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29 October 2011 @ 08:56 pm
I should write on a time limit more often  

So, here's my too-complex-for-three-hours contribution to NaNoMaChines 2011, main event. Despite the length, which I don't know how happened, this is actually pretty condensed since the idea stretches over a longer period of time before and during Peace Walker, not to mention all the partial issues I didn't have time to delve into if I wanted this to retain any coherence. Cross-posted from mgs_slash.

Title: By Chance and by Design
Characters/Pairings: Kaz, Zero, Sigint, Para-Medic (Dr Clark), Big Boss; BB/Kaz, background BB/Zero
Rating: Slightly NSFW (passing references to violence and sex, not at the same time)
Word Count: ~3,700
Summary: Kaz's quest for a real fight takes him to Colombia, but he finds himself at the core of a conflict that spans the world instead.
Notes: This is based almost exclusively on PW since I don't have a whole translation of the accompanying drama CD (but if you know what's there, you might find a few nods to it). The exact sequence of events from when Kaz first meets BB in battle to his collaboration with Zero and the establishment of the MSF I took liberties with, as PW itself doesn't seem to give a fixed order. In this fic, Kaz is transgender (a man who was assigned female at birth). I tried not to twist canon to accommodate this, since part of the point of the story is that there's no reason to always assume every character we come across in the media will be cis. (I swear briefings like this or this only encourage the "alternative" interpretation.)
Keep in mind that this is a Metal Gear fic, so there are fucked-up elements that have nothing to do with Kaz's AU status in itself. (One thing that shouldn't have to be said: it's just his story, not a blueprint for every trans* experience.) Kaz's physical transition, when it happens, is Metal Gear Science that's about as faithful to IRL canon as the fact that the Patriots had human cloning in 1972. (I didn't dwell on it in detail anyway, since there already are tons of stories with trans* characters that will tell you everything about their genital configuration on the expense of everything else. Also, no time to write it in.)
Warnings: PW spoilers, including direct quotes in some scenes. Power dynamics galore.
Disclaimer: MGS belongs to Hideo Kojima & Konami.


Well, this was about the worst outcome he could have braced himself for.

A day into this whole stunt as well; brilliant. As Kaz's consciousness rushed back, he tried to flex his hands or stretch his arms, finding even such mundane tasks a challenge. He didn't try with his legs at all. His skin prickled at everything, whether or not he lay still. The pressure of the bandages alone was like a constant itch impossible to scratch, even though he knew he was far from any healing stage.

The worst outcome indeed. One bleary eye cracked open, taking in Kaz's surroundings. The hospital bed was off-white, bordering on grey, but the equipment was surprisingly good for an outfit in the middle of nowhere—unless they'd moved him somewhere else, somewhere he wouldn't be able to return from in his own footprints. Bastards.

Kaz's vision was still swimming when the creak of the door mercilessly kicked his hearing into gear. He tried to turn his head to look at the newcomer but, disoriented as he was, there wasn't much he managed to register. A bandana and a cigar (unlit?), together with a piercing gaze that seemed to lack something somewhere.

“Hey,” a voice rumbled in some semblance of greeting. “You put up a hell of a fight. Convincing, too. I never would have guessed.”

That last sentence triggered a visceral there it comes in Kaz's head, and he figured he'd have to start using his vocal cords as well. “What?” Speaking hurt him, but less than silence would. “You saw right. There was nothing to—” his chest heaved, “guess.”

If the newcomer gave any answer, it was a faintly muttered, “Is that so?” The visitor shuffled somewhere at Kaz's side in what might have been discomfort, though to Kaz's pain-addled mind it could have been any number of things.

“If you're here to point and laugh at me,” Kaz resumed, speaking slowly so as to give his body room for adjustment, “save 'self the trouble. Heard it all before.”

“What about the fact that I saved you?”

Kaz's voice was bitter. “For this. Yeah, you got me. Guess that gives you a lot of leverage, here.”

“Hey, I didn't know! You still don't really look like a—”

“A girl?” Somehow, it was marginally better if Kaz snatched the impetus for himself.

The stranger cleared his throat. “I thought you didn't want me to call you one.”

That gave Kaz pause. Usually, this was not how people reacted. That was among the reasons he took special care not to give himself away, if he had to use the language they did for it. To Kaz, it was just a fact that he was a man. Not even his name had been given to him with any presumption of gender: Kazuhira referred to a child of peace or, perhaps, a child who aspired for it. He was—or had been before this asshole wiped the floor with him, only to bring him back with zero advantage—fit enough to give any of the carefree men he met a run for their money. These things were matter-of-fact. Making sure strangers didn't know, didn't ask about his smooth, slightly-too-pretty face, was far easier than making explanations Kaz himself had long since ceased to need to hear. The blueprint for his body was something he'd learned to cope with for lack of an alternative.

This man seemed different from all those who would so easily brush him aside for some reason. Kaz would have felt touched.

Sadly, sweet talk didn't quite do it for him. “Why save me? You could've left me to die.”

The stranger seemed to hesitate, choosing his words. “You have spirit. You had your pride, but you could swallow it as well. It would've been a shame for you to die like that. If you were a girl, you'd remind me of someone.”

“You—” Kaz retorted, unmindful of his injuries only to feel them the more keenly the next second.

The man drew closer, stepping into Kaz's field of vision at the foot of the bed. “Talk when you get better. Do you even know where you are?”


“You'll be dealing with more than the doctors and you have nowhere to go. The rebels you were with are out of the picture. What are you planning to do, alone in Colombia while you recover from these wounds?”

Not knowing how to react, desperate to do something to make this uninvited guest shut up and stop stirring his fears, Kaz settled for a glare. The stranger lit his cigar as though it were the most natural thing to do at a sickbed and continued, “What I'm saying is, you could join me. I don't care what country you came from even if you do, and I'll call you whatever you like. I could just use some help soon.”

Kaz had regained his composure by now. “Well, forget it.” He could still talk business in Spanish; all he needed was to get back into shape. “This hurts a bit, but I'll get used to it.”

“You'll find your way around, then. Admirable. You might want to know you're risking all kinds of fun stuff if some ragtag guerilla group gets their hands on you, though.”

Kaz gave him the steadiest look he could muster, speaking through gritted teeth. “As you said, I have my pride.”

The man left, surprising him again.

In the end, Kaz was fine. He was discharged from the infirmary as soon as his condition was stable, doing his best to avoid the stranger who had picked that first worst day to bargain with him. Some difficulty arose with obtaining a fresh set of clothes that met his requirements, but Kaz hadn't wandered across continents to have his journey thwarted by humdrum necessities. With some money still left from his father's old sponsorship, his resolution was to go back to drifting.

That was when he got tracked down.

That was why he was now seated in a chair facing a gleaming office desk, staring into the face of a different stranger. He was silver-haired, projecting an aura of authority that contrasted in Kaz's mind with the previous one's casual but oddly commanding presence, and over one of his eyes stretched a scar. (Seeing this, Kaz belatedly realized that his hospital visitor had sported an eyepatch.) He spoke calmly and persuasively, his hair was slicked back; he looked in his fifties but at the same time older for some reason Kaz couldn't pinpoint. His entire demeanour was that of a leader who demands without having to ask.

Now, he was sliding a photo towards Kaz across the smooth surface of the desk, smoothness that brought out the wrinkles edging his hands. Then, the inevitable question: “Have you met this man recently?”

For better or for worse, Kaz's respect of authority had suffered far too many blows in the past to allow for a nice, non-confrontational response. “You obviously know the answer, so why lead me on?”

The man—Kaz decided he was an executive of some sort—was smiling now. “I was merely assessing your preparedness to cooperate, but it seems you are ahead of me. Let's focus on the mission, then.”

Kaz tensed. “Mission? I don't recall having a mission, least of all from someone I've just met.”

The rebuke was ignored. “Kazuhira Miller, am I right? Forgive the lack of a proper welcome.” A hand was stretched out that Kaz had no choice but to shake. “I only go by Zero or Cipher. It boils down to the same thing.”

Irritated, Kaz cut in, “And this is relevant how?”

“Patience.” Zero's countenance was unbelievably serene. “The man you met is a former associate of mine, known to the world of espionage as Big Boss. It has come to my attention that he expressed an interest in your company, but you refused.”

How do you know? “What of it?”

“You'll understand eventually.” Zero was also a mind-reader, it seemed. “If you did agree to join him, I could help you with something that seems to be weighing rather heavily on you. I would ask nothing in return save certain pieces of information and, of course, mutual confidentiality.”

Kaz had a sinking feeling that wasn't entirely unpleasant, though by all accounts it should have been. Here was this unknowable, offering him things he had barely admitted he wanted, things he had never thought he could have and conditioned himself not to mull over. He had already brought his body halfway to what he wanted it to look like—military training was good in that respect, though he'd never been allowed in combat officially, leading him to launch his private seeking of a battlefield without pointless rules. Considering anything beyond that had simply not been an option. Too many dark spots, too much red tape. Too much hostility, and inspections by strangers.

“You think I have years to sit around here, hoping you'll work a miracle or something?” he finally asked, half of him wanting to believe.

Zero studied him over folded hands. “Mister Miller, what do you think I can't do for you?”

It was so ridiculous Kaz had a hard time resisting laughter. “The red tape alone—”

“None here. A private doctor who answers to no one but myself, and she's the best in her field.”

That caught Kaz off-guard, all right. “Well, but the treatment isn't really—”

Yet Zero interrupted again, his speech an incongruous mix of rehearsed and honest to the last word. “My organization has accomplished more than the books we have filtered will tell you. The particulars of human sexual traits are tricky indeed, but you'll find no better expert than the one at my disposal. Still more importantly, we need no one's word to start the treatment but yours. You may be tired of the system, but the one I run here is unlike any you have known.”

“That,” Kaz's voice rang in his ears, “is the only thing I believe you.”

“Let us convince you of the rest,” said Zero, inviting ambiguity with every word.

“What do you want in return, then?”

If Zero's face could light up, it did now. “Ah, you truly are a businessman.” He pointed to the picture, hand moving with practised ease. “Jack—Big Boss—is a man I hold in the highest of regards. Unfortunately, I can no longer deal with him in person. You are to join his enterprise and report to me on certain matters of interest I will specify for you later. In exchange, my specialist will help you make your body into what you know it should be, as far as she is able. I assure you, she can do quite a lot.”

“No red tape,” Kaz mused.

“Indeed none. And better care.”

“What about my legal status? You can fix that, too?”

“Certainly. Though you will hardly need to worry, considering Jack hopes to build a military nation that will answer to no existing country. Were that to be merged with my network, your old legal information would simply cease to have any meaning. There will be three men for you to answer to.” Zero pointed Kaz's way, then to the photograph. “You, him, and myself. In ascending order.”

Kaz's knuckles had gone white where his hands were clenched into fists. “Understood.”

Zero's lips curved into a smirk, an eerie but not wholly unwelcoming expression. “And your name? Will you take any new one?”

“My name's Kazuhira. It means 'peace' in Japanese. At least...” It had meant that to Kaz's mother. It could mean anything to him.


“...and that's it. I won't have my fate decided by some family register.”

Dr Clark, as Kaz had found out she called herself, was observing him in that vaguely appraising but not threatening way of disinterested professionals. “All right,” she said, motioning for him to lie on his stomach. “Until now, this was just a routine exam, but let's get started on the part that counts. You're very physically fit, so you should respond well. This may hurt a little. Try to relax.”

Kaz swallowed down the retort of I almost got blown to bits my first day on the battlefield and did as instructed. He barely felt the needle go in.

“You're Kaz Miller, right?”

He looked up from the file he was reading; in time with Dr Clark attending to his treatment, Zero supplied him with information on Big Boss. Kaz had only heard of the organization's network administrator and apparent genius when it came to technology of any sort who, Kaz was told, still preferred to go by his first alias. SIGINT. That man stood in the doorway now, touching two fingers to the faded cap that was perched on his head in greeting.

Kaz returned the gesture, watching Sigint approach and sit down in the chair opposite. “Man, you don't look half bad,” said the visitor, clearly self-conscious around the topic. “From what the Major has been saying, you'd think they were rebuilding you from scratch. I keep telling him you're not a robot, but you know what he's like.”

“He seems interested,” Kaz concurred, then changed the subject. His voice was sliding deeper, settling there without much effort to make it so, and conversation with relative strangers was less taxing on his nerves thanks to it. “I wonder if that's how he gets people's loyalty—he acts interested in helping them, knowing they won't betray him out of gratitude.”

Taken aback as Sigint looked by the statement, he recovered quickly. “I suppose you could see it that way. Thing is, the Major did give me work in the early sixties when most places wouldn't even let me in the door. He hired Para-Medic—Clark—although women weren't in high positions often at the time, either. You can be cynical about it and say he does it for his own profit but, having known him for a while, I'm pretty sure the Major isn't as cold as you might assume. He believes people like us should get the same chances. And now...hell, we're doing more than most others.”

This was the first time Kaz had found himself prompted to consider the situation from that angle. “So you don't think he's bought your loyalty?”

“You're a businessman all right,” Sigint replied with a laugh. “If you have to put it in those terms, fair exchange is more like it. You help him out, and he helps you.”

“Sounds good.”

It did. No doubt there could be benefits, at least for some of them. And yet, mulling it over, Kaz couldn't help but wonder what Big Boss had done to break the agreement.

As the months rolled on at Cipher HQ, Kaz learned there were things one did not ask. He absorbed Zero's briefings and background information with his memory even as his body absorbed the effects of Clark's efforts, and the equilibrium proved hard to resist. He was in no run-of-the-mill organization, no ordinary hospital. In fact, he was increasingly certain that whatever this place was, it was the outer frontier of the world. So he accepted there were secrets, accepted how the others held onto the design with a kind of trust he couldn't fathom.

One evening in late '73, Zero came to see him, his face the mask of finality. “It is time,” he announced, “to stage your second chance encounter with Big Boss.”

Kaz didn't argue. His side of the deal, just as planned. “What are the specifics?”

“Jack is expanding his stronghold in Costa Rica. You will contact him there, but it must look as if he's the one persuading you to join him—you saw firsthand he needs to have his way. How you deal with him afterwards is up to you, but expect visitors in the second half of next year.” As Kaz committed all to memory, Zero carried on, “Your system has adjusted remarkably well, so you won't need to see Doctor Clark as often. When you do need to, we will set a rendezvous point so that you can get your treatment while I get the intelligence you have gathered.”

Realizing the catch—the snare he would be in—Kaz couldn't help but nod his assent. It was simply too late to complain. Too late to shatter that indefinable trust Zero established within his circle despite the opacity of his own motives.

“Sometimes,” Zero added, “I may need my share even when you don't need yours. When your enterprise with Jack is well established, it is likely we will communicate with greater frequency. We'll use the telephone in that case, so ensure your base of operations has one.”

Kaz nodded again, though there were still pieces that left him puzzled. “You think he'll just take me on board like that? Mind, last time he saw me I wasn't exactly nice to him. Not to mention I'll have to explain how come I'm suddenly me to everyone. I,” he paused, savouring the irony, “I'll need to explain to him why I don't need to give explanations to anyone else. Not anymore.”

For the first time during their acquaintance, Zero placed a hand on Kaz's shoulder. “Some of this story you'll have to fabricate. Nevertheless, take my word for this—Jack doesn't judge people by their background. That was one of the few points we never differed on.”

Some things, Kaz determined, were their own answer in the end.

And some things, it turned out, were easier than expected.

They had their mercenary business now. Kaz had played his part perfectly; he had performed so well that nothing short of fighting and nearly strangling him had satisfied Big Boss as to the efficacy of his recruitment. From there on, it had been up to Kaz to learn the ropes and keep his separate life with Cipher what it was: separate.

Big Boss was a force to be reckoned with. He didn't believe just anything, so Kaz chose his stories well, drawing upon everything Zero had shared with him. There was inequality: Kaz knew more than Big Boss was going to share, and he had to resist calling him Jack after the effortless manner Zero had used to refer to him during Kaz's stay at the headquarters. All the same, it didn't hurt to know some of Jack's secrets when Jack certainly knew one of his. A fact made secret by current necessity. To Kaz's luck, for all Big Boss's knowledge of battlefield medicine, he had never been interested in the details of procedures he couldn't use to patch himself up.

Kaz complied with the man's request to be called Snake. Kaz and Snake; they sounded like friends.

Before long, friends was what they were, though ones with loyalties in conflict. One night, they introduced benefits.

“Now you can tell me,” Kaz breathed into Snake's ear, restraining him by means of a chokehold, “if you thought you'd get to fuck me when we first met.”

A laugh, “That's what you think I jumped to? You sure don't have high expectations, Kaz.”

Kaz's hand crept down across skin, pulling fabric to the side. “Now? Think that's what we'll be doing?”

“You're all talk. Contribute some of your own ideas,” Snake shot back. “Surprise me.”

The next word Kaz spoke was muffled by the fingers in his mouth, understood even without clarity. As he lowered his hand to the fault-line in Snake's flesh, he felt a surge of appreciation he would never have guessed he'd entertain for someone who had tormented him in a hospital bed. He slid a finger in, then another, enjoying whatever reactions Snake allowed himself to show.

“Hope you're fine with this idea,” he said in a tone of conciliation, kissing the back of Snake's neck briefly.

The first thing he had relayed to Zero was that Snake did not forget. In fact, the precision of his memory was striking. He leaned against Kaz now, into the touch. “Hurts a little, but I'll get used to it.”

So they went on.

“It's me. Smoothly, naturally. No, Big Boss doesn't know the truth... No, Langley hasn't decided what to do yet. Their hands are full with their own mess.”

Loyalty was an unfathomable thing.

Kaz pressed the receiver to his ear, nodding habitually as Zero spoke. Some of that unspoken trust was being directed at him now, though he suspected the “news” was not as new as Zero was making it out to be. The pieces were finally clicking together. For a doctor who had accomplished human cloning, how hard could it have been to modify an existing human body in specific ways?

“Two already? Really... But they're strictly an insurance policy, yes? Hmm, so that's the idea. I wonder how Big Boss will respond...”

He had to rephrase this arrangement, even to himself. It wasn't hard to see how the Patriots, how Zero could be so captivated by Snake. Though Kaz had come into the bargain without any great attachment to the man he was to track, he felt one now. It riddled negotiation with pitfalls—some when it came to Zero, but more still when Kaz navigated the minefield of ramshackle diplomacy he'd had to spread out within himself.

“Yes. But I'm only interested in the business angle. Like I said before, I'm neither an enemy nor an ally. I'm merely a business partner. Don't forget it.”

A reminder to himself as much as a new boundary for Zero to honour. They dealt in all sorts of loyalty; loyalty had all sorts of origins. Meeting, diverging, unfathomable.

“I'll be in touch...my dear Zero.”

But no less real.

Half Woman, Half Biscuit: moralemissmonkeh on October 29th, 2011 07:20 pm (UTC)
“I only go by Zero or Cipher. It boils down to the same thing.”

AAAAGH. This is GENIUS. How can so many meanings exist within a single line of dialogue? Cipher/Zero, the shadow in the background. Cipher/Zero going behind Big Boss' back. Zero, so devoted to a man that he becomes Cipher just to get close to him again.

AND it can apply to Kaz's situation too. Whatever his official gender, it boils down to the same thing, the same person, the same heart.

See you later, instigator: Kaz Miller - peaceoudeteron on October 29th, 2011 08:09 pm (UTC)
YAAAY, I'm glad you picked up on it! This line = the result of my extensive Zero meta about the name(s) alone, trufax. And I think Zero's dialogue would be especially loaded since there's a lot he might not say, but that he kind of hopes Kaz will figure out.

Yes, what I was trying to get at is that Kaz in canon and Kaz in this version aren't actually different in any way that would supplant his personality. (That he keeps his original name in this story isn't common, but it seemed like something he would do since the meaning is so important to him in canon. And no gender markers in the name itself.)

FFF I JUST MIGHT. It's like this is its own headcanon at this point, and not even that divergent from the first one.