The first time he woke up after Pitfall, it was his father who pulled him into the fiercest hug he'd ever received.

There were no words, no awkward pat on the shoulder - just strong, warm and slightly trembling arms enveloping him, a grounding force to remind him that, yes, he was alive. He couldn't remember much because the medication still fucked his brain upside down, but he remembered gruff voice, fingers stroking his hair and murmurs so quiet it almost felt like those restless nights oceans away of him pitching in his parents' bed from a nightmare, almost a life time ago.

It was the first interaction of open affection he'd gotten from Herc after a decade and that, was the best feeling ever.

Few hours later Mako burst into his room, freshly discharged from her medical check-up. He thought it would be embarrassingly awkward; what with their unsteady friendship added with his angry outburst in front of Pentecost's office after Gipsy's trial. He was determined, though, to make up for it. Funny, because it took him a near-death experience to allow himself to take the chance. To start a fresh page.

But Mako, bless her, didn't give him anything less than a heart-achingly relieved smile, her eyes this shade of glassy and she had hugged him, kissed his forehead, murmuring you're alive, thank you, thank you, thank you.

He didn't deserve it, he knew. Here he was, lying on Ahe hospital bed after miraculously surviving an epic fight against alien version of water dinosaurs and a nuke at the bottom of the Pacific with just a broken leg (and fractured ribs plus other non-threatening injuries but that's beside the point), for all intents and purposes left his co-pilot to die, and she was grateful for him even when the sting of Pentecost's death was obviously visible in her movements, in the slight wince around her eyes and the ghost of strain in her smile. Mako was nothing but sincere, and all he could feel was warmth and immense relief shadowed with muted loss.

He had curled one arm around her small back, leaning his forehead against her shoulder. He didn't say anything, but he felt like a weight was lifted off his shoulders and it was the warmest hug he'd ever gotten.


He didn't see it coming, couldn't put the equations together as to why after Mako left, Raleigh Becket would have the patience to endure him in the med bay, but he found that he wasn't surprised either.

Raleigh was a man with a heart of gold and was so much more than the names he'd called Raleigh the day they met, and Chuck was starting to feel more than a grudging respect.

The process was smooth. One day Raleigh just knocked on his door, poked his head in and looked at him with those unassuming baby blues. He had grunted, neither welcoming nor inviting, but Raleigh had smiled, face lit up with an impossible thank God you're okay you son of a bitch, perched himself on the highly uncomfortable plastic chair beside his hospital bed and stayed.

They didn't talk, much. Raleigh would come in without as much as a greeting, flopped down on the chair beside Chuck's bed like he had every right to be there, then drowned himself in his hand-printed copy of World War II while Chuck would try to keep himself busy with the tablet Tendo had dropped in during one of his visits because, how the hell were you supposed to act towards this sudden truce with the person you'd antagonized since day one? He wasn't exactly well-known for being socially capable, and Becket didn't seem to expect anything from him, so he mostly stuck to the, not uncomfortable, silence.

It did surprise Chuck, however, undetermined days later when Raleigh was just stepping through the door to his room and he blurted, "I felt Pentecost died in my head."

It made Raleigh pause, eyes widening slightly as the door clicked close behind him. Chuck waited, not really knowing what reaction he was aiming for. Almost a month in each other's company and the first thing Chuck said was that he felt his co-pilot died in his head.

Then Raleigh smiled, achingly soft and so full of understanding, knowing and accepting and it was okay, I know, I felt my co-pilot died too before crossing the room and stood a foot away from the edge of Chuck's bed.

It hadn't taken much thought. Chuck reached out, fingers curling on the front of Raleigh's PPDC-issued sweater with his words halted at the tip of his tongue and he couldn't give voice to them. He couldn't, not when Becket's smile was blurred around the edges, the blue in his eyes were suddenly heavy with five years of mourning and they spoke more of the muted sadness that never seemed to leave.

His forehead collided with Raleigh's chest in a soft thump, a shaky sigh leaving his lips and it hit him then.

He could have died at the age of twenty one and there was only truth when he hissed out that he wanted to come back because I quite liked my life, no matter that he didn't have much planning of a future without Kaiju kills and Breach alarms jolting him awake at the most ungodly hour. Had hoped for a second chance as he deployed for the final drop to fix his relationship with his dad.

Had wished he was a better man as he nodded to Pentecost with his fingers on the detonation toggle.

The thoughts were immediately chased away when he felt arms coming around his shoulders, pulling him closer and the scent of snow and pine trees washed over him as he burrowed his nose into the soft fabric, bringing with them the sense of grief too deep for a man to bear and spilling cold February storm into his heart to accompany the name from a long lost half of Raleigh's soul.

But Raleigh held him close, his hands searing summer warmth through his gray t-shirt from a part of the world that Chuck had never visited and with a sigh that was breathed into his hair, Chuck thought this was the most comfortable hug he could ever have.