain. No offence is meant toward the people in this story, and last but not least this story is meant for mature people due to the mature themes presented within. There may also be violence and sex, so be warned.


Title: Shadows Creed
Author: the mice endure
Genre: Action, Drama [FanFiction]
Rating: R [Mostly]
Characters: A7X
Summary: Bands are outlawed. The law is upheld by The Creed. The Creed is a force responsible for eliminating renegade musicians. One man decides it’s time for a change. Time to crush the oppression. There is one problem. This one man is The Creed’s most trusted.
Setting: New Huntington, 2009
Warning: For violence, possible graphic sex, language.
Author's notes: Incomplete/Chaptered

This is an AU [Alternate Universe] story. The band is not the band, however, their personalities are basically as they would be if they were. If you want to find out a bit more about the band just ask.




Part One - Welcome to the family

“How many times has it been, Seward?”

“Too fucking many.”

“Yeah. Y’know, by rights you shoulda been shot years ago.”

“So what? You gonna shoot me now?”

“No. Take this.”

The guard was bored. Nothing ever changed and the little shit standing in front of him hadn’t changed any since he’d arrived at the joint six years ago. Seward was the same sullen, rat-faced lout he’d been when the Creed had cornered him and his buddies in some dank garage at the wrong end of New Huntington.

The guard held out a red card to the young man. The same red card he’d given him every time Seward broke a rule.

“Here,” he repeated in a monotone. “Put that on record, and get outta my sight.”

Seward took the proffered card with a smirk, a mere twist of the lips, before darting off with a triumphant chuckle.

* * * * *

The smell of oil filled his nostrils making him want to retch. Zacky lay flat on his back beneath a laid out piece of crap, aka the mayor’s Bentley, trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with it. His brother was leaning against the body of the vehicle, tunelessly humming and not helping him at all.

“Matty, get that rag, could ya?” Zacky called out as he squinted up at the underside of the vehicle.

“Get your own, lazy ass...” the younger male mumbled.

Zacky frowned, biting down hard on his lip before retorting, “I don’t see you under this heap of shit.”

“That’s because I’m the smart one,” came his brother’s response. There wasn’t much that could be said to that statement, so the elder Baker remained silent and returned his concentration to his task.

* * * * *

Chaos and hate fill the world
Take me away to
Some place better than this
I know a place where we can go...


Brian stabbed his pen against the page he was scribbling on. The words seemed okay, but he wasn’t game to read over them again. Scraps of paper were scattered across the surface of his desk, littering his bed and floor as well. He’d been at it for days, but he could never get anything solid or that he felt was worthy of continuing.

His father had been the same way, when he’d been living at home. A perfectionist at heart, it ran in the genes.

“Fu-uck! I hate this!” Brian slammed his palms against the surface of the desk, jarring the bones in his forearms.

“What, hun?”

His fiancée peered around the doorjamb, her warm brown eyes catching his attention and drawing his scowl away from his work.

“Chelle...this...poem. It’s crap.” He scrunched the page into a tight ball, lobbing it across to the basket next to his bed.

Michelle sighed, coming in to lean next to him. “You should take a break. Don’t forget, Shads and Val are coming around for drinks tonight...”

Brian smiled, thinking of his friend. It had been a long time between shouts. But, considering they were each hitched to a Dibenedetto girl, it was time they reforged their friendship. Nodding to his woman, he swung around on his chair, placing his hands against his knees and standing up.

“Well, we’d better go to the shops then.”

* * * * *

He had five trash can lids. It was a record. He wasn’t certain what he was going to do with them yet, and he was sure his landlord would probably collar him and force him to put them back where he’d found them. But, he didn’t really give a shit. His parents were coming around with his sisters and he wanted to show them his masterpiece. Requiem for a Garbologist was going to be his finest work. A lot of mangled sounds of metal clashing against metal were definitely music to his ears.

In fact, making music was something he loved doing, however he never really got any chances and there was no way anyone ever appreciated anything he created. Because he was basically a screw-up who was shunned by society and loved only by his family and friends.

He did have one redeeming quality, though. Jimmy Sullivan was a genius. He knew just about everything one needed to know about society, and also a lot of useless stuff as well. Including how The Flushers got their name. They used to be responsible for making sure all the toilets in the shopping malls were flushed. They’re now responsible for flushing out the waste of the streets.

Jimmy was also an expert at screwing things up. And he always found it amusing to watch the Flushers trying to clean up after him. They of course weren’t as much entertainment as the Creed, though.

The Creed. Jimmy’s number one obsession and the one thing he knew more about other than his own family. The Creed who controlled New Huntington with a fist of iron. The Creed who his best buddy, for the past five years, commanded...

* * * * *

Wake up. Meditate. Clean his gear. Eat. Pump iron. Shower. Wake the rest of the corp. Every morning it was the same and Matthew never tired of it. It was regular as clockwork. And he preferred it that way. Routine and order lead to responsible action. And responsible action lead to the law being upheld.

Of course, he wasn’t so inflexible that he couldn’t allow for some deviation from the norm. For example, the other morning, his wife of mere weeks, had surprised him at the barracks with a box of his favourite chocolates and a passionate kiss. He normally wouldn’t encourage public displays of affection; it was a sign of weakness he couldn’t really afford. However, he had only just recently married, so he knew his superiors and subordinates alike would turn a blind eye, at least once or twice.

Today, though, things were going to be a little different. Matthew had decided to take a break, an honest to goodness day off. He had been on call non-stop for five years; he hadn’t become TaskerOne by sitting on his ass, stagnating. Therefore he felt he deserved this one day of respite. Still, he couldn’t abandon routine entirely. And so that’s why he was walking toward the showers a heavy black towel over one shoulder, bandana dangling from his left fist, a tight smile twisting his lips.

“Shadows? What’re you doing?”

Matthew paused midstride as he was about to head into the showers, glancing to the person who had just questioned him. His 2IC, Jason Berry, was holding the wall up, a smirk gracing his lean features.

He chuckled low, lifting the bandana. “Rookie salute.”

The younger man laughed. “Been bashing up the kiddies in the gym again? That’s not very nice.”

Matthew shrugged, pushing the door open and heading into the steaming shower block. Jason followed behind, stripping.

“I mean, fuck...I know they all gotta toughen up. But don’t you think you’re just a tad hard on them?”

Matthew gave a non-committal grunt, tossing his towel and bandana over a pole, stripping his sweat-soaked clothes from his body. He stepped into the shower bay; it was large enough to take a whole football team and then some. Communal bathing was good for morale as far as the Creed was concerned.

As the sensors picked up his presence steaming jets of water sprayed down. He stood under it with his eyes closed, stretching his arms above his head.

“No harder than Eski was on us when we first joined,” he finally commented as Jason joined him.

“That’s true,” Jason murmured, as he cast a quick glance over the bigger man’s body. “Did you no harm, though.”

Matthew snorted. “Right back atcha, buddy.”

“Hah. I’m not the one who packed it on.”

“You’ll keep,” he muttered, while grabbing a bar of soap and proceeding to lather up all over.

“True. All that ink must’ve been killer though.”

Matthew glanced at the other male. “Hmmm?”

Jason nodded to the artwork that covered his body. “All that.”

“Yeah. A bit.” Matthew smirked. “But pain is good for the soul.”

“Trust you to say that,” Jason muttered.

“What?”

“Nothing, Shads.”

Matthew frowned. “I’m serious.”

The 2IC rolled his eyes, splashing water at him. “Be careful, you might turn into Jimmy.”

“If I do, I give you full permission to recommend my closure.”

“Haha, very funny.”

Matthew flicked water back at Jason, then scowled. “Dead serious, Jason. Jimmy’s my best friend. But, he’s not the sort of person who stays in the Creed’s good books. Ever. In fact...he’s just...not.”

“Yeah, I get it. I get it. By the way, day off, right?”

“Yeah,” Matthew smiled. “Going to Brian’s for drinks. Been a long time.”

“Enjoy that.”

“Sure will.” He sighed. “But first I gotta rouse the rabble...”

Jason cocked an eyebrow. “You do know what a day off is, don’t you? It’s where you leave the shit work to me.” He clapped a hand against Matt’s shoulder, squeezing the hard muscle. “Finish up here and get your ass home...let me deal with the corps.”

Matthew grimaced as he said, “I don’t think-”

“Don’t argue,” Jason interrupted, firmly. “As your second-in-command I insist that you forget about all your responsibilities, and go. Just go. Let your hair down...”

“If I had any, I would.” Matthew ran a palm over his skull then patted the same hand against his friend’s left bicep. “Thanks. I guess you’re right. I’ll just go once I’m done here?”

“Don’t ask me.” Jason began laughing, but sobered quickly as his commander glared at him. “Yeah...yeah, just go, Shads...I can deal.”

Matthew, unable to maintain his stern expression, gave a grateful smile whilst ducking beneath the spray, washing away the sweat and soap.

After a moment he said, “Good. Because you still owe me for the whole of last quarter.”

Jason chuckled again, shaking his head. “True.”

Nothing more was said between them as they finished up, preparing to part ways.
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PostSubject: Re: SHADOWS CREED - M Shadows/A7X Fic - R   Tue Mar 22, 2011 5:22 am

Part Two -Just Jimmy


Brian looked out the front window as a familiar growl echoed up the driveway. He was at the kitchen sink, filling up several empties with his homemade brew. His concentration was every which way since he and Michelle had returned from the shops. First, he had gone back to his room and attempted to write a little more. When that had come to nothing, he had switched on the television just to flick through about a hundred channels of commercials. Finally, Brian had settled with checking the alcohol he had begun to brew.

He had gotten the bug the previous Christmas because some family friends had brought over a bottle of whiskey that they had made themselves. It, besides his writing, was his pet project: to create the perfect whiskey.

However, the low moan of his friend’s bike approaching the front of the house was enough to draw his attention away from that, for at least a moment.

“It’s Matt!” Michelle called from the living room.

Brian yelled back, “I know. I’d recognise his bike a mile away.”

“Val’s not with him.” His fiancée appeared behind him in the doorway of the kitchen. Brian glanced over his shoulder at her.

“Hmmm?”

He returned his focus to the large bottles in front of him, trying to make sure he didn’t spill any of the liquid he was pouring from the heavy barrel.

“Val. She isn’t with him.” Michelle came over to lean against the sink next to him, observing his work. He smiled vaguely her way before continuing his task.

“She’s coming straight from work,” Brian murmured after a moment, sticking his tongue out of the corner of his mouth and squinting down into the sink.

“No. She said Matt was going to pick her up.”

“No. She told me that she was coming straight from work.” Brian put the now empty barrel down, grinning. “Anyway, it’s early yet...look at these beauties!” He waved a hand toward the full bottles in the sink.

Michelle rolled her eyes at him then turned to leave. “I’m gonna let him in.”

Brian nodded absently while scrounging in a drawer for some bottle caps. His fiancée sighed and walked out of the room. He heard her footsteps fading away then the sound of the front door opening and her welcoming the other man.

“Matt! Long time.”

“Yeah, how’re you doing?”

Their voices quietened for a moment so Brian couldn’t hear them, and then Matthew’s voice entered the kitchen in that familiar rasping drawl that he always spoke with.

“Brian, what the fuck’re you doing?”

Brian turned around, bracing his ass against the counter, grinning. Matthew stood several feet from him, his eyebrows rising in bemusement. Hooking the pair of Aviators he always wore out onto his shirt, he nodded toward the bottles in the sink.

Brian smirked as he said, “Oh that’s just some brew I concocted.”

Matthew’s expression darkened. “Nothing illegal?”

“No. It’s just whiskey, Shads. Lighten up.”

“I will, if you let me be the first to taste it,” Matthew said with a chuckle.

Brian rolled his eyes walking forward to meet him in a quick, hard embrace. “Oh, you. Come ‘ere.”

They pounded at each other’s backs then stepped away, Matthew moving to lean against the bench while Brian went back to the sink. He grabbed the caps, screwing them onto the bottles before lifting them out of the sink and plonking them down on the bench. He left one open, which he set down in front of his friend.

Matthew grabbed it and asked, while sniffing at the contents, “When’re the others getting here?” He tilted it watching as the dark liquid swirled inside.

“Well, your wife won’t be here ‘til later. Apparently she’s doing some advertising campaign for the mayor,” Brian said, watching his friend’s silent interrogation of the brew.

Matthew snorted, “Elliott Johnston needs all the help he can get. Did you hear about his ride?”

“No?”

“Zack told me, last time I spoke to him, that he ran over a couple of concrete pylons – no idea how he did that – so it’s at the shop right now, getting fixed.”

Brian laughed, shaking his head. “Man. Zacky will kill it.”

Matthew took a pull of the bottle, brow furrowing. “Whew! What is this? Forty percent proof?”

“Yeah,” his friend laughed again. “Strong, hey.”

“Fuck yeah...” He wiped the back of his hand against his mouth. “Anyway, yeah. Zacky’ll probably wreck the car more than it already is. He’s a shit mechanic. I wouldn’t trust him with Harley.”

Brian rolled his eyes. “That’s real original, Matt.”

“What?”

“Calling your bike, ‘Harley’.”

“That’s what it is.”

“So? That’s something Jimmy would do.”

Matthew frowned. “He’s coming, isn’t he?”

Brian was now cleaning up the sink area where he’d been working. He paused at his friend’s question though, looking over at him. He recognised the semi-anxious expression on the bigger male’s face and knew instinctively what it was that was bothering him.

“Matt, you know it. He never misses a chance to hang out. It’s been a long time.”

“I know. Just...” Matthew sighed.

Brian studied the serious cast to his Matt’s features. Then thought of their mutual friend. Jimmy was different to anyone he had ever known. He always seemed to be off in his own little world; never wanted to conform either. He was a law unto himself, and in a world where people frowned on those who didn’t follow the norms of society, he didn’t quite fit in.

Matthew on the other hand was very strong on fitting in, on keeping the status quo, particularly if it had anything to do with his position. Or so it appeared on the outside. Brian had a feeling that Matt wasn’t as strict on that as he let on, after all he couldn’t see how he would ever have maintained his friendship with Jimmy otherwise.

“You’re not on duty, Shads. Jimmy’s just Jimmy...you know that.”

Matthew’s lips quirked, faintly. “I do.”

“Oh, and if he starts going on about the Creed...let him. It’s not hurting anyone.”

“I still want to know how he found out about that bust six years ago. That shit was classified.” Matt made a face.

Brian poked his head into the pantry to try and find some food to have with the drinks. He and Michelle had bought a stack, but she always seemed to hide it all on him. His voice was muffled as he responded to his friend’s question.

“You do know that the kid’s elder brother was Jimmy’s friend from high school.”

“I guess that would do it.”

Matthew shifted his weight, rubbing at the back of his neck. Brian reappeared holding several bags of chips. They rustled in his grip as he put them on the bench. Then he leaned his hands against the surface, absently flexing his arms.

Matt eyed his arms, nodding slightly. “New ink?”

Brian looked down at his forearms, turning them over and studying the tattoos that covered the lengths of both. “Nah. I’ve had these for a long time...”

His friend tugged at an earlobe, the diamond studded gauge glinting. “Fuck, I haven’t been here for ages.”

“True. You need to find more time.”

Matthew groaned as he said, “I can’t afford to.”

Michelle walked in then and raised her eyebrows at his statement. Before she could comment though, a loud, extremely familiar voice could be heard from out the front of the house, shouting. The three of them rushed out of the kitchen, to the front hall and out the door to see Jimmy standing on the front lawn in just a pair of blue basketball shorts. He had his arms up in the air and was yelling up into the trees.

“It lives! The masterpiece is alive! It fucking lives!”

“What the hell?” Brian stared dumbfounded.

Jimmy looked ridiculous. His face was flushed, at least the little bit of it they could see considering the bushy beard he was sporting. He waved his long arms in the air and did a funny little dance, his long legs going every which way as he continued to repeatedly chant ‘it lives, it lives’. Michelle, who was trying not to laugh, looked up and down the street obviously hoping that none of the neighbours were out.

Matthew was the only one able to think clearly on what to do. His many years of training kicked in and he reacted almost on autopilot. He moved fast across the lawn, a tank set on hitting its target head-on. Tackling his friend they ended in a tangle of long limbs and hard muscle on the ground. Jimmy had stopped shouting and was now laughing so hard it sounded like he’d explode at any moment.

Matt wrestled the taller man onto his back, which in truth wasn’t so difficult because for all Jimmy’s height on him, Matthew was still stronger. Sitting on him, he glared down into his laughing eyes.

“Fucking quit it, Sullivan,” Matt ordered, trying to keep a severe expression on his face. Jimmy pouted up at him, his eyes wide and innocent, the bright blue almost overwhelming.

“My name’s not Sullivan, it’s The Rev...you know that.”

Matthew rolled his eyes, but kept up the stern tone. “Fucking quit it then, Rev.”

Jimmy’s lips turned down even more, and he screwed up his eyes. “But, I wasn’t doing anything wrong, Mattie...” The nickname came out in a whine. And then he pouted some more.

Matt wasn’t going to budge though. So, Jimmy resorted to something he knew would get his friend either to get off him, or to start laughing with him. He managed to twist one arm from Matt’s grip and poked him in the stomach.

“Fuck, Shads...you’re solid.”

“Hey,” Matthew protested. “Don’t!”

Jimmy poked him again; he growled.

“Ooooo I’m so scared...”

Matthew couldn’t do it anymore. He burst out laughing, and rolled off his friend flopping back onto the grass.

“Fucking hell, Rev...”

“You know you love me, Maffew.” Jimmy giggled.

Matt slapped the taller man on the shoulder and said, “We’re still not dating, buddy.”

“You wish we were, Shads,” Jimmy retorted.

“Yeah, right. Val might like you, but she wouldn’t tolerate me cheating on her with you.” Matthew sat up, brushing grass off the front of his top and jeans.

“True,” Jimmy said. “Maybe you should just...spend more time with her.”

Matthew blinked noting an edge to his friend’s voice. “What?”

But, Jimmy, who could never be serious for long, was already up again and running toward the front door.
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PostSubject: Re: SHADOWS CREED - M Shadows/A7X Fic - R   Tue Mar 22, 2011 5:23 am

Part Three - The Creed

“He fucked up the undercarriage. I can’t do shit with it, and Matt doesn’t help, just standing there.”

Zachary had finally arrived and was sitting in front of the television, with Matthew and Brian, recounting his days work. Michelle was seated in between Brian’s legs, leaning back against the couch and deeply engrossed in a novel; Brian was absently running his fingers through her hair. Jimmy, who had finally found some other clothes and was seated on the floor, watched the three of them while drinking from one of Brian’s homemade whiskeys.

“Y’know, I think we know too many ‘Matts’,” Brian said.

Jimmy snorted, some of the whiskey he had been drinking trickling down his beard. “Well, makes it easier for me.”

“How do you figure that?”

“I can remember you guys’ names better.”

Matthew rolled his eyes.

Zachary scowled. “You wouldn’t fucking dare forget us, Jimmy. Anyway, can I finish my story?”

“Yeah, go on.” Jimmy waved a hand at him before downing half the contents of the bottle in one go.

“The Mayor is going to be really fucking pissed when he comes in tomorrow to check on progress,” Zacky said, sighing. “But, I don’t fucking know what to do. I can’t just say some magic words and fix it.” He raked his fingers through his hair, making the short spiky bits stick up at the front.

Matthew spoke up then. “I don’t think you need to worry, Zack. Elliott’s got more important things to worry about.”

“Like what?” Zacky tilted his head toward his friend. There was a moment’s silence after his question, though. Uncomfortable almost, where they just stared at each other. Then he said, “Oh...guess you can’t tell me that, right?”

Matthew leaned his head against the back of the sofa. He took a deep breath before answering. “Nah, it’s okay. Just...the election, y’know?”

“Fuck. That’s this year?” Zacky blinked, surprise flickering across his face.

“Yeah.” Matt said. “That’s why Val isn’t here yet.” Valary, his wife, was an actress who worked locally in and around New Huntington. She did mainly advertisements, particularly in the political and social circles. She had done some small independent telefilms, but she didn’t really want to break out into anything bigger. At least, as far as Matthew knew, she didn’t.

“She doing the big one?” Brian asked, while reaching for the bag of chips that was on the table in front of them. He took a couple, holding it out to Matt.

“Thanks,” Matthew said, grabbing a handful. “And, yeah. I don’t know what it’s going to be, though. Guess we’ll see when it airs.” He popped a chip in his mouth, crunching it while frowning in thought.

Brian passed the bag to Zacky, who dug out a handful and shoved it all into his mouth. Matthew paused in his thinking to raise his eyebrows at his friend.

“What?” Zachary asked, defensively.

Matt screwed up his face, before laughing. “You’re such a pig.”

Zacky retorted, “I am not.”

“Yeah you are...look at that.” Matt leaned over and slapped his stomach lightly, causing it to jiggle. “You’ve let go of yourself, Zack.”

After he made that statement, Michelle lifted her eyes from her book; Brian tilted his head; Jimmy sat forward. Zacky grimaced. They all knew, including Matt, how sensitive Zachary was about his weight. They usually didn’t comment on it, because he was honestly trying to do something about it, but if work got too stressful for him, he always put it on more.

There was another tense silence.

Then Zacky said, scornfully, “We can’t all be like you, Mr Hard Man Sanders. TaskerOne, mean motherfucker who upholds the law and intimidates little boys who can’t fucking stand up for them-”

“Don’t you dare say that to me, Baker,” Matthew growled, cutting him off. “It’s my fucking job. I don’t have a fucking choice.”

“Yeah? Well then quit ragging on me about my weight, ‘kay? It fucking pisses me off.”

There was a tense moment of quiet, the two men meeting each other’s gaze. Zacky’s eyes were narrowed. Matt’s were dark, hard. Brian, Jimmy and Michelle looked nervously between them. It wasn’t unusual for Matthew to get worked up over things; that was just the way he was. But normally Zachary didn’t let things get to him. And it was kind of surprising that he was reacting to Matt of all people, in this way.

After several moments, Matthew exhaled roughly before murmuring, “Sorry. That was uncalled for. I was being a dick.”

“That’s okay, I was too...” Zacky’s lips twitched in an apologetic smile. Matt reached over to clap a hand to his shoulder, squeezing it. The two men smiled at each other warmly then settled back against the sofa letting out twin sighs.

Michelle, who had put her book down on the floor, having taken note of Zacky’s unfinished accusation, asked, “Matt? What was he going on about ‘little boys who can’t stand up for themselves’?”

Matthew turned his head to look at her. Brian shifted his weight, looking just as interested in an answer, as his fiancée. Any word on what their friend did as TaskerOne, commander, of The Creed always intrigued them; even though some would suggest that the fascination was a little morbid.

Matt shook his head, expression grim. “There were some kids near Zacky’s shop. My boys found out they were concealing contraband. Y’know? Electric guitars and shit.” He paused, taking in the looks on his friends’ faces. They all held a mix of respect and disgust, which was the norm for them.

He went on, “I had to take a team down there...I think one of the kids shit his pants when he realised who I was.” He nodded to Zacky. “He just happened to be outside his shop and saw it all go down.”

“Yeah, it wasn’t pretty,” the mechanic muttered. “A lot of yelling and... Someone let a gun off...”

Matt added, gruffly, “No one got hurt, though.”

“Sheer fucking luck, I say,” Zacky pointed out.

“No. Sheer force of will.”

“Whose? Yours?”

Matthew just shook his head in answer; he didn’t like talking about it. His work. He just wanted to not have to worry about it, especially considering today was meant to be his day off.

Zacky rolled his eyes at him. “Like you said, I fucking saw what went down. And it was just...”

“What had to be done,” Matt finished, wearily. “I don’t like it any more than you do, Zack. But it’s my job.”

“It sucks what The Creed does.”

Jimmy’s voice interrupted the solemn quiet that had started to fall after Matt finished talking. They all looked at him. Surprisingly, there was none of the usual ‘I’m fucking with ya’ expression in his eyes. Even with the ridiculous beard, the older male was all seriousness.

“What, Jimmy?” Matt asked, leaning forward and bracing his elbows on his knees.

“Well, no offence to you, Shads. But, they fucking...it’s like the fucking Nazis. And the fucking... Gestapo, right?”

“Maybe that’s not the right comparison to make,” Brian commented, as he cast a glance at Matthew whose brow was furrowed in deep lines.

Jimmy snorted, not seeming fazed by the darkening expression on his friend’s face. “I could give a shit, Brian. It’s just bullshit. I don’t see what’s wrong with wanting to form a band. What’s wrong with them anyway? When our grandparents were kids it was no big deal.”

There was quiet for a long while after his statement. The five of them got to thinking on the past. Bands had been outlawed in the Americas in the mid-Sixties. Several factors had played a part in this, but none as significant as a circle of bands that had been famous in the early Sixties. The band that had gained the most notoriety though, was best known for a single incident that had occurred in 1965.

The five men in the band had all been their age, in their mid to late twenties and they called themselves Rebel Assassin. Which considering the situation had seemed extremely appropriate. The band had been a precursor to the heavy metal scene and had spawned a cult following overseas, especially in Europe.

But the reason they had caused the government to come down hard on them and on bands in general was because they had questioned the status quo, had gone against the moral codes and practice of law and basically alienated and pissed off a lot of people in the process. The culmination of this was that the whole band had conspired to assassinate a very important political figure. Definitely grounds for the government to overreact and decide that all bands should be outlawed. There were other reasons leading up to it, but that had been the final straw.

Of course, other countries had noticed the outcry in the Americas and increasingly upped the ante as well, citing their own issues with musicians in rock bands. By the early noughties all the nations in the world, except a select few in Europe, had either completely outlawed bands, or at least severely restricted them. Following on from that flow, each country had had to find a way to deal with the rapidly increasing rate of underground movements. The Creed was the Americas response to a call from extreme left politicians to crush the uprise.

“You know the history,” Matt said, after the silence had stretched on for quite awhile. He had the bag of chips in hand now and was in the process of tipping the scraps into his mouth.

“So?” Jimmy pulled a face.

Matt glared at him. “So? You know the history.”

“I also know that The Creed is the only force of its kind in the whole wide world.”

Matt continued to glare at him.

“Oh, for flying fuck’s sake, lighten up, Matt. It’s not like I’m suggesting we start a band or something.” Jimmy grinned at his friend.

Brian groaned at that and shook his head. “God, Jimmy. That’d be going too far, even for you.”

Zacky added, “Yeah, ‘cause of course, Rev’s not that stupid.”

“Good to know,” Matthew said, tossing the now empty bag at their tall companion. Jimmy stared at him then pretended to burst into tears.

“Why are you so mean to me?”

Matt sighed, letting his head hang for a moment. “Fuck, Jimmy...”

“No. That’d piss Val off.”

Matthew had to laugh at that. “True.” But then he frowned. “What’s this sudden obsession with the way my wife feels about shit?”

“What?” Jimmy cocked his head to one side. “I’m not obsessing over your wife. That’s all in your head.”

“Yeah, but what you said before...outside...”

Stroking his beard, Jimmy said, “Oh, you mean about spending more time with her?”

“Yeah, that.”

Michelle interrupted, “He’s right, you know. You need to find more time for Val.”

“For all of us,” Zacky butted in.

“Yeah, we hardly ever see you. You’re always over there.” Brian waved a hand in the air.

Matt lifted his eyebrows, rubbing his hands against his thighs. He didn’t really have an answer for them. At least not a reasonable one. He could throw them the usual line about how The Creed took up all his time, but that was more by choice than because he had to.

Sure, he was TaskerOne, the top most position, except for the General. But, it was by choice that he lived on site at the barracks. It was by choice that he worked longer hours than everyone else. He didn’t have to be there all the time, but he chose to do so. And the crux of it was that he had no plausible excuse for it, he just did it.

“Val understands,” Matt murmured in a low tone.

“Doesn’t matter,” Michelle countered. “You still need to do something with her.”

“She’s busy too, y’know.”

“Not as busy as you seem to be.”

Matthew rubbed at the nape of his neck, scratching absently beneath the short hairs. Then he lowered his hand back to his leg and kept rubbing at it.

“All we’re saying,” Brian interjected, “all we’re saying is you need to find more time. We’re not telling you to quit.”

Matt knew his friends were right. That was what really burned him about their comments. Time was the biggest issue, and he really needed to fix that. And Hell, it wasn’t as if he was against it. He had honestly needed this day off. Perhaps he needed to look into some holiday leave.

Sighing, he nodded to Brian, “I know.” Matthew slapped his palms against his thighs. “You’re right. We need to do this more often.”

“Once a month, at least,” Zacky suggested.

“That’s doable,” Matt agreed.

“I know something else that’s doable,” Jimmy stated.

The others groaned, shooting mock glares his way. Michelle threw her book at him; he ducked out of the way the novel landing harmlessly behind him on the floor.

“What? I was just saying!” Jimmy whined.

“You don’t say...” Matthew drawled, laughing. He leaned back against the sofa, crossing his left leg over his right knee. Jimmy pouted at him.

“Oh for fuck’s sake, Rev. Alright! I’ll take Val out on a date, if you’re so desperate.”

Jimmy grinned before chugging down the rest of his whiskey; then wiping the back of his hand over his mouth and his beard, he let out an almighty belch.

“Very good, Shads. I approve,” he nodded his head hard.

Matthew just sighed, closing his eyes as he leaned his head back against the sofa again.

“And that was the best I’ve ever had,” Jimmy added, referring to his belching.

Brian snorted, standing up. “Ready for a second, then?”

“A second burp?” Zacky asked, lifting his eyebrows.

“Yeeeeeaaaaah!” Jimmy answered, a little too loudly.

“No. Drinks,” Brian chuckled.

“Oh yeeeeeeeeeeeeah!” Jimmy responded even louder.

Matt, without opening his eyes, said, “Get him a drink so he’ll shut up...he’s killing my head.”

While Jimmy protested against his friend’s comment, Brian made his way to the door. Michelle got up to join him. And Zacky flopped back on the sofa, closing his eyes as well. Before too long, aside from Jimmy’s continued mumbling, the twin sounds of soft snoring filled the room, a stillness coming to the two men sprawled on the couch.
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PostSubject: Re: SHADOWS CREED - M Shadows/A7X Fic - R   Tue Mar 22, 2011 5:24 am

~4~ Got to prove them wrong

Valary sighed as she stepped outside of the council chambers. It had been a long day. Lifting a hand to her head, she checked that her hair was up at the back. Then she dipped a hand into her tote bag, making sure she had her phone and the documents the Mayor’s secretary had passed onto her. And the keys to her car...

“Valary! Hey, wait up.”

Turning at the sound of heavy footsteps approaching from behind her, Val recognised the frazzled expression on her boss’s face. The Mayor, the honourable Elliott Johnston, looked like he hadn’t slept for weeks. The campaign was taking its toll on him. He wasn’t a young man anymore, and wasn’t as spritely as he liked to make out.

She smiled a little, trying to make him feel at least a little better. “Did I forget something, Mr Johnston?”

Elliott frowned, looking as if he were trying to think why he had called out to her. Then he shook his head.

“No, no. Just wanted to make sure everything’s alright. You seemed a little preoccupied today.”

Val shifted the strap of the bag on her shoulder, fiddling with the decorative buckle. “Oh? No, I’m fine, just...looking forward to seeing Matt.”

Elliott smiled. “Oh, yes, it’s his first day off for quite awhile, right?”

Val nodded, smiling as well. She was relieved by the fact that she would actually have Matt home for a change. She missed him a lot when he was residing on site at The Creed’s main barracks. Part of her was always anxious for him out there. She did understand why he felt the need to live with the corps, but it was hard for her to accept sometimes. Especially when she was having a particularly tough time at work, and felt she needed him to be there to support her. Or even just because she wanted him to be close.

They had only recently taken the plunge into married life, but they’d been together for a lot longer. In fact, they had known each other since elementary school. So, the fact that Matt wasn’t home a lot bothered her because it felt like a part of her was missing.

“Yes, I’m meeting up with him at my sister’s fiancé’s place.”

“Good, good.” Elliott plucked absently at the lapel of his jacket. “Well, don’t get up to too much mischief.” He winked at her.

Val rolled her eyes. “You should go get some rest, sir. It’s been a long day.”

The Mayor sighed. “Indeed it has. Well, see you in two days.”

She waved as he headed off to the left where a shiny, silver BMW was parked in full view of anyone who happened by the council chambers. Of course, that was just his temporary ride. His preferred vehicle was at the mechanics getting fixed. The Bentley was his baby, and well it had been a right to-do when he’d hurt the poor thing. Val had offered to call around to find someone who could work on it at short notice. Unfortunately, for the Mayor, the only person available was Zacky, and everyone knew he wasn’t really the best. Still, he needed the work and Val felt she owed him anyway. So, there it was.

Val watched after the elder male before heading for her own car, her mind already racing forward to when she would be at home, or at least at her sister’s, relaxing with her husband. A smile curved on her lips at the thought.

* * * * *

“Matt! Val’s here!”

Jimmy popped his head around the door into the living room. He’d gotten up to grab another drink and he, Brian and Michelle had been talking in the kitchen when Valary’s car pulled up in the driveway. He went quiet when he realised that Matt was still asleep on the sofa. Zacky was as well, but Jimmy wasn’t interested in that fact.

Gazing at his friend, he studied his face for a moment. Matt’s jaw was clenched even in sleep, unrelaxed. There were worry lines etched across his brow and the only sign that he was sleeping at any depth was the tiny trickle of drool that had managed to escape from the corner of his mouth.

“Aww, shit...” Jimmy mumbled to himself.

“‘Aww, shit’ what?” Val’s voice came down the hall to where he was propped up against the doorframe. He turned to see her standing behind him an anxious look on her face.

“Just Matt, Val...he’s asleep.” He waved to her, making to back away from the door and toward the corridor. “Come into the kitchen with me...”

Val joined him by the doorway and peeked into check, her eyes resting upon the slumbering form of her husband. “Oh...yeh, good idea. Looks like he’ll be there awhile...” She sounded a little disappointed by that fact. She’d been looking forward to just hanging out with her husband, relaxing, but it looked as if, for now at least, that wasn’t going to happen.

Jimmy, taking note of her expression, hooked an arm through hers, tugging her away from the living room. “Let’s just give him a few...I’ll come back and wake him before we start cooking.”

Val nodded, glancing back over her shoulder. “I hate that he works himself so hard...”

Jimmy snorted. “He doesn’t do anything by halves. But, you gotta love him for his dedication.”

“I do...just...I wish he’d come home more often.”

“Don’t we all?” Jimmy muttered. “We all miss him, Val...”

She nodded slowly, biting at the inside of her cheek, a nervous gesture she’d picked up as a child. She knew their friends felt the distance Matthew put between them as much as she did. If it weren’t for the fact that they had all known each other for so long, one would think Matt didn’t really care for them all that much. But, that was just his way. He was aloof. But there were times when he let his guard down. And when he did, well he wasn’t quite a different person, but it was another side to him that most found preferable.

Val shook her head abruptly to herself. After a long day at work she didn’t want to be so serious about things. Winding down from the day was her goal now. She looked up at the tall male next to her. Jimmy grinned and gave her arm a soft squeeze, before guiding her toward the kitchen.

“Come on. You can come hang with the rest of us. We’re fun to be around.”

Val laughed quietly, “You are, at least. I don’t know about my sister.”

Jimmy threw his head back and laughed loudly as they walked into the kitchen, causing Brian to drop a bottle on the floor, and Michelle to yelp in surprise.

“Holy shit, Jimmy!” Brian threw his hands in the air then dropped to the floor, trying to pick up the bits of glass that had sprayed across the floor.

Jimmy gave an apologetic shrug as he steered Val to a stool in front of the kitchen bench, propping his own ass onto the edge of it, leaning back. Brian shot him a look.

Michelle berated him. “You’re not even sorry at all.”

Val just smirked, leaning her elbows against the granite surface, watching in silence. Jimmy was still chuckling.

“Quit it, Jimmy. Someone’d think you’re plotting some devious scheme,” Brian snapped, as he stood up and reached for the bin.

Jimmy laughed again. “Maybe I am.”

Brian frowned faintly at his friend, before returning to the broken glass, dropping the pieces into the bin.

“What? Hey, don’t you turn into a fucking sourpuss like, Matt,” Jimmy said.

“How’s that masterpiece of yours coming along?” Val asked then while absently tapping her fingernails against the bench top. He swivelled his head toward her, and stroking his beard, gave a slow smile. She raised an eyebrow at him.

“Oh, it’s getting there...” Jimmy shrugged. “But...it needs something spectacular to finish it off.”

“Like what?” Brian asked, putting the bin back under the bench, and brushing his palms against his pants.

“Oh...some other instruments,” the elder male answered, vaguely.

“Like what? Violins? Or acoustic? You could always get Papa Gates to record some guitar for you,” Michelle suggested. She had moved to stand behind Brian; he turned to her, wrapping an arm around her waist. Then he nodded to his friend.

“Yeah, dad would be happy to provide some tunes for you.”

Brian’s father, Brian Haner Snr was a session muso who was sponsored by the Mayor to write jingles for the media. Music in and of itself had not been outlawed, as long as it was able to be directly controlled by the government. Solo artists and session musicians were strictly managed and were permitted only to write songs that were either extremely complimentary of society and the government, or pieces that were solely instrumental.

Jimmy’s lips curved into a broad smirk. There was something hidden in the smile though, but his response was cool, giving nothing away. “Yeah, I might ask him. But, that wasn’t really what I had in mind.”

“Well, what else could you have in mind?” Brian nuzzled into his fiancée’s hair before looking at his friend with a confused expression on his face.

Jimmy folded his arms across his chest, tapping his left foot against the tiles in a sharp staccato rhythm. That secretive smile was still playing on his lips.

“Jimmy?” An edge crept into Brian’s voice. He was accustomed to the tall man’s wild ideas, but they never really bothered him because Jimmy never usually pushed the boundaries too far. But, when it came to music that was a different story entirely. It always made Brian nervous to hear what his friend was getting up to in the apartment above the old Laundromat.

Jimmy just smirked, shaking his head.

Val commented, “As long as it doesn’t give Matt a reason to come down on you...”

“Go down on me? No way! That’s gross! I’m not gay!”

Come down on you, Jimmy,” Brian groaned. “She said come...”

Jimmy screwed up his face, and said, “I don’t want his come on me, either.”

“For fuck’s sake, Rev.”

“Turn everything into a sex joke, why don’t you,” Michelle muttered, with a tiny hint of a smile on her lips.

Anyway,” Brian interrupted, “you gonna answer my question?”

Jimmy looked over at him, taking in the serious expression which made his features seem sharper than usual. Taking a deep breath then blowing it out roughly he nodded his head slowly, his own face taking on a solemn cast.

“Yeah.” He darted a look over at Val before looking back at Brian. “I’ve an idea. A really huge ass idea.”

“I don’t like the sound of this.”

Val scoffed, “You never like any of his ideas.”

“Yeah, because they usually involve me having to buy him something because he has no money,” Brian said, defensively.

Jimmy rolled his eyes, leaning away from the bench. “I have my trash can lids...unless you want to buy me a drum kit.”

Brian’s head jerked around to the taller man, his eyes widening. “What the fuck, Jimmy?”

“And,” Jimmy continued, ignoring the incredulous look on his friend’s face. “You could borrow one of your dad’s guitars.”

“No. You are not suggesting what I think you are,” Brian’s voice lowered to a growl.

“Oh, come on. It’d be fun. Zacky could come play air guitar,” Jimmy grinned. “We could have a jam session. No harm in that right?”

Brian slowly shook his head. “Fuck, Jimmy. Do you want to piss Matt off?”

“Ah, hell. He doesn’t need to know. You’re not telling him when he wakes up, right?”

Brian removed his arm from around Michelle’s waist and stalked forward to meet Jimmy eye-to-eye. Leaning in to his face, he hissed, “You’re going to forget you ever said any of that. You might not give a shit about the law, but I do. And I do not wanna risk my friendship with Matt, okay?”

Jimmy pouted. “But we wouldn’t be starting a band. We’d just be jamming...”

“Do you really think the Creed gives a fuck about the distinction? As far as they’re concerned, as soon as more than one musician comes together that’s it. Unless of course you’re part of a chamber orchestra or something like it.” Brian glared at the taller male, still pressed up close. Jimmy pushed him away, muttering about people being unfair.

Val said, her voice soft, “And think of Matt. You don’t want to put him in a position where he has to do something about it. He gives a shit about you Jimmy, but he can’t let you off the hook, just because of that.”

“Awww, Val...Matt wouldn’t do anything too drastic.”

“Fuck’s sake, Jimmy,” Brian snapped. “Do you remember what happened to Seward?”

The silence after his question was deafening. Jimmy gulped, his features paling out. He grabbed at the edge of the bench, letting his head drop, exhaling roughly. Luke Seward had been a good friend. To all of them. High school and life in general had been a huge party because of that guy. But, six years ago that all changed.

Luke had been even worse about authority than Jimmy, which was saying a lot. He thumbed his nose at The Creed in a big way, and now he was gone. The experience of losing their friend had been sobering, but it was Matt who had come out of it the worst. He was the one who had carried out the execution. And it had nearly killed him.

“Luke was the best guy around, hey?” Jimmy murmured.

“He was. But, look what happened.”

“Yeah, I know.” Jimmy sighed, rubbing at his beard. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen Shads so depressed, ever.”

“Yeah, and we’d like to never see that again,” Brian said.

They were quiet for a moment after that. Minds churning over the past. Matthew had become almost a different person after that incident. Before that he had been relatively serious about his work at The Creed, but he’d still been light-hearted about life, but afterward his personality changed. They saw less of him and he immersed himself into the Creed; he hardened himself and he just wasn’t quite the same anymore.

After a while, Michelle said, “Whatever happened to Johnny?”

“Luke’s little brother?” Jimmy glanced at the brunette.

“Yeah.”

Val ran a hand through her hair, tugging at several strands. “Isn’t he in prison?”

“Yeah, he was underage when the Creed busted Luke’s band...so, they chucked him in The Astor.” Brian had finally moved away from Jimmy, and was leaning against the bench instead, fiddling with his belt buckle.

“The Astor; sounds like some cheap motel,” Jimmy sneered.

“The foods probably just as shit there.”

“True.”

“So, another reason to keep your nose clean, Rev.”

“Haha, yeah...don’t want to end up in that hole, I’d probably starve to death.”

“And we can’t have that, right?” Brian snorted, shaking his head.

Jimmy just nodded in agreement and the two women rolled their eyes in response to the two men.
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PostSubject: Re: SHADOWS CREED - M Shadows/A7X Fic - R   Tue Mar 22, 2011 5:25 am

~5~
Mr and Mrs Sanders


An alarm was going off somewhere, the aroma of freshly cooked bacon and eggs drifted through an open doorway. Matt groaned, reluctantly dragging his mind from its deep sleep. He had to take several seconds to figure out where he was. The room he was in was not his own, but rather the large, yet cosy, guest room of his best friend’s bungalow.

The night before, he and Val had found their way to the room, collapsing on the bed, after having consumed God alone knew how much food and drink, and playing several rounds of backyard poker. Matthew hadn’t allowed himself to get faced, though. Unlike Jimmy who was completely wasted even before the game had barely started. Jimmy was a funny drunk though, and he always seemed to liven things up. The earlier tension he had caused was all but washed away by the good time they were all having.

To be honest though, Matt was just grateful to be able to spend time with his friends. And, with his beautiful wife.

Turning his head to the side, blinking blearily, his gaze fell upon Val’s still slumbering form. He reached over to gently run a knuckle against the bit of skin that was uncovered. Her cheek was so soft and not for the first time, Matthew marvelled at how lucky he was.

Val was his best friend, and he always figured if he was going to tie the knot with anyone it would be her. He still remembered vividly the night when he’d proposed to her. He wasn’t much of a romantic, or at least he’d never admit he was, but he’d made an effort that one night. It had been their anniversary as a boyfriend-girlfriend and he’d taken her out to their favourite Chinese restaurant. Matt had done the whole candle lit dinner and get down on your knee and reveal the ring thing. Unsurprisingly, Val had accepted. And the rest was history.

But, it was hard. Being married was not all flowers and rainbows and happy-happy, especially since they didn’t see a lot of each other. In fact, Matthew didn’t think he’d spent a whole day just with Val for a very long time. It felt as if they hadn’t really hung out since their high school days. He was seriously considering taking a second day off. It wasn’t as if the Creed would fall apart if he didn’t go back straight away. Jason Berry could hold the fort for a little longer.

Now all he had to do was break it to General Eskino. But, that could wait...

Sighing, Matthew shifted closer to Val, resting an arm over her waist and pulling her body closer to his. Without waking, she snuggled into him, giving a contented sigh. He smiled faintly, nuzzling into her hair, the silken strands soft against his face. He could just spend all day doing that, he found he was extremely tactile with her. He never got enough of touching and holding her.

Wrapping his big body around Val’s smaller one, Matt closed his eyes once more. Judging by the low light that was filtering through the blinds, he could afford to snatch a few minutes more shut-eye.

* * * * *

“Shhhh...Zack, you got the bucket?”

“Yeah...hang on...is Val still in there with him?”

“Yeah, she is...but she’ll be mad only for a second...”

“True...okay, you got the bucket?”

“Syn, You already asked him that.”

Jimmy, Brian and Zacky peeked around the doorframe to the guest bedroom where their friend and his wife were sleeping. Zacky was clutching, close to his chest, a bucket of left over scraps from the barbeque they’d had the night before. The mix, which looked suspiciously like a combination of bodily fluids and chunks of meat, sloshed quietly in the bucket as the three men crept as quietly as they could into the room.

Zacky positioned himself at the foot of the bed; Jimmy and Brian on either side, spectators to the sport that was to occur. Smirking, as he looked upon the slumbering figures of Mr and Mrs Sanders, he lifted the bucket.

Jimmy whispered, “On three...”

Zacky nodded, tightening his grip on the bucket.

Brian rolled his eyes, grinning at his friends, and mouthing, “He’s gonna kill us for this.”

Jimmy ignored his statement, holding up his left fist and unfurling each finger as he counted in a low voice. “One...two...” he paused, as Matt shifted beneath the sheets, only to remove his arm from around Val and flop onto his back. He made a smacking noise with his lips, all without waking up.

“Three!”

Barely was the word out of Jimmy’s mouth, when Zacky tossed the contents of the bucket all across the bed, a spray of liquid and slop spreading over covers. Some splashed across to Val’s side, but most ended up covering Matt who woke up in a rush, wiping at his face and muttering some choice words.

Jimmy cracked it, doubling over in mirth. Brian escaped out the door, not game to face his friend’s wrath. Zacky stood frozen at the end of the bed waiting for the ensuing explosion that was sure to follow.

Matthew’s gaze fixed on Zacky, hard, focused. He didn’t say a word, just stared at him, and then in a split second he scrambled over the covers and launched his body from the bed straight at the heftier male. Zacky actually squealed as his friend tackled him, sending them both crashing to the floor. And waking Val, who sat up and just gawped at them from the bed.

“Matt! Don’t hurt him!” Val finally found her voice just as Matt had pinned Zacky beneath him and was almost growling at him.

Zacky lay staring up at his friend, but blinked every now and again as bits of sauce and wet meat dripped into his face. Matthew panted, glaring at his friend; but as more juice kept dripping down his face and he realised how ridiculous he must look, he couldn’t help but crack a smile.

“Shit.” He wiped at his face, laughing. “I deserved that, didn’t I?”

Zacky’s lips twitched into a wry grin. “Yeah, that’s for calling me a fat-ass.”

“I didn’t say you had a fat ass...” Matthew grumbled.

“No, you called him a pig,” Val corrected.

Matt looked over at his wife. “You weren’t even here.”

“Zacky told me about it last night. You’re so mean to your friends.”

“Great, even my wife’s against me,” Matt poked his tongue at her.

She laughed. “Real mature, hun.”

Matt’s eyebrows lifted at her. Then he glanced down at Zacky. “I’m not the one chucking shit all over the room.”

“It’s not shit. It’s leftover meat.”

“Yeah, yeah...same diff.”

“And I only chucked it on the bed...not all over the room...”

Matt, not bothering to respond to that last statement, just chuckled shaking his head, and got up off his friend.

Zacky pushed up off the floor, gazing down at the mess. “Shit, Chelle’s gonna kill us for ruining the carpet.”

“You’d better believe it,” Val said as she got off the bed, stripping the sheets from it and lugging it out of the bedroom. Matt watched her go, his eyes fixed on her lithe frame. It was covered in a light blue shift which perfectly set off her pale skin.

Zacky watched the direction of his friend’s gaze and smiled softly. “Go after her...”

Jimmy, who had collapsed on the floor he’d been laughing so hard, added from his prostrated position, “Yeah, we can clean up in here...”

“I think I should clean myself up before I go get Val,” Matthew pointed out.

Jimmy chortled, “Go take a shower...it’s big enough for two of you.”

Matt gave the lanky male a funny look. “You’re not imagining us in the shower together?”

“Who? You and me? No way...I’m not gay!”

Matthew scoffed, “Says the guy who’s always humping me whenever he’s totally fucking faced.”

“I do not! Your dog is gayer than me.”

“She’s a bitch, Jimmy.”

“That’s not a nice thing to say.” Jimmy pouted at him.

Matt sighed, rolling his eyes and turned to go out the door.

“What’d I say?” Jimmy looked over at Zacky for assistance. He just shrugged.

“Bitch means female dog, you dork.” Matthew smirked over his shoulder then walked out of the room, leaving a trail of meat juices dripping behind him.

“What do you mean ‘bitch means female dog’? What the hell does that have to do with anything?” Jimmy yelled after him. Then he scowled at the doorway, muttering, “That’s fucking confusing...what’s female dogs got to do with anything...?”

Zacky straightened, pulling off his worn tee-shirt, balling it up and holding it out in front of him. He glanced at Jimmy who was still glaring at the doorway.

“Bella can’t be gayer than you because she’s a girl dog, Rev. That’s what he meant. Geeze...come and help me clean up this mess.”

Jimmy gave a loud sigh and flounced out of the bedroom. Zacky shook his head and followed him out.

* * * * *

Matthew found Val in the laundry, as she was shoving the sheets in the washing machine, muttering under her breath about men and their antics.

“Val?”

She paused in what she was doing, looking over toward the doorway at her husband. He was leaning against the doorjamb, arms folded over his chest. The ink that covered them stood out beneath the soft light in the room. There were streaks of meat juice across his tattooed torso, and trickling down from his hairline.

Val wrinkled her nose at him. “You stink.”

“Thanks, love,” Matt drawled.

She smiled, sarcastically. “You’re welcome, honey.”

He chuckled low then said, “When you’re done in here, why don’t you join me in the shower?”

Val didn’t answer straight away. Instead she took her time finding the washing powder, pouring it into the little compartment, and then she closed it and went through the settings before turning the machine on. Matt watched her in silence, knowing she’d answer in her own good time. Knowing she was probably wondering at his request. It wasn’t that they were never intimate with each other; it was just it had been too damn long since the last time that it almost seemed a foreign thing.

Dusting her palms against the tight jeans she was now wearing, Val turned to face him, tilting her head to one side, a coy expression flickering across her features. He flashed a dimpled grin at her.

Val pointed a finger at him. “I know what you’re trying to do, Mr Sanders.”

“Oh, do tell, Mrs Sanders,” Matthew smirked.

“You can go wash all that crap off you first, husband dearest.”

“It isn’t crap,” he protested. Val just waved a dismissive hand at him.

He pretended to glare at her, “We haven’t been together for ages and you go and reject me...that hurt.”

“Suck it up, hun,” Val moved toward him and gave him a pointed look. He didn’t move, just looked back at her. She tapped her foot against the lino. He waggled his eyebrows at her.

“Matthew!” She pushed at him.

“Oh? You want to get passed, Valary?”

Before she could reply, he seized her around the waist, hefting her over his shoulder in a fireman’s lift then turned on his heel, heading out of the laundry. “I can help you there...”

“Damn it, Matt! Put me down, you oaf...” Val was laughing though, as she kicked her feet and half-heartedly flailed her fists against his back. Matt just smirked as he carried her down the hallway back toward the guest room.

Michelle poked her head out of the kitchen as they passed. “Hey, lovebirds, you want breakfast?”

“Yes, please!” Val called back, wriggling against her man’s strong grip.

“After we have a shower, Chelle!” Matt hollered at the same time, drowning out his wife’s plea as he went in the room, and shut the door behind them.

Setting her down on the bed, he then proceeded to kick off his boxers, while maintaining a devilish grin.

“In the bathroom, Valary,” his voice was husky, demanding.

Val arched her eyebrows at him, folding her arms. “Don’t boss me around, Matt. I’m not one of your boys.”

He groaned, “Come on...it’s been so long...”

Val giggled, her gaze sliding down from his face, down his muscled torso, down to his groin. “Long and hard, huh?”

Matthew growled, his eyes darkening. She shook her head at him, leaning back against the bed and inadvertently opening her legs.

“You go wash that stuff off first...”

“You come wash it off for me,” Matt suggested with a smirk.

Val sighed as if it were all too much. “Fine. I guess I can do that for you, you big baby.”

She wasn’t really put out; she was just having fun bantering with him. She missed this side of Matt. She missed him period. But, this side of her soul mate she missed in particular. The crazy jokester who was always ready and willing to have some fun. The boy she had fallen for back in high school. Glimpses of that guy revealed himself every now and again, and those times she cherished; as she knew she would this short period she got to be with him.

“Yeah, you know I’m big,” Matt chuckled.

Next thing, Val launched a cushion at him.

“Hey! Play nice!” He held his hands up in surrender.

“Quit being an ass,” Val retorted, but then added, “It’s a nice ass, though...”

Chuckling, Matthew’s smile took on a softer edge as his gaze remained steadily on her.

“Come on, Val.” He held a hand out to her. She stood and placed her small palm against his larger one. He pulled her close into his arms, wrapping them around her small frame.

Ignoring the muck that was dripping down on her, she nuzzled in his chest and murmured softly against his skin, “I missed you...”

Matthew exhaled roughly, sensing that she didn’t just mean because he wasn’t home much. There was a deeper meaning behind her words that touched not on just his physical presence, but something more. He tightened his arms around her body, rocking her slowly.

After a few minutes more of just holding her, he looked down into her face; Val smiled up at him.

“Let’s go get clean,” Matthew said, taking hold of her hands and stepping back toward the door. She giggled and allowed him to lead her into the bathroom.

The door shut behind them with a decisive click.
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PostSubject: Re: SHADOWS CREED - M Shadows/A7X Fic - R   Tue Mar 22, 2011 5:25 am

~6~
What a life


Jason jogged down the hallway, strapping on his weapon belt, yelling out orders as he went. The boys were scrambling to get their gear on. Dan, one of the few older foot soldiers still clinging to the comfort zone of the younger corps, poked his head from one of the dorms as Jason stalked passed.

“Hey, JB? What’s going on?”

Jason spun on his heel about to reprimand whatever rookie was daring to use his nickname when he recognised the stocky form in the doorway.

“Abell.”

“Yeah, that’s me, sir. What’s going on?”

Jason scowled. “Riot at Astor.”

“Shit, any idea who started it?”

“Who do you think?” the 2IC snorted.

“Seward,” Dan murmured, scratching at the stubble on his jaw.

Jason’s lip curled. “Bingo.” He paused, shifting his belt into a more comfortable position. Then he glanced at the other man and said, “Do me a favour.”

“Of course, sir.” The shorter male hitched up his pants, stomping his combat boots against the floor. Then he cracked his knuckles, flexing his biceps as well.

“Call T-One, we need him back here.”

“Isn’t it his day off, though?” Dan grimaced; he didn’t like the thought of interrupting Shadows in his downtime. The man had a temper, and had no qualms about taking it out on the men in the corp. Dan had seen it happen on several occasions and it hadn’t been pretty.

Jason glared at him. “He’s due back this afternoon. Call him. He’s the only one Seward will listen to.”

Dan sighed, nodding. He wasn’t one to argue with his superiors. Saluting, he turned and headed for the common room where the only phone that called out of the barracks was to be found. Jason didn’t bother to watch him go, just kept on his way to the exit, snapping at several of his men as he did.

“Get your asses moving! We haven’t got all day!”

They scrambled to obey, sensing the urgency in their leader’s voice. Trouble at the Astor was always top priority; and even if the corps had other plans for the day, they had to drop everything to answer a call from New Huntington’s Maximum Security facility. When it was a riot it was even more important that they get there ASAP. People had ended up deceased on previous occasions; hence it was number one on the Creed’s list to prevent any unnecessary deaths.

Jason made the entrance just as Dan reappeared by his side his own firearm now strapped in place, a black beret perched on his head. The other men were rushing passed, some of them still tugging on boots and belts, others scrupulously checking their weapons as they headed out of the building.

“Sir.” Dan spoke up getting his superior’s attention. “I couldn’t get a hold of him. You might have to call his personal number.”

Jason scowled viciously, brow furrowing. “Shit. There’s no time...we have to go.” He glanced sideways at the shorter male. “Stay here. Try him again. When you catch him...come straight over. Let me know.”

Dan gave a tight nod. “Yes sir.”

Jason turned on his heel and stalked out of the building, the rest of the men streaming out to the vehicle bays at the front of the barracks.

* * * * *

Matthew was sitting on the kitchen bench, Val leaning back between his legs, the both of them sharing a bottle of water. Brian was at the sink filling more bottles of whiskey, and Zacky and Jimmy were at the table playing chess. Michelle had already left, because she had to work.

“So, Matt. When do you have to go back?” Zacky paused, one finger resting on a white pawn as he looked over at his friend.

Matt shrugged, rubbing one hand gently between his wife’s shoulder blades. Val had her eyes closed, relaxing into his touch. Zacky lifted his eyebrows at him. Matthew just shook his head, lifting the bottle to his lips and taking a long pull.

Val, without opening her eyes, murmured, “He’s going to call in for a second day...”

“Oh, really?” Zacky’s tone suggested that he didn’t quite believe that. He moved the pawn across a square, adding to Jimmy, “Checkmate, buddy.”

Jimmy let out a string of curse words and threw up his hands, shaking his head vehemently. “No way! How’d you do that?”

Zacky just rolled his eyes, leaning back against his chair with a triumphant smirk. But then he became serious again, turning his gaze back to Mr and Mrs Sanders.

“You really going to take another day off?”

Matt glared at him. “You don’t believe me.”

“Since when do you ever spend more than one day at home, Shads? Last time was when we were still at school,” Zacky responded, tersely.

“That’s not true. When Val and I got married-”

“That doesn’t count, Matt. You had a honey moon, whoopdeedoo; most normal people take time off for that.”

Matt’s lips tightened in a thin line as he shook his head. “Zack...”

“You know what?” Zacky said, not giving his friend a chance to defend himself. “I fucking hate that you work for The Creed. It’s changed you.” His voice trailed off at the end of that sentence as he pegged his friend with a pained look. Matt blinked at him, nonplussed.

Zacky sighed, pushing away from the table and getting to his feet. He walked over to the sink to join Brian, leaning over to watch what he was doing. Jimmy, who had finally quit muttering about the chess, glanced between his old friends then gave Matt a sharp look.

“What?” Matthew cocked his head to the side.

“Zacky’s right, you know.”

“About what?”

“You need to get a life, Shads.”

“I have a life.”

“Really? You spend more time with the corps than you do any of us. Whatever happened to our pact that we’d stick together forever?”

Matt gave a derisive snort, masking the bitter pang that he felt in his chest. “We were thirteen, Jimmy, just fuckin’ around.”

Jimmy kicked at the floor, a funny expression in his eyes. “No, Matt. We were dead serious.” He rocked back on his chair.

Matt stared at his friend who was glowering at him, all of his feelings obvious in his deep blue stare. The bigger man had to look away. Matthew couldn’t stand to meet the all-knowing gaze of his friend. Those sapphire eyes saw a lot more than was evident, given the casual, humorous air they usually held. Matt knew that Jimmy could read him better than a lot of people, and in a way that scared him a little.

As TaskerOne of the Creed, Matthew prided himself on being the toughest, meanest bastard of the lot, capable of holding his own in the most difficult of situations. But, when it came down to the core of his being, Matt was as vulnerable as the weakest in the corps. However, he had resisted that weakness, had been pushing it down for so long that it was buried beneath his hard outer shell. Obviously, though, Jimmy wasn’t so easily fooled, and for as long as Matt could remember, the elder male was constantly trying to chip away at his guard.

It wasn’t that Matthew didn’t agree somewhat with his friends. He knew he had shut himself off from them, and he had honestly promised himself after his wedding that he would try and be more open with them. But, after having been distant from them for so long, it wasn’t easy. Even with Val’s coaxing.

Matt sighed, absently brushing a hand over one of Val’s shoulders. She opened her eyes, peering up at him. He smiled faintly at her.

“I’m going to call the General.”

Val nodded and stepped away so he could hop down from the bench. As he made to exit the room, Zacky mumbled something that made him pause.

“Ten-to-one he’ll be told to get his ass back and he’ll go without putting up a fight...”

Matthew looked over at Zacky who was rubbing at his arms, the thumb of his left hand circling the inked Jesus on his right forearm. Shaking his head, Matt decided not to make any comment; because he had a feeling if he did he’d just get into an argument. He walked out and down the hallway shutting himself up in the guest bedroom.

* * * * *

“So, what’s going on with you, Val?”

Jimmy was packing away the chess set, Zacky sitting opposite him again. Brian was the one who had asked the question, though. Val lifted her shoulders a little, tucking her fingertips into the pockets of her jeans.

“Just been busy with the campaign.” She was distracted, her gaze drifting constantly to the door where Matt had walked out.

Jimmy was determined to keep her attention, though. “Yeah? How’s that doing?”

“Oh, it’s okay. The mayor’s holding up.”

Val brushed a lock of hair from her face, still not looking at anyone else. As much as she liked her job, she didn’t really feel like talking about it. Her mind was too full with worrying about her husband. Matthew was always on her mind. Never too much of a distraction when she was actually immersed in her work, but ever sitting in her subconscious, a dominant force. Of course, when it was just her and her mind, at home alone, that was another story altogether.

“Just holding up?” Jimmy interrupted her quiet thoughts, forcing her to actually focus on him.

She frowned at him. “It is election year, Jimmy. I’m kinda worried he might not get through it. The stress is...overwhelming for him.”

Brian spoke up then, joining them at the table. “Who else is running? Elliott’s been Mayor forever...it’d be nice to have a change.”

Val turned on the chair she was sitting on to face him. Zacky was rocking on his chair next to him, listening in silence.

“Well, you’ll be surprised.”

“I’ll be surprised? Why?” He cocked his head to one side.

“Because your dad’s running against Elliott.”

Brian blinked a disbelieving look appearing on his face, but he wasn’t able to come up with a suitable response.

Zacky’s chair came down with a thud on the floor as he exclaimed, “No fucking way! Papa Gates for mayor? That’d be too fucking weird.”

Val shrugged. “Well, apparently he is running. Interestingly enough, nobody else seems game this year. So, it might just end up being Haner versus Johnston. Makes the campaign a lot easier for me. But, a lot harder for Elliott.”

Brian finally found his voice. “Why would dad even bother?”

Jimmy piped up, “Maybe he wants to make some changes that he can’t make if he were just some average civilian.”

“Changes like what?” Brian rolled his eyes.

A mischievous glint appeared in Jimmy’s eyes. “Oh, maybe something along the lines of musicology...”

“Jesus, Rev. You just keep at that bone,” Zacky murmured, glancing at the clock as he did.

“Speaking of bones, shouldn’t you be heading back to work, Zack? Fix Elliott’s car.”

Brian snorted, “That has nothing to do with bones.”

“I’ll be nothing but bones if I don’t fix the mayor’s ride.”

“That’s such a pessimistic outlook.”

Zacky stood up, checking his pockets. “Guess it is. I’ll leave you guys to your fun conversations. Some of us have to work.” He walked out as Brian and Jimmy yelled after him. He flipped them off and turned into the hallway. “Oh, Matt,” they heard his voice float back toward them. “Where you going?” There was an accusing note in his words.

Matt obviously gave no answer, though because they all heard the front door open and close with a thud. Zacky evidently wasn’t happy with his friend’s lack of response.

Val stiffened, leaning forward on her seat. The sound of a pair of heavy boots approached the kitchen and Matthew appeared in the doorway. He braced his forearms against the doorframe. Val looked at him, brow creasing as she took in his appearance. He’d changed into a pair of camouflage pants and those, along with the black tank-top he was wearing, gave him an air of someone who was totally in charge of everything. The Aviators that were hooked onto the neck of his top finished off the look.

“Matt...” Val bit at her bottom lip. She realised without him having to say anything that something had happened. “You have to go back, don’t you?” The strain in her voice was evident.

Matthew nodded reluctantly. “Yeah. There’s been a riot at the Astor. I have to go deal with it.”

Brian said, “Why can’t someone else do it.”

“JB could probably deal with it,” Matt conceded, “but he can’t deal with the source.”

Val raised her eyebrows. Her husband met her anxious gaze. “I’m the only person who he’ll listen to.”

“Who are you talking about?” Brian cut in.

Matthew shook his head, not wanting to mention any names, especially since he knew it would be too close to home if he did. But Jimmy figured it out anyway, his blue eyes widening as it dawned on him.

“Luke’s little brother.”

“Johnny?” Brian looked stunned. “You think he started the riot?”

“I know he started it. And he’ll only listen to me.” Matt sighed, his gaze still meeting Val’s. “I’m sorry...I know I was going to try and take today off as well. But, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.”

Val rubbed at her face, shaking her head. She was disappointed, but at the same time she understood how it was being the only person capable of completing a certain task. It was often the same for her at the Council chambers.

“You can always come back afterward,” she suggested tentatively.

Matt screwed up his face, then relaxed the muscles, nodding again. “True. I can do that.” He gave a weak smile, which she returned just as half-heartedly.

“Will you, though?” Brian asked.

Matthew didn’t answer right away. He entered the room, going over to Val. She stood and went into his arms which he wrapped tight around her. Without speaking, he nuzzled into her hair, inhaling deeply. They remained close like that for several long minutes, neither of them saying anything, just comforting each other. Jimmy and Brian both averted their eyes, but gave each other knowing looks.

Matt noticed and rolled his eyes at them. “I’m trying, y’know?”

Jimmy snorted. “Try harder, Matt. Your wife needs you.”

“Fine, I’ll come straight back after I’m done, alright?”

“You’d better,” Jimmy said, gruffly.

“We’ll hold you to that, Shads,” Brian added.

Matt nodded as he closed his eyes, wrapping himself around his wife, and murmuring into her hair. Val slid a hand up and around one of his arms, rubbing at the thick muscle. He smiled faintly, pressing a kiss to her forehead, before gently extricating himself and stepping back toward the door.

Val said, in a low voice, “You be careful...”

Matthew’s lips twitched, “Always, love.” Then nodding to his friends, he said, “I’ll see you guys later...” With that said he turned on his heel and walked out.

Val went to the window to watch him leave while Brian and Jimmy settled back on their seats, both men resigned to spending their day waiting for their friend.
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PostSubject: Re: SHADOWS CREED - M Shadows/A7X Fic - R   Tue Mar 22, 2011 5:26 am

~7~
Johnny Christ


“Hold still, will you?”

Johnny winced as Matt pressed a wet cloth against a cut above his left eye. The older man growled, pushing him against the wall to keep him still. He cringed a little, sensing the commander’s frustration. He’d already given the bigger man the run around.

It was over an hour since the Creed’s TaskerOne had arrived at the Astor to find the place in lock down. All the other inmates had been rounded up and sent to the dining hall under heavily armed guard. Only Johnny was left eluding the guards and soldiers who had already been there before Matthew arrived.

Then for half an hour, Johnny had lead Matt, and his men, around the prison on a merry dance, until the smaller male had practically wilted from exhaustion. Matthew and his 2IC had finally corralled the smaller man into an interrogation cell and that was where they were now. Cleaning up the scrapes he had received in the pursuit.

“Don’t see why you’re bothering...” Johnny mumbled then gritted his teeth as Matthew applied more pressure.

“You’re not allowed to bleed to death on my watch,” was the rough answer.

Johnny grimaced at that response. He didn’t really understand what that was supposed to mean. And considering no one ever really paid him much attention unless he caused trouble, if he ever did bleed to death he was certain no one else would give a damn.

“It’s just a graze.”

Matt sat back on his haunches, glaring at the smaller male. He didn’t bother responding, instead he said, “Take off your shirt.”

“What?” Johnny blinked at the command.

“That’s not the only one. Take it off. I’m not talking to you until I know you’re not going to pass out on me.”

Johnny shook his head, locking his arms across his chest.

Matthew’s eyes narrowed behind his shades. “If I have to get Jason in here to hold you down, I will. Don’t make this shit harder than it has to be.”

There was an edge to Matt’s voice that the younger man noticed and he figured that it wouldn’t be worth the hassle pushing his luck. So, he carefully eased his top off, over his head, wincing more as he realised there was quite a large wound on the right side of his torso. He wondered how he hadn’t noticed it. Probably the adrenaline still rushing through his body was at least partly to blame for the lack of sensation.

“Crap...I don’t even know how I got this one...”

Matt shifted closer again to get a better look. Removing his shades, he bent his head down, sucking at his bottom lip.

“Looks clean. Hold on.” He picked up the cloth again where he had dropped it on the floor, and carefully placed it against the wound, dabbing at it.

Johnny flinched, grabbing at his wrist. “Stop...it’s fine...I’m not gonna - Ow...that fucking stings!”

Matthew rolled his eyes, but relented on the pressure. “You hold it, then.”

Johnny grumbled, taking the cloth from him and pressing it against the wound. Matt stood and walked over to the only chair in the room. It was one of those metal-framed ones that could be found littered throughout the prison. He parked his ass on the edge of the chair, leaning forward with his elbows resting against his knees.

“So, you want to tell me what the fuck you think you were doing today?”

Johnny snorted at his choice of words. “If I say no, what the hell are you gonna do?”

“Just answer the question, Seward.” Matthew was in no mood to play the younger man’s game. He just wanted to get this over and done with, so he could get out of there and go home.

“I don’t know,” Johnny muttered. “Just bored I guess.”

Matt’s gaze darkened in disbelief. “Bored? Hell, Christ. This is the seventh time in three months.” Johnny’s attitude frustrated him no end. “You’re going the right way to a bullet in the head, y’know?”

“Yeah, well maybe I’d prefer to be dead than stuck in this hole for the rest of my life,” Johnny murmured. His tone suggested that he was in fact very serious about that fact. And that made the elder man wonder how it had been for him all this time.

“Jesus, Christ...” Matthew shook his head, leaning back against the chair.

“What?” Johnny lifted an eyebrow. “I’m serious. I don’t have anything to look forward to. You might as well just shoot me. I’m not doing anyone any good here. Anyway, if I’m dead, you won’t have to deal with me causing shit all the time.”

Matthew literally groaned at that. “Y’know, you could just quit with the shit. I don’t want to see you dead.”

“What the hell do you care? You didn’t have a problem killing my brother,” Johnny stated bitterly.

The bigger man just stared at him then said in a cold tone, “You really are a fucking little shit.”

Johnny shifted uncomfortably against the wall, dropping his gaze and checking the wound on his torso. He couldn’t really deny Matthew’s statement. It was a bit insensitive of him to say what he did. But, he felt a lot of resentment concerning what had happened to his older brother. So, in a way he felt justified in calling Matt out on that. Still, it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to say in the given situation.

He peered up at Matthew again. The commander was still glaring at him, anger evident in his hard stare.

“Maybe I’m wrong,” Johnny said in an attempt to appease him.

“You’re absolutely wrong,” Matt said in a tight voice.

He normally remained calm when confronting prisoners at the Astor, but most of the others he didn’t have any personal connection with. This was a whole other ball game. Johnny’s elder brother had been a friend, a very close friend. And if it weren’t for the fact that he was the top-dog of the Creed he wouldn’t even be volunteering to deal with this particular situation. It wouldn’t have been allowed.

If someone else in the corps had a close tie with anyone in the prison, they weren’t permitted to intervene with that particular case. For Matthew, he had no choice. He had to officiate over every incident.

Johnny’s case was the hardest, though. It hit terribly close to home and it was taking all Matt’s willpower not to break. He folded his arms over his chest, a defensive gesture.

“You know how it was with your brother and me.”

Johnny gave a slight nod, averting his eyes again. “Yeah, I know.”

“But he broke the law,” Matthew pressed. “And I was given my orders.”

“I know. You don’t have to tell me.” He shot a sour look at his brother’s friend. “I was there.”

“You were. And you were damned lucky you were underage at the time.”

“Lucky? I don’t see it like that.”

Johnny stretched out his legs, resting his hands against his thighs, allowing the cloth to fall to the floor again. It was stained with his blood, but the cut had dried up a bit after having constant pressure on it.

Matthew’s lips twisted. “No? Is that why you keep doing this? You want to get yourself shot?”

Johnny lifted his shoulders, answering in an almost nonchalant tone, “Like I said, it’d be better than being here for the rest of my life.”

Matt didn’t really know how to respond after he said that. He hadn’t had a lot of experience with inmates who had been so despondent that they didn’t really care about life anymore. Most of the ones he had dealt with had either begged to be released back to their families, or had become resigned to completing their time and slogged it out without complaint. Never had he encountered any who deliberately stirred up trouble to get themselves out of the shit situation they had put themselves in. Even if it meant facing execution.

Sighing, he stood and approached the smaller man. Johnny watched him, a cagey expression on his face. Matthew crouched down in front of him, retrieving the cloth, screwing it up into a ball while frowning faintly.

“”You have got to stop this. Otherwise, I’ll be forced to put you before the firing squad.”

Johnny made no response, just continued to glower sullenly at the bigger male. Matt sighed again, straightening and looking over his shoulder.

Jason appeared in the doorway one eyebrow lifted in question. “Shadows?”

Matthew returned his gaze to Johnny who was now looking down at the floor. There really wasn’t much he could do if Johnny refused to let him in to his head. If the younger man didn’t want to explain anything, and didn’t want help, well...

Short of threatening him, nothing seemed to work at any rate. And it was pretty obvious that Johnny had checked out.

“Take him back to his cell,” Matt finally said, with another sigh. “I have to report to the General.”

Jason nodded, walking into the room and over to stand by the younger male.

Matthew turned and walked out, not bothering to stay and listen to the fight that would most likely occur between the two men. It was always the same, after all and he didn’t feel it would be helpful to get caught in the middle. Jason always managed to get Johnny moving, in the end.

* * * * *

General Eskino was a portly man, to put it in polite terms. He had been a bear of a man in his younger years, thick with muscle, built like a linebacker. Since taking the position as General, though, he hardly did any ground or field work and so all that meat had transformed into fat, giving him a rotund appearance.

His favourite pastime was playing Solitaire on his computer, that and berating his TaskerOne if he hadn’t been as efficient as he would like. Today though was a little different. The General felt surprisingly genial toward the young commander. Matthew noticed this, standing in the middle of the office, as he was reporting the week’s progress to the elder male.

Head Office was several miles away from the Astor, sort of halfway between the maximum security joint and The Creed’s barracks. It was an old red-brick affair that looked more like an aged pensioner’s home than the headquarters of the most ruthless man in New Huntington. But, maybe that was the point. Keep his men feeling comfortable and they trusted him more.

“So,” General Eskino commented once Matt had finished his report, “it’s been smooth running, Shadows?”

The General never called him by his real name. Ever since Matt had told him of the nickname he’d given himself in high school, Eskino had latched onto it and used it exclusively. In a way, it made complete sense. Matthew had called himself that because he felt that he’d been quite a dark personality and it was by pure coincidence that it sort of fit with his position.

Being TaskerOne demanded he be, not so much underhanded or sly, but someone who could stomach the things that had to be done. It was also a lot more intimidating for lawbreakers to hear someone say, ‘you’d better watch out, or Shadows will get you’ than if he used his real name.

“Yes, sir. I wouldn’t say things haven’t gone wrong, though.” He was always honest. Trust in his capabilities was always built on absolute honesty. Matt never lied, he only ever refrained from telling the truth. Or at least, that’s the way he liked to see it.

“The riot?” the General didn’t even raise an eyebrow as he asked.

Matthew gave a curt nod. “Dealt with.”

General Eskino steepled his fingers beneath his chin, gazing steadily upon the younger man. “Something needs to be done about young Seward.”

“I know.” Matt was willing to concede that point, particularly after the latest incident. He began to pace in front of the General’s desk. “I just have no idea what to do. I did talk to him.”

“How did that go?”

“He seems depressed. As in clinically. I’m not qualified to make a diagnosis, of course. But, he said that he only does the things he does because...” Matthew paused trying to think of how to describe it. It came to him after a moment’s thought. “He basically has a death wish.”

Eskino leaned forward, his brow creasing. “Are you thinking we should oblige him, Shadows?”

For a moment, Matt just stared at the General. Emotions warred in his eyes and across his face, but he finally schooled his expression into a stony mask. He wasn’t going to let his personal feelings get in the way of his job. Of course, he didn’t want to do anything to Johnny. He really just wanted to walk away and not have anything to do with Luke’s younger brother. But, he didn’t have that luxury.

Matt said, reluctantly, “I don’t see how we can do anything else, sir.”

“Well,” the General’s lips twitched in a grim smile, “I believe that we should not be so hasty as to pull the trigger on him.” He sat back against his chair, the leather creaking in protest as he settled his considerable weight into the seat. “I have actually been thinking about his case for awhile now. Today’s little incident has highlighted for me the utmost importance of fixing his situation.”

Matthew turned to face the older man, brow furrowed. He didn’t know what to think. He couldn’t think of any solution to get Johnny out of the rut he’d dug for himself. Nothing good came to mind. But, then he wasn’t much of an innovative thinker; that was more Jimmy’s thing. Well, most of the time. He did sometimes have good ideas, but this situation had him stumped.

“What do you suggest, then sir?”

General Eskino sighed. “This is not the best solution I could come up with, but it appears that he needs a change of scenery.”

Matthew blinked. “Should we send him north? To Canada?”

The Astor had a partnered facility in the far north of the neighbouring country. The Creed’s influence reached even the most remote areas of Canada and Alaska. It was a very isolated region and very rarely did anyone ever go there. The thought of sending Johnny up there had crossed Matt’s mind earlier on, but he didn’t really want to go there with that thought.

Thankfully Eskino didn’t seem to be thinking along those lines either, judging by his answer to Matt’s query.

“No. I was thinking of somewhere much closer to home.” The General reached over for a pen and opened a file that was on top of a pile on his desk. “You know what these are?”

The younger man glanced down at the open file, squinting a little. “No, sir?”

“Custody release forms,” Eskino explained as he scrawled his signature on the dotted line at the bottom of the top page in the file. “What I want you to do,” pausing, he looked up at Matthew to make sure his attention was on him. Bright hazel eyes were locked on him, bemusement evident in their depths.

He continued briskly, “What I want you to do is release Johnny from the Astor.”

“Release him?” Matthew asked nonplussed.

“Yes. I do not care what you do with him once you do. Just get him out of there.”

Frowning, the commander pondered the General’s order. “You’re putting him into my custody?”

General Eskino nodded slowly. “Exactly. Perhaps he just requires different company. That may settle him down. In the meantime, I will try and find a more permanent solution.”

Matthew’s jaw tightened. Part of him felt a sense of relief that the General hadn’t ordered him to shoot the little bastard, but another was anxious to see how this whole thing would work out. He was absolutely certain that Johnny hated his guts after what he’d done to Luke. Placing the younger man in his custody could end in disaster of a different sort.

“I don’t know if this is a good idea...”

“I’m not asking you to do this, Shadows.” The General’s voice was stern. That was a no-brainer. The General never asked anything of his men. It was a command, pure and simple.

Matthew straightened his back, lifting his chin, expression steely. “When do you want me to take Jonathan?”

Eskino tilted his head a look of approval in his dark eyes. He knew this wasn’t going to be an easy task for Matthew. The General had been there six years ago when Johnny, his brother and friends were arrested. Was present when Matthew had shot Luke and the elder members of the illegal group they had formed. He had experienced the devastating effect that it had on the then twenty-two year old. But, he also knew that sometimes the only way to deal with one’s demons was to force one to face the situation head-on.

General Eskino mentioned none of his thoughts, though. Matthew did not need to know that part of the reason he had made his decision was to repair the TaskerOne’s own psychological wounds as much as to throw young Seward a lifeline.

“I presume you will want to speak with Valary about this.”

Matt shook his head. “I’ll call her. She won’t mind.”

“Well, then right now, if you can get back to the Astor.”

“No problem.” Matthew unhooked his shades from the neck of his tank top, slipping them onto his face. “You want me to report to you once he’s out?”

The General shook his head. “Not necessary. Just go home once you’re done.”

Matt swallowed a lump that formed in his throat at that statement. “Excuse me, sir?”

“Were you not wanting a second day, Shadows?” Eskino raised an eyebrow. “By all means, you can return to the barracks, if you would rather?”

Matthew rolled his shoulders not certain how he should respond. He felt embarrassed that he had even mentioned it when he had called earlier to ask. He started to shake his head, but then changed his mind thinking that was the whole point of his original request.

He glanced at the General, his expression one of immense gratitude. “No. I will go home afterwards. Thank you, sir.”

General Eskino inclined his head to the younger man. “Go. I don’t want to see you here again for another week.”

Matthew brought his back so it was straight as an iron rod, saluting to the General. Then without another word, he spun on his heel and walked out of Head Office.

Eskino settled back in his chair letting out a sigh, his thoughts following the young man out. Matthew was the Creed’s most valued commander in so many years and to lose him emotionally would be a huge blow.

However, the General had sensed over the last few months that was exactly what was happening. It wasn’t even noticeable on a physical level. Not even Jason Berry had picked up on the signals. But Eskino recognised the earliest signs, and knew he had to take some form of action.

In hindsight though, he only hoped he had made the right decision. He wouldn’t have admitted it in front of Matthew, but he completely agreed with the TaskerOne’s assessment of Johnny’s situation. It could all end up going to pieces.

Or, it could go a long way to fixing what had happened in the past.

Only time would tell.
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PostSubject: Re: SHADOWS CREED - M Shadows/A7X Fic - R   Tue Mar 22, 2011 5:26 am


~8~
Troubling moments


“Fuck, bro. Leave your shit everywhere, why don’t you?”

Zacky frowned at the pile of oil rags sitting on the side bench along the left-hand wall of the shop. His brother had obviously left them there when he headed out to lunch. Rubbing at his forehead, he sighed heavily as he went about tidying them away.

His mind was wandering as he shook them out, and folded them before putting them back in the cupboard beneath the main counter. The other Matthew in his life was ever in his thoughts. He couldn’t believe he’d actually managed to call Shads out for his work at the Creed. It was something that was always niggling at the back of his mind, but never had Zacky actually dared to voice his opinion. It was a sensitive topic and one the guys usually avoided unless it directly affected them, as it had six years ago...

Zacky kicked the door shut, straightening with a grunt. He really needed to exercise more, but with all the jobs he’d been getting lately, and the stress, he hadn’t been to the gym in forever. Of course, that really wasn’t a reason to skip the gym. He’d read somewhere that working out was actually good for relieving stress, so he didn’t have any room to complain. Yet, time was an issue.

He still managed to make time for his friends, though.

Unlike Matthew.

Not wanting to follow that line of thought, Zacky shook himself, walking back over to the Mayor’s Bentley. He frowned at the vehicle, rubbing at his chin. The Honourable Mr Elliott Johnston had called in to say that he couldn’t come and check on progress because of more important appointments. Which in all honesty was absolutely fine with Zacky. He hadn’t gotten headway with the repairs, especially since parts were hard to come by. He’d had to order some in from Canada and they would probably take a week to arrive.

The steel grey car looked pathetic hoisted up in the air, barely a shell of its former glory. He stared up at it, his green eyes narrowed critically on the undercarriage.

“Hey, can you spare a moment, buddy?”

He started, hearing the familiar raspy voice, coming from the entrance of the shop. Turning his head he recognised Matthew’s big frame propped up against the side wall. He could hear the faint growl of a running engine coming from outside.

“Matt? What’re you doing here?” Zacky cocked his head to one side noting that his friend seemed really tight, on edge.

Matthew’s brow furrowed above his Aviators and he started rubbing at the back of his neck, his gaze darting back toward whatever vehicle was outside.

“I just need to borrow that tent you bought last summer. I called your brother. He said you keep it here.”

Zacky frowned, curiosity evident in his eyes. “Why do you need it?”

Matt glanced at his friend, still scowling. “I’ve just come from the Astor.”

“That doesn’t explain why you need my tent.”

“I have to accommodate a guest...but I don’t think Val would appreciate having him in the house,” he answered in a strained voice.

“A guest? You never mentioned you were going to have any visitors...” Zacky leaned back against the metal beam that was supporting the main body of the car. He wracked his memory trying to figure out if that were indeed the case.

Matt snorted. “Well, he’s not really a guest. He’s an inmate from the Astor...you might know him.” The edge in his voice got sharper.

Zacky’s expression was one of confusion, but before he could ask anything, a voice that he recognised instantly, even though it had been such a long time, could be heard yelling from the vehicle outside.

“Oi, Shadows! You gonna just fucking leave me here all day, or what!”

Holy shit.” Zacky was shocked. “You’ve got Johnny with you?”

Matt’s expression became even darker, if that were at all possible. He didn’t bother acknowledging the question. It was damned obvious, the answer. Zacky stared at him, unblinkingly then groaned as if he’d been hit.

“Holy shitballs...why?”

That Matthew decided to respond to. “He’s out of his mind. Eski thought it’d do some good to get him out of prison for awhile.”

Zacky scrunched up his face. “His term’s not done is it?”

Matt laughed harshly, “He’s not fifty, yet.”

“Shit,” Zacky repeated. He raked his fingers through his hair, absently making the spiky bits at the front stick out. “How’s this going to work out, anyway?”

“No fucking clue,” Matthew said, “but, I guess anywhere will be better for him, than the Astor. At least for now.”

He went silent after that, prowling across the shop toward the door marked ‘staff only’. Zacky watched him, not bothering to ask where he was going. Matt had been to the auto-shop enough to know where everything was. He disappeared through the door leaving Zacky to wait.

The sound of cursing started up almost straight away; obviously Matt was having a hard time finding what he was looking for. But, then Zacky had a difficult time himself and he was the one who had put the tent in there. He stayed put, though. He knew from experience that Matthew hated when other people tried to assist him in anything.

After what felt like another hour of swearing and banging issuing from the back room -- it was really only ten minutes -- the door opened and Matthew came out backwards, dragging the rolled up tent out in front of him. It looked a little tattered, but they probably wouldn’t be able to see the extent of its tattiness until it was set up. With hardly any effort, Matt slung the weight of it across his shoulders and made his way back out of the shop.

Zacky rolled his eyes, following him out. “You’re welcome, Matt.”

Matthew glanced back at him, the corners of his mouth turning up in a genuine smile. “Thanks, Zack.”

Then he turned to the large black SUV that was parked in the driveway, opening the trunk and sliding the tent into the back. Zacky noted the golden insignia painted on the rear passenger door. A scroll with a shepherd’s crook was the emblem of The Creed and anyone who had a half a brain recognised it. The symbol was practically everywhere one looked. Matt had obviously borrowed the vehicle, because all he owned was his Harley and a couple of damaged bicycles.

Zacky observed his friend quietly not really sure whether there was anything he could say to him. He still wasn’t happy that Matt had agreed to go back to work, even though he had said he was going to spend more time with Valary, and with the guys. Actually he was still pretty pissed about that. But he decided he’d let Matt see that enough already, and at any rate, silence sometimes spoke louder than words.

Matthew finished shoving the tent into the back and shut the trunk, turning back to look at Zacky.

“You coming back to Bri’s later?”

“Probably. You?”

Matt looked to the front passenger side of the SUV. Zacky followed his gaze, recognising the silhouette of the younger man sitting there. Johnny was leaning up against the door, face blank, eyes covered by a pair of dark shades. His arms were folded tight over his chest in a defensive posture, shutting him off from the rest of the world.

“We’ll see,” Matthew murmured. “Depends on Johnny.”

Zacky grimaced; his friend read the expression on his face correctly, because he added in a soft voice, “I’ll call Val on my way, ‘kay?”

There was a heartbeat of silence then Zacky said, tersely, “Call her now.”

Matthew’s expression froze. “What? Jeeze, thanks for the vote of confidence, Zacky.”

“Welcome. Call her.”

Zacky wasn’t going to budge on this. Brian had called him earlier just to chat and had mentioned that Val had been unusually quiet since Matt had left. That bothered the younger man quite a lot. He didn’t like it when any of his friends were out of sorts. He glowered at Matt.

“Fine.”

Matthew relented, pulling his cell phone from his back pocket. He walked up the driveway, away from his friend so he could make the call without any interruption.

Zacky observed him in silence, noting absently that Johnny had turned his head, also watching the big man as he spoke on the phone.

The conversation was obviously short and to the point because it wasn’t long before Matthew strode back up to the SUV, shoving the cell back into his pocket.

“Right. I’m off.”

“What’d she say?” Zacky asked worry evident in his tone and not wanting to let his friend leave until he at least told him what was said.

Matthew scowled at him but answered, in a low voice, “She’ll wait for me.”

“Did you tell her about Johnny?”

“No.”

Zacky sighed, “You’re an idiot.”

Matthew gave a nonchalant shrug as he turned to get in the car. Zacky gave a tight shake of his head his expression one of disapproval as his friend backed out the driveway.

* * * * *

Brian curled his fingers around his pen, chewing on the end of it, a frown playing across his face. Jimmy sat opposite him, rocking on his chair, the soft creaking noise almost hypnotic. The two of them had been sitting there for the past hour, both of them watching the third occupant of the room.

Valary was standing in the kitchen, glowering at a recipe in one of the many cookbooks her twin had inherited from their mom when she had moved out of home. She had announced earlier that she would cook dinner for them all. There had been a hint of hope in her voice suggesting that the ‘all’ would include her husband.

Brian was a little sceptical about whether Matthew would actually show, but then he was probably feeling that because of the negativity that Zack had passed onto him when he’d called him earlier. That man was capable of making the brightest person depressed, except for maybe Jimmy. Nothing could depress James Sullivan.

“What’re you writing?”

Brian snapped out of the stupor he’d gone into, glancing up at the tall male. “Huh?”

Jimmy pointed at the pad that he was doodling on. “Anything new?”

“Trying. It’s all shit, though.” Brian pushed the notepad away from him.

“Oh, come on. I’ve read some of your stuff. It’s better than anything I could write.” Jimmy grinned at his friend. Brian rolled his eyes before looking over toward Val.

“Do you think Matt will show?” he murmured.

Jimmy followed his friend’s gaze, giving a slight shake of his head. “No idea. I hope so. Val needs him to be here.”

“True.” Brian stretched his arms out and rolled his head slowly, letting out a loud yawn. “Damn, I’m tired.”

Jimmy laughed, “You haven’t even done anything.”

“True again,” Brian smirked, unable to resist the mood his friend was obviously trying to create. “But, we could do something fun.”

“Like what?”

“Well, I bought something that might interest you.”

“Don’t tell me,” Jimmy pretended to groan, “Not your dad’s latest studio mix? I mean, no offence to Papa Gates, but it’s so...mundane.”

Brian looked suitably offended by his friend’s statement. “Come off it, it’s good shit.”

“Humph, if you’re into political crap,” Jimmy scoffed.

“Just because the Mayor endorses him-”

“That’s exactly it. I don’t get why it’s artists, like your father, who get kudos from the government. You’d think they’d be banned as well.”

“Dad’s a session muso, though,” Brian pointed out. “And he does everything himself. He’s no threat to the establishment.”

“Oh, and a band is?” Jimmy shook his head. “Just because that one band did what they did, way back when.”

Brian snorted, “It wasn’t one thing. It was a lot of things. But that attempted assassination was the final straw.”

“I still don’t understand it.”

“Yeah, but you know everything there is to know about the Creed. I don’t understand that,” Brian countered.

“That’s because to be able to fight against them you need to understand them.”

“Fight against them? What kind of an idiotic thing is that to say?”

“It’s not idiotic. You never know when it could come in handy. Anyway, I hate what they do-”

“You sound like Zack,” Brian started to interrupt.

But, Jimmy kept talking over him, thinking out loud really, “-and I always imagine one day starting a band and-”

“Don’t, Jimmy.”

Val’s crisp voice cut across their conversation, causing Jimmy to pause, and drawing both men’s attention to her. She stood with her arms akimbo, an anxious look in her eyes. Deepening the already dark brown hue.

Her voice shook faintly as she almost begged, “Don’t even say that. Please. Remember yesterday’s conversation?”

“Damn it, Val...” Jimmy sighed, sliding down on the chair, kicking his feet out. His chair wobbled. Then he let out a snort of laughter as he ended up on the floor the chair tipping onto its side. “Fuck...”

Brian pressed his face against his hand, shaking his head, not sure whether to laugh at his friend’s antics or be frustrated at what he’d been saying. Val just turned back to the stove, obviously not trusting herself to remain calm.

Jimmy looked at them both then mumbled, “I’m not stupid.”

Neither of his friends bothered responding.

* * * * *

Matthew rested a hand against the top frame of the tent. It was sturdy, even if he leaned hard on it. It hadn’t taken long for the two of them to put it up, probably around half an hour, from unpacking it and getting it up. Johnny was standing inside the tent, looking away from the big man, just studying the space around him. The tent space was sparse. All there was inside it was a small hanging lamp, a blow up mattress and an old blue blanket. Nothing special, but warm inside.

“So, you’ll be right out here?” Matt asked.

Johnny gave a small shrug, not bothering to answer.

Matthew sighed, rubbing a hand over his head. “I gotta go back over to Brian’s. Val’s over there.”

He didn’t really know why he was explaining this to the younger man. Maybe because he felt he needed to include him somehow. It was a little awkward having him there, but Matthew knew he didn’t have a choice. Neither of them did, really. And he wasn’t willing to fob him off on someone else. Johnny was his responsibility, so he would suck it up and do his job.

Johnny just lifted his shoulders again before sitting down on top of the blow-up mattress and wrapping himself up in the blanket. He still didn’t look at Matt, just gazed blankly at a spot several feet from him. As if there was something more interesting there than looking at the other man’s face.

“Well, don’t go anywhere,” Matthew said in as stern a tone he could muster. “I don’t want to have to hunt you down.”

Johnny made no response, just continued staring into space. The elder man had no idea what to say after that, so stepped back from the tent and made his way back to the house.

He paused before entering, though, turning to look back at the small shelter. It was pitched in a large expanse of grass by the pool, but somehow even for its large size it seemed extremely small, insignificant, lonely.

Matthew grimaced picturing the younger man sitting inside, bundled up and appearing just as small and alone as the tent did. And the fact that Johnny hadn’t reacted to anything he’d said. That made Matt more anxious than he wanted to admit. When he returned from Brian’s maybe he would try to talk to him again. And if he failed that time he would keep trying, and keep trying, until he got somewhere with the younger man.

Still, there wasn’t much he could do now, and he had promised to go back to his friend’s as soon as he was done. So, with a sigh, he turned and went inside.
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PostSubject: Re: SHADOWS CREED - M Shadows/A7X Fic - R   Tue Mar 22, 2011 5:27 am


~9~
The Locker

Matt Berry surveyed the silent warehouse, at the rows and rows of amps, guitars and other confiscated musical equipment. There were probably over thousands of drum sets and microphone stands arranged in neat rows along the walls and on large wooden crate carriers. He was responsible for counting every single piece that entered the building, and ensuring that none of it ever disappeared. It was his neck on the line if he missed anything.

The Locker had been built over ten years ago, when the government decided it wasn’t cost effective to destroy all the contraband that went through the system every year. It was situated five miles from the centre of town a massive steel grey complex that was hard to miss. No one spoke of the place, though unless it was in a derogative sense. Some called it the black hole of dreams, the place where people’s hopes were crushed. That is if their hopes had anything to do with creating music other than the approved.

“Fuck, where is it?”

Right now, Matt was searching for a certain custom made Schechter guitar that had been brought in about a month ago. Apparently, it had been relinquished voluntarily by an anonymous source. The Creed had found it at the main entrance to their barracks with a note attached telling them to treat the instrument with the utmost respect. That had confused all of them; however, they had stuck to protocol sending it over to Matt to process and put safely away in the Locker.

Matt had itemised it, giving it a barcode and tag number and he thought he had put it near the back of the warehouse. But it seemed to have disappeared.

“Number 31071981L, number 31071981L...” Matt mumbled to himself as he stalked the rows, scowling in frustration at the many different models he passed. “Number 31...” He paused poking his head over to look at an instrument tucked behind a box. “Nope...that’s not it... 31071981...oh...?”

Something caught his eye from the other side of the building. He pushed his way through a jumble of broken drum sets to a blanket-covered object at the west side of the warehouse.

It looked distinctly guitar shaped...

Whipping away the blanket he blinked at the shiny instrument that was revealed. With black and white vertical stripes running the length of the body it was a classy looking guitar. Unharmed it sat as if that was exactly where it was meant to be. He breathed a sigh of relief, carefully lifting the instrument from its stand.

“Right...need to send this to the Mayor...”

Matt had a habit of talking out loud, to himself. But, considering he worked almost exclusively in the Locker and he was there alone, most of the time it wasn’t all that surprising. He hadn’t been cut out for the Creed itself, unlike his twin. Yet, he didn’t really mind that. He preferred his own company, so working in the Locker was perfect for him.

Humming, Matt headed back to his office, carrying the guitar carefully in his arms. As he approached, his cell phone buzzed in his back pocket. Shifting the weight of the instrument, he tugged it out and held it up to his ear.

“Yeah?” he answered distractedly, until he recognised the deep, husky voice on the other end of the line. “Hey, Shads, what’s doing?”

He pushed open the door with his shoulder and hip, walking in and setting the Schechter down on the workbench. “Really? Where are you? Oh. Say hi to them for me... When you get there. Yeah? You left my brother at the barracks. Yeah, he said you were taking some time off.”

Matt shifted the phone to his right ear as he grabbed a cloth and began polishing the surface of the guitar. “Uh huh. Still checking up on me? Yeah, nothing new. Just doing something for the mayor.” He looked down into the almost reflective surface of the guitar. “Oh, he wanted this guitar. You know the one that was dropped at the barracks. Yeah, that’s the one.”

He propped the guitar up on its side, carefully running his fingers over the strings, nodding his head as Matthew continued talking on the other end of the line. Matt frowned a little at the tension that was evident in the other man’s voice. He sounded like a lot of things were going on in his head.

“So, what was it you needed, Shads?” His hand paused over the guitar’s body at Matthew’s answer. “What? Are you mad?” He groaned, smearing his free hand over his face. “No. Sorry. I’m not questioning you. You just shocked me. No...it’s fine. You know the item number?”

Matt moved away from the bench, grabbing a note pad off his desk, flipping the page he took a pen from his shirt pocket, holding it poised above the page.

“19810210...R? Right.” Matt scribbled the number down. “I’ll, um...find it for you and let you know. Will you come pick it up? Okay, well...I guess I’ll see you? Okay then.”

He scratched a small note next to the number. “Oh, by the way, Jason said Eski told you not to go back to the barracks for the rest of the week? Heh, you should go have a holiday somewhere.” He smiled slightly at Matthew’s response to that. “Yeah, make it a second honeymoon... Right, well catcha, then. Yup. Bye.”

Hanging up, Matt stood staring down at the note in his hand. He had no idea what the T-One was thinking with his request. It seemed so out of character and at any rate it wasn’t protocol. Usually only the Mayor or the General ever requested the removal of an item from the Locker and if that ever did occur it was extremely rare. Such as this Schechter that Elliott had asked delivery of.

But for Matthew to demand the release of an instrument...that surprised Matt. Still, it wasn’t his place to ask questions. He would do his job. He just hoped to Hell that Matthew knew what he was doing.

* * * * *

Matthew blinked hard, leaning his head back against the driver’s seat and tucking his cell phone back into his pocket. He wasn’t sure what he’d just done, it had been a decision he’d made off the cuff while driving back to Brian’s. But, his mind was in turmoil over Johnny’s predicament and many different thoughts had been flying around his head on the drive. And this seemed the easiest one to manage.

In hindsight, it was probably not the smartest choice he’d made, but it wasn’t as if he was doing anything illegal. He would have to wait to see how it would all play out, but for now it was out of his hands. In any case, he had other things to think of now.

Sighing and rubbing at his face in a tired gesture, Matthew shut off the engine. Quiet fell around him as he sat in the vehicle on Brian’s front lawn. He stared out the front windscreen at the house. It looked inviting, like it was calling to him. He felt a weight on his shoulders, though. Now that he was away from the Astor again he felt a sense of guilt settling heavily on his mind.

After the earlier conversation with Johnny, and the even earlier one with his friends, the past was right at the forefront of his mind. Everything that had happened with Johnny’s elder brother still weighed on him even after so long; though he had managed to quash those feelings beneath a facade of nonchalance.

Maybe General Eskino had been right to force him to take more time off. He really needed to get his head into gear before going back. Get his life sorted out as well, though that seemed too huge a task to even start thinking about. Too huge a task for a single week. He’d have to start with the little things, spending more time with his wife, with his friends. Zacky would approve of that. He laughed bitterly at that thought. Zacky had seemed so distant when he’d gone to borrow his tent from him. Cordial, yes, but not overly pleased to see him.

Matthew wondered for a moment when his friends had started to resent him for his position at The Creed, coming to the conclusion that they had probably hated the fact that he worked there ever since Luke’s execution. Or maybe even before that. He would have to fix that as well. Having them resent him for his career choice was not something he wanted to have hanging between them forever.

Rubbing at his arms, he then checked to make sure the vehicle was in park, before climbing out to stand in the driveway. He slid his Aviators from his face, hooking them onto the neck of his top. Taking a deep breath he steeled himself for the onslaught of questions and opinions he knew he would face once he walked through the door. But, he knew, for him at least, the most important person to focus on would be Valary. He had promised her the world, once again, and once again he hadn’t delivered. He had a lot to make up for.

* * * * *

“I’m sorry? Did you just say that Johnny is at your place?” Jimmy had a dumbfounded expression on his face. Matthew had just got done explaining why he had taken so long to get back.

They were seated in the Pool room at the back of the house, sprawled around the room on several large sofas. Matthew was lounging on the one closest to the back door. Val was curled up against his left side; Michelle’s little Maltese cross, Pinkly, was snuggling into his other.

Matthew nodded, absently running his fingers through Pinkly’s fur. The small dog turned its head and snuffled at his fingers. He tickled her gently, before glancing over at his friend.

Jimmy shook his head, an incredulous expression on his face. “Fuck. That’s crazy. You think he’s okay there? By himself?”

“You should’ve brought him over here,” Brian added, while cracking open what was his second beer.

Matthew sighed. “I didn’t think that’d be a good idea. He’s completely out of it.”

“Whaddya mean?” Jimmy said around a mouthful of corn chips which he’d just shoved into his mouth.

“Hey, any left for me?”

Jimmy tossed the bag over to him. “There. So, what do you mean ‘out of it’?”

Matthew caught the bag tipping it up to see how much was left, several pieces falling out onto the small table next to the sofa he was sitting on. “He’s not talking and shit. You say something to him, and he doesn’t respond. And he acts like he doesn’t want to live. It’s really fucking sad, actually.”

“Jesus.” Brian took a swig of his beer, then wiped at the back of his mouth, saying, “That doesn’t sound good; maybe you should send him to a shrink.”

Val lifted her head slightly from Matthew’s chest, adding, “You should try and find his parents.”

There was a long pause after her suggestion. After the raid, the rest of the Seward’s had left town. For awhile at least. Recently they had returned to New Huntington, but they were rarely seen out of their house, keeping to themselves and no longer visiting their old haunts. Matthew was the only one who had seen them at any length. He often drove past the old cemetery where Luke had been buried, and sometimes he would see one or other of Seward’s parents visiting the gravesite.

Early on he had entertained the thought of approaching them to try and find out how they were handling things, but as the weeks, months, years had passed Matthew felt that it wasn’t his place to disturb them. They were obviously grieving, and he didn’t think it would be fair on them to try and talk to them. But, now that Johnny was in the mix maybe he would have to reconsider his position. But, it wasn’t something he relished the thought of dealing with.

“And do what?” Matthew finally asked, breaking the awkward silence.

“I don’t know,” Val murmured, absently rubbing a palm over the print on the T-shirt he’d changed into.

“It’d be easier to send him to a shrink...” he mumbled while watching her gentle movements.

She met his gaze, seeing the weariness in his eyes. His lips twisted in a tired smile. She smiled back before resting her cheek against his chest again. He ran his fingers through her hair, sighing a little. It felt good having her there, close to him. It was killing him to be gone from her so long. Even though he didn’t like to admit it.

“Well, you should still bring him over here. Some time,” Brian stated gruffly.

“He’s still under custody, y’know,” Matthew pointed out, voice low.

“So? Doesn’t mean he has to stay in the one place. As long as you know where he is, right?”

Matthew shrugged. “Guess so.”

Dipping his hand in the bag of chips, he pulled some out, popping one in his mouth then feeding the other pieces to Pinkly. The dog yipped happily, crunching them up before nestling back into the man’s leg.

Jimmy chuckled, “Do you spoil Bella as much as you spoil her, Matt?”

Matthew snorted. “Bella’s a dumb dog. Remember when she ate those special brownies?”

“That was your fault for leaving them where she could reach them,” Val reminded him with a giggle.

“Oh, yeah?” He tickled her side gently, “If my memory serves me, you’re the one who made them.”

“Oh, you,” she slapped at his chest. He stuck out his bottom lip at her, pretending to look hurt. Val let her head drop back against his torso, as she sighed not dignifying him with a response.

Matthew chuckled, stroking her hair in a tender gesture.

“You have to go back to work tomorrow, don’t you, Val?” Jimmy asked after a moment.

Valary nodded, the movement causing Matthew’s chest to tighten. The thought of staying at home while his wife went to work galled him more than he would admit. Call him old-fashioned, but Matt still followed the notion that as the man of the house he had to do more work than her. That he had to be the bread winner, and be responsible for the family’s financial stability. Even though he wasn’t as patriarchal in his thinking as some of the other men in the Creed. He had no problem with Val earning a living. He just felt responsible, that was all.

“Can I come with?” Matthew asked, lazily.

Valary tilted her head, blinking up at him. “You want to come to the Council with me?”

“Sure,” the corners of his mouth twitched. “I don’t have anything better to do.” Especially since he wasn’t going to be at the barracks all week.

“What about Johnny?”

Matthew answered, “I’ll bring him too.”

“I don’t know.” Val scratched at her cheek. “It’s not all that interesting.”

“It’s election time, though.”

“True.” A thoughtful expression appeared in Val’s eyes. “I have to go in early.”

Matthew lifted his shoulders in a casual gesture. “I’ll come over late morning. I need to go pick something up first, anyway.”

Jimmy leaned forward on his seat. He was rolling a smoke on the coffee table in front of him. Tapping the end on the glass, he pulled out a lighter, the small flame flaring as he set it to the end of the cigarette paper.

“What’s that?” he asked, curiosity shining in his bright blue eyes.

Matthew looked over at him. “What’s what?”

“What do you need to pick up?” Jimmy stuck the end of the smoke between his lips, holding it there, not really doing anything with it, even as a tiny puff of smoke trailed upwards.

Matthew shook his head, muttering, “Just something I promised Jason I’d get. Since I’m not working this week.”

“Oh, sounds mysterious,” Jimmy grinned, before taking a drag of his cigarette.

“Everything’s a mystery to you, Rev,” Brian commented, drily.

“Yeah. Did you hear about those old records that were left on Heirrison’s Field? They all disappeared.”

“Heirrison’s? You mean the old baseball park?” Matthew picked through the remains of the corn chips, flicking pieces absently to Pinkly. Val had settled against him again, just listening to the conversation.

“Yeah,” Jimmy said, moving his smoke from the left side of his mouth to the right. “The Flusher’s moved it all, apparently. But, I don’t think they did.”

“Maybe it was the Creed,” Brian suggested. “The stuff could’ve been moved to the Locker.”

Matthew asked at the same time, “What records were they anyway? Music?”

“Yeah, there’re still some illegal bootlegs of old time bands floating around. The Creed would want to get rid of them all.” Jimmy sat back on his seat, the leather creaking faintly as he sank down into the middle of the cushion.

“Wouldn’t they burn them all?” Brian pointed out. “I mean, sure they keep all the equipment and instruments. But, albums? Wouldn’t they want to destroy them all? Matt?”

“Um, they do. Most of the time.” Matthew scrunched up the empty chip packet, leaving it on the table. “But, I think they keep one copy of every album in the Locker.”

“Why would they? If it’s illegal?” Brian looked at his friend, one eyebrow raised. Matthew didn’t know the answer to that question. He was the commander, and he should know these things, but it had been so long since he’d read up on the policies of the Creed.

Jimmy smirked, noting the bigger male’s reticence and seeming lack of knowledge. “The Creed keeps one of every album as a failsafe. They often use random clips from them to use as propaganda against the forming of bands, or musical groups.” His voice took on the formal air of a news reporter. “There was a rally several months ago, sponsored by the Creed – Matt you were there – where the Mayor stood up and pronounced a reminder of the ‘terribly dehumanising influence’,” he made quotation marks in the air, “of rock music and some music was played to back up his statements.”

Matthew rolled his eyes, interrupting his friend, “Don’t remind me. That was the most boring speech I’ve heard Elliott give, ever. I almost fell asleep listening to that.”

“What did they play?” Brian butted in.

“Can’t remember,” Jimmy said, “but, whatever it was it was some heavy, hardcore shit.”

“It was Rebel Assassin’s Prelude to Disaster,” Matthew said, quietly. “I do remember that.” He looked down at Val, who smiled faintly at him as their eyes met. “A definite turn off when it comes to musical tastes...”

“Yeah, that’s their heaviest song,” Jimmy commented, frowning a little.

“All their shit was heavy,” Brian said, shifting his weight on his seat.

“That’s true. But Prelude was the heaviest.”

They went quiet after Jimmy’s statement. The atmosphere in the room was unusually sombre and there wasn’t much else any of them felt like saying.

Jimmy continued to fiddle with the cigarette in his mouth, sinking into his own little world, deep in thought. Brian pulled out his notepad and began scribbling lines down, his gaze fixed on the pages as a look of concentration formed on his face. Pinkly jumped off from next to Matthew, racing over to jump up next to her master. Brian scratched at the little dog’s belly as he kept writing.

Matthew leaned his head against the back of the sofa, staring up at the clean white ceiling, exhaling in a tired breath. Val stayed snuggled into his body, her breaths steady, calming. He wrapped his arm around her waist, sliding down a little so he was almost lying on the cushions.

The only sounds in the room besides the scratching of Brian’s pen on paper were the soft noises of their breathing, which filled the room in a quiet harmony, nothing else encroaching on the stillness that settled over them.
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Age : 33
Location : Perth WA

PostSubject: Re: SHADOWS CREED - M Shadows/A7X Fic - R   Fri Jul 08, 2011 7:36 pm

~10~
Plan A


It was far too early by all accounts, but then Zacky had never been a morning person. To him, noon was too early for someone to be awake and focussing on a difficult task. As it was, it was already nine in the morning and he felt sluggish, and completely not on the ball. Which was piss-poor considering the Mayor was going to be there in about ten minutes...

“Mr Baker?”

Zacky jumped, almost wiping himself out on the beam above his head. “Shit...” He groaned, sitting up and blinking hard before cocking his head so he could look up at the Mayor.

Elliott was standing about five feet away from him, an amused expression on his face.

“Good morning, Zachary. How’re things going here?”

“Ugh...the parts only just came in this morning,” Zacky grumbled. “I’m not really happy with my supplier to be honest.” He sat up, rubbing at the back of his head. “I’m not sure when I’m going to be done.”

The Mayor smiled a little, as he rocked back on his heels, hooking his thumbs into the belt which was only just holding up his suit pants. Being of lean build, his pants looked too big on him, but he wasn’t the type to really care about that. There were other things he wasn’t too bothered about either, like the fact that his car wasn’t ready yet.

“You know, that’s why I came around.”

Zacky frowned. “Why, sir?”

Elliott crossed his arms looking seriously at the younger man. “I noticed your truck out there. Looks like it’s seen better days.”

The old Ford truck had definitely been driven beyond its capacity. Zacky’s father had given it to him before he had retired from the business. Of course, Zacky rarely even drove it; he left it outside the shop because he was always meaning to fix it up. But, never got around to doing it. Shrugging, he got up, wiping his hands on his pants.

“Yeah, it’s pretty old. What of it?” Zacky was curious as to why the Mayor was even bothering to bring it up. The man probably had more important things to think about than the old ride of the local mechanic.

The Mayor started scratching at his receding hairline, his brow furrowing. “Well, I was thinking, I really need to get myself a new car. Especially if I manage to get re-elected. So, I was thinking, I could just leave the Bentley here... still pay you full cost of repairing it, of course.”

Zacky stared at the Mayor, confusion passing across his features; he opened his mouth but couldn’t figure out what he was supposed to say. Elliott solved the problem, though continuing on.

“Basically, you can keep the Bentley once you’ve repaired it.”

“Pull the other one,” Zacky shook his head.

“Zachary, I’m not joking. I want you to have it.”

“Sir, I couldn’t possibly...” he protested, shaking his head some more. He couldn’t really believe that the Mayor would just throw away an expensive vehicle like that. And give it to him, no less. It wasn’t as if he deserved to have it. Sure he worked his ass off, but he wasn’t the best and he wasn’t the type to have a ride like the Bentley. He was much more comfortable with his old truck. It suited him down to a tee.

Then again, the Mayor was offering. But, it was doing his head in. Zacky kept shaking his head.

“I can’t take it, sir.”

Elliott gave him a tired look as he said, “Well, I don’t want it. I will just leave it here; you can do what you want with it.”

Zacky scowled, rubbing at a grease stain on his cheek. “Well, thanks. I guess.”

He peered up at the vehicle of mention. The bulk of it was hanging above them looking a complete wreck. He could still fix it at least. Decide what to do with it afterward.

He glanced back at the Mayor, a thought coming to him. “How did you get here?”

“BMW. It’s on loan from the Council,” the Mayor said. “It’s a nice ride. I might get myself one.” He smiled as he added, “Anyway, I could have the Bentley signed over to you this morning. You’d have to come down to the Council with me, though.”

The younger man stretched, frowning a little his gaze moving around the shop. Other than the Bentley, he hadn’t really got much work over the past couple of months. He’d been seriously considering winding down, shutting up shop and getting out of town for a bit. Maybe try and convince the others to go with him. Of course, it probably was highly unlikely to happen, but the gist of it was that he didn’t have much work, so he couldn’t really turn down Elliott’s offer.

Shrugging, he sighed. “Fine, not like anyone’s gonna miss me.”

The Mayor lifted his eyebrows. “Your brother not here today?”

Zacky rolled his eyes. “He caught a bug; don’t want him near me right now.”

Elliott laughed softly. “Very true. I try not to catch things like that.” He went quiet when he noticed the younger man didn’t seem all too interested in what he was saying. That was nothing new though.

The younger generation tended to not respond well to authority. They kept to themselves mostly, didn’t make a fuss, but they believed they had more important things to think about, like earning a crust, or hanging with friends. Not that the Mayor thought there was anything inherently wrong with that. It was just that as an older man, he wasn’t really cool in the eyes of these young men and women.

Going over to the counter, Zacky grabbed his wallet. “Well, I guess we should get this over with, then.”

Checking that all his tools were safely back where they belonged, Zacky turned and headed for the entrance, flicking switches as he passed them.

The Mayor followed him out, saying nothing more, waiting as the younger man locked up the shop.

* * * * *

Elliott pulled into his usual spot. Zacky leaned forward, squinting through the windscreen recognising a large figure leaning up against a vehicle close to the Mayor’s.

“Isn’t that the T-One?” Elliott asked, as he put the car in park.

Zacky nodded, his lips twisting in a sour smile. “Yeah it is. Wonder what he’s doing here?”

“His wife works for me. Maybe he dropped her off.”

Zacky lifted his shoulders in a noncommittal gesture, looking out the window again. Matthew hadn’t moved. His arms were crossed over his chest, his big body held tight, closed. Those ever present Aviators concealed his expression as well as if he’d been wearing a mask, and the leather jacket he wore gave him a tough, inapproachable air.

For a moment, Zacky wondered why his friend was so tense, but then he saw that Johnny was seated in the backseat of the SUV, still with that same blank look that he’d had the day before. Matt was obviously trying not to show how worried he was about the younger male. If he was indeed worried. Zacky shook his head at that thought. Of course Matthew was worried. He had to be. Judging by the way he had talked about Johnny the day before, he couldn’t be anything less.

Getting out of the car, Zacky pondered whether he should go over and ask Matt what he was doing, but the Mayor was waving him toward the building.

“Come on, we’d better do this so you can get back to the shop.”

Zacky paused, looking over at his friend. He still made no motion, not even lifting his head to look over toward them. If Matthew knew they were there, he wasn’t giving it away.

Sighing, Zacky turned and walked toward Elliott, hoping that when he came back out Matt would still be there.

* * * * *

As the door shut behind the Mayor and his friend, Matthew lifted his head. His eyes narrowed behind the safety of his shades. Then he shifted his gaze to Johnny who was watching him with cool eyes. He looked away again, thoughts roaming around his brain.

Seeing Zacky made him think on what he was planning to do that day. The request he’d made of Matt Berry. Maybe, just maybe he should involve someone else, other than Johnny. After all, Johnny was a criminal or at least was labelled as such by the authorities. He really wasn’t an appropriate accomplice in Matthew’s scheme. Someone he could trust, a true friend would be a better fit. Even if that friend was pissed beyond words with him.

Scowling, he turned slightly and tapped on the glass, pointing down with the other hand. Johnny evidently figured out what he meant because the window slid down with a soft hiss.

“What?” Johnny’s voice was hoarse. Considering he’d hardly spoken two words since waking that morning it wasn’t really all that surprising.

“I need to talk to Zacky. Stay here, okay?”

Johnny just gave him a look like it was totally unnecessary for him to say that.

Matthew sighed. “I...uh...won’t be long.”

The younger male shrugged, looking away. Again that was probably a pointless statement.

Matt observed him for a moment wondering not for the first time what was going on in his head. Then he turned and headed for the front of the Council building.

He hit the entrance mat, the double doors sliding open in front of him. Stepping through them, he cast his hidden stare across the reception area. An officious looking woman at the front desk noticed him and came around from behind it, approaching him. She stopped several feet from him a wary expression in her eyes.

Everything about her screamed extreme professional but she seemed anxious. This was no shock really. Being who he was, with the reputation that he had only those who knew him well were never nervous around him, and even they had their moments.

“Good morning, sir. How may I help you?” The secretary’s voice was crisp, and efficient.

Matthew smiled a little. “I just saw the Mayor coming in with the local mechanic. Do you know which way they went?”

“Yes, of course.” The secretary, Phillipa – her name was on the badge clipped to her blouse – pointed to the left of the desk. A corridor led off to a series of offices in the direction she indicated. “The Mayor’s office is that way, sir. Do you have an appointment?”

He gave a low chuckle. “I’m the TaskerOne. I don’t need an appointment to see the Mayor.”

That ruffled her feathers a little. “Oh, I...uh...I apologise, I thought- of course, go right ahead, sir.”

Matthew smiled at her fumble, but inclined his head in thanks before making his way to the corridor. Before he could head down it though, a familiar voice called to him.

“Matt?”

He swivelled around to see Val standing in the doorway of the office right next to the front desk. A curious expression flickered across her face.

“Hey,” he said, his lips twitching.

“What are you doing back here? I thought you said you were going to take Johnny to his parents?” Val asked, frowning at him.

That morning, he and Val had gotten into an argument over that. Matthew couldn’t see the benefit of taking Johnny to his olds’. His wife was adamant that it would do the younger man a world of good. He didn’t think they’d had such a heated argument in a long time. But then, it wasn’t as if they’d been in each other’s company long enough to blow up at each other.

Eventually, while he’d been trying to hustle Johnny out of the tent – which had been another sticking point for Valary – they’d come to an uneasy truce. Matt would take Johnny to his parents but only if Val promised to drop the subject and not mention it again. She’d agreed and had said nothing more about the conversation. Not even when he decided, after some thought, to drive her to work before heading off to the Seward’s.

Changing his plans last minute was a little difficult on Matthew, because he’d wanted to head to the Locker first thing that morning, but considering his whole routine had been turned on its head, anyway, one more change was no huge deal.

Matt grimaced. “I have to talk to Zack.”

“What? Then why come in here?”

“He’s here. With Elliott.”

Val tilted her head to the left. “Oh?”

“Yes. I have to ask him something.” Matthew turned, walking to her. He looked down into her face, his features tightening into a pained mask.

She looked up at him, anxiety passing in her eyes. “What question, Matt?”

He shook his head, lifting a hand to run his fingers across her cheek. “Nothing you need to worry about. I’ll come back later and tell you how it went with the Seward’s.”

Val grabbed his hand, squeezing it firmly. He leaned down, brushing his lips gently against hers. Then he stepped back, turned on his heel and walked away down the corridor.

If he had looked back, he would have seen his wife standing in the doorway with her fingers pressing at her lips. Would have seen the wistful expression in her eyes. But, he didn’t look back, his mind focussed.

He stalked down the corridor, his strides purposeful, his gaze fixed on his destination. The double doors that heralded the Mayor’s office were right down the end of the hall. He paused before them, wondering for a second what the Hell he thought he was doing.

Matthew knew when he asked Zacky the question that was on his mind, more a request than anything, it would definitely cause some issues. A lot of confusion in particular. But, he felt he had to do it. Somehow he knew it would go a long way to solving the rift that had appeared between him and his friends. He didn’t exactly know how, it was just a gut feeling. And from experience when he acted on a gut feeling, he had never been proven wrong.

He took several deep breaths, rubbing his hands together, adjusting his shades, focussing his mind on the task ahead. Then steeling himself, Matthew placed his palm against the heavy wooden door and pushed it open.
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PostSubject: Re: SHADOWS CREED - M Shadows/A7X Fic - R   

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