[Snakecentric][Some MGS4 spoilers] Three freeze-frames in a time-lapse existance.
You're surprised you're able to joke with her about everything that happened, and you do - tease her about the dogs, the uniform, her walk, everything, because you're liberated now and feel like you could do anything, maybe even get good box office reviews or a main role in the sequel, and you know it's mad and you know you haven't got any time left, that the disease is burning away, willing to strike at any time, but it's the perfect Hollywood ending as long as you don't think too hard about it.
That's why you're surprised when she asks, "How old are you?" and you tell her and she sounds almost disappointed; "Come on Snake, don't kid me..."
Later, you actually look at your reflection, which is strange because you'd gotten used to not having a face, and instantly decide that Liquid didn't look that bad and blame it on the cigarettes. They get blamed for everything, after all.
It's daytime, and you hate the lack of cover on these bridges, and if you could reach up into the sky and turn off the sun so you had some shadow, you would, but that's what exposed throats are for. The floor is littered with Gurlukovich ragdolls, eyes staring emptily up at the sky. You're not a religious man - nothing is more dangerous than a soldier with a god, so they kept gods well away from you - and yet you hope a little you'll see them again someday, whether you linger in this world like Liquid or escape to the one you came from like Raven. You've got one hell of a stay in Valhalla awaiting you, alright. The concept of Valhalla scares you, though - a world of eternal warfare, sounds too much like what he wanted.
He calls you at that moment. You like him; he's a likeable kid, tough as all hell, or at least as tough as gamers can be. He reminds you too much of what you were like when you were younger, and already you're thinking like an old man and tell yourself off for it, quickly. He babbles at you, nervously, trying to control his heartbeat, and you're as warm as you can bring yourself to be.
"So," he brags, "I'm pretty worried about the bombs, but I'm worried for you as well - after all, you haven't received my specialist training. Don't get me wrong, though," he continues, "you don't look bad for your age or anything."
You sigh. You gave him the cigarettes. If anyone here needed to add years to their face it was that kid, who didn't even look twenty-one.
"I mean," he carries on, "if I didn't know better, I'd say you were about fifty-five, not sixty-whatever-you-are." He laughs a little, and adds, "I hope I end up lookin' that good..."
You don't really have a lot to say to that. So you hang up.
It's night-time, and you notice in the mirror that your roots are a shade of dark blond too dirty and pale for comfort, more white and grey than colour. Disappointing, really. You thought you'd be able to hold out for longer than that, no matter how much time you're drowning in. Vainly, you realise that you're at least never going to go bald, and immediately follow it up with the thought - /I'm going to take after him/. You'll be gliding soundlessly in the long FOX-HOUND coat, all short beard and neat hair, eyepatch and scars the only hint you're anything special at all. You make a mental note to wear a different haircut to him, at least.
You vaguely consider touching the roots up, but then think /oh screw it/. Liquid isn't around any more - at least, not in the same body. Just like you, in a way. He hadn't been drowning as quickly as you were; if you'd both been left to your own devices he would have outlived you by at least twenty years. And yet he ended up losing more years than you would, leeching his remaining ones off someone else. You'd say it makes you think, but it doesn't really. People like him are parasites anyway, because they've managed to convince themselves it's the only way to live.
It might be some gene-forced family ties or something, but you almost feel sorry for him. Almost. You've hardened most of your sympathy out of yourself, anyway, and he's a lunatic incapable of any sort of reason. You've killed far more virtuous, far less dangerous people. For a second, you feel desperately lonely, and snap out of it. You're supposed to be alone, anyway. Soldiers have to stand proud, solitary, and they can't get to close to anyone else. You screwed up with Big Boss, you screwed up with Fox, you screwed up with Meryl, and only Raiden and Otacon haven't betrayed you, left you or forced you to kill them. It'll happen someday. You're sure of it.
For one last miserable, brooding moment - hell, even Otacon'd be snapping out of it about now, you feel more ridiculous the more you think about it - you touch the lines around your eyes, face, mouth. It only serves to confirm you're getting to old for this. They created you, and they weren't careful enough. The copy got blurred. The carbon paper peeled apart and cracked. Adenine, guanine, thymine and cytosine are swapping partners in an increasingly unstable, mutant dance. You're breaking, because they weren't smart enough to wait another thirty years before making you, when their technology was better, their techniques more refined, their understanding more whole.
But in some respects, you suppose you're lucky. Many soldiers never have the chance to find out what it's like to be old.