Stepping off the spaceship with the Tank, Private Michael J. Caboose was eager.
He wanted to do his best. Make an great first impression.
He would be stationed with this team for a long time and–well… basic hadn’t been the best… he didn’t make many… any friends, and he had the feeling that the other privates were happy that they weren’t stationed with him.
Mostly when the privates were talking and said they were glad they weren’t stationed with him…
But, this time it would be different. He would make a good impression and make best friends with everyone!
He walked off the ship, two soldiers in light blue and teal stood in front of him.
“Hello! I am Private Mi–”
Before he could finish there was an explosion of dark and light blue glitter.
“Hohohooooly shit!” The teal one laughed.
“What, the fuck?” The one in light blue ground out. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!”
Caboose’s heart fluttered. “I–I guess we’re soulmates!”
It took him a day to kill his soulmate.
His soulmate was mean… and kind of a jerk… but…
He KILLED his soulmate!
He flung himself on his bed pulling off his armor. He had never even got to see the glitter band–
But it was there! Light blue and dark blue glitter encircled his wrist. He bit his lip. But Church was DEAD. They buried him! And everyone knows when your soulmate dies the glitter falls off.
Tucker had to pull him away when he tried to dig up the body.
“Dude I told you he’s dead! Stop it!”
Maybe it was different when your soulmate becomes a ghost.
He couldn’t really concentrate on Church’s message about ‘Tex.’ He was too excited. He had another chance! And this time he would be better. He wouldn’t kill Church again, and he would get to know him, and be nice to him… maybe the meanness would wear off.
The explosion of Black and Blue was… unexpected.
“HOLY SHIT DUDE!!!” Tucker yelped. “Do you just have a glitter bomb hidden on your armour, cause you are NOT this guy’s soulmate right? I thought you were Church’s”
‘Tex’ tilted his head looking at Caboose.
“Uh… hi!” Caboose said nervously.
“No.” Tex said bluntly.
The black and blue band was just above the light and dark blue. Two soulmates… with the scary lady… he wasn’t entirely sure how to feel about that, especially just when him and ghost Church were clicking, but this was good! More than one soulmate. He was special. He had more than one friend, and that’s all he ever wanted, friends!
He ran his hand over the shining glitter on his wrist.
“I think you’re defective man.” Tucker declared.
Caboose certainly felt broken. The purple band for O’mally and the white for Gary or … Gamma or Wyoming… he wasn’t entirely sure about that one… but… they didn’t seem like soulmate material to him…
Especially since they kept trying to kill him…a lot.
But he still had Church, who had even given in to painting a glitter band on his robot body… while he was sleeping.
The blues went so well together and he felt happy. He had a best friend.
He lost his best friend.
Church said it was like a game, but it wasn’t a very fun game. Being at this new blue base at Mouse House wasn’t any fun. They were always inside, except when they were shooting, and they didn’t like it when you tried to talk to the Reds, and they didn’t like it if you accidently shot someone in the back.
They didn’t like ANYTHING.
They didn’t like him…
It was pretty boring tied up in the basement. He tried to imagine Church was with him, but it was never the same.
“Caboose, this here is Special Agent Washingto–”
Blue, grey, and yellow glitter exploded between them. Special Agent Washingtu(b)? Took a quick step back in surprise.
Principle Miller laughed uproariously.
“Well he’s DEFINITELY your problem now!”
“I don’t…understand,” Washingtub’s voice had gone higher, he was quickly pulling off the gauntlet of his left hand and pulling up his under suit.
Caboose stood stock still.
He didn’t just have one.
He had TWO.
Like Caboose!—Well Caboose had four–five now probably, but Wash had MORE THAN ONE!
He WASN’T broken… stupid Tucker. He didn’t know anything.
“That … doesn’t make any sense,” Washington muttered running a finger over the yellow, grey, and blue band above the white, grey, and yellow band that seemed to be… flanking off.
“We… must… be… FRIENDS!!” Caboose said in excitement. Maybe O’Malley and Tex and Gary didn’t make any sense, but Washingtub must, he must be a friend because he had TWO just like Caboose. It wasn’t broken it was special!
He KNEW Washington was good!
“CHURCH!!” Caboose cried happily. “DID YOU MISS ME!?”
“FUCK, I MISSED HIM!!”
“I KNOW YOU DID!!”
This was the best trip EVER (of all time). He got to be with Church and he got to know Agent Washington, who was mean and scary sometimes, but who was actually good probably.
“So… you painted your armor with the band?” Wash asked.
“Oh… yeah,” Church grumbled. “Caboose did that, it’s a bitch to get off armor so I haven’t been able to get rid of it.
“You two soulmates then?”
“Yep!” Caboose replied cheerfully.
“What about… the other ones?”
By now Caboose had shown him his other marks. Agent Washington was very curious about them.
“That’s Caboose’s thing, not mine,” Church replied quickly. “I just have the one,” which wasn’t true. Church didn’t have a body, but they weren’t telling Agent Washington that Church was a ghost, so it was okay.
“Oh…” Wash said. “… are you going to eat with your helmet on?”
“Not hungry, I’m just gonna sleep…” Church quickly retreated over to his sleeping bag.
“Who was your other soulmate Agent Washington?” Caboose asked.
Washington looked up, he had been clutching his left arm.
“An old friend…he’s… gone…”
“He’s far away?” Caboose asked. He must be very far away, unless he is a ghost too… that would make sense…
“Yeah,” Wash said. “Something like that. Finish dinner, we’re going to leave early tomorrow.”
“I’ll do it! I like meeting new people,” He said easily. Blue and green glitter exploded all around them.
“Oh for–he’s not even a person, he’s an AI!” Church shouted. “What the fuck is with you!?”
Agent Washington startled. “Delta is…” He shook his head. “We have other things to deal with.” He moved toward the purple lady.
“Soulmates?” Delta asked. “That doesn’t seem physically possible.”
Caboose looked at the new bands of glitter. There were a lot now, there was no clear skin left on his arm. One stood out to him. He ran his finger over it and looked at Wash.
“It’s the same as yours. It’s flaking. Does that mean–?”
His arm is itchy, but he has to keep driving, but Church’s body fell! It skidded in the dirt stripping the glitter off his arm. Why was his arm so itchy?
He sat alone in the base with Epsilon, his back pressed against the wall. His arm was really boring now. And itchy. And lonely.
There was still a band of yellow, grey, and blue left on his bicep, and the white, yellow and blue at his shoulder that kept flaking off, and a new ring of light blue and dark blue on his wrist. All the other colours were gone though.
“Oh well, it’s cause we’re best friends,” Caboose continued to Epsilon. “Agent Washington–” He pointed at the band of yellow, grey, and blue “–Said that. He said that I had so many soulmarks on account of me being Church’s best friend and… it turns out that lots of pieces of Church are around… were around… I think you’re the only one left. Except for the mean man… who… had lots of Church pieces, and Agent Washington, who has a piece of you in him… … … stupid Tucker–no never mind! He doesn’t matter. I should tell you about the Pirate Captain Sarge–or… or maybe the mean lady that’s your girlfriend–that I never called a cow– …she’s gone too… … … we’ll get you a new body, and if you want I can make a glitter band for you too considering we are soulmates and all… if that’s okay.” Caboose smiled knowing it was.
Church had a lot of things to do. There wasn’t much time to be best friends, and they ran into Tucker again, and the Reds. And the mean lady, and Agent Washington, and…
Agent Washington’s soulmate. Who was not so happy.
“Fuck man are you soulmates with him too? Maybe it’s people that wanna shoot you, that would make sense,” Tucker said noticing the Dark blue, grey, and yellow glitter on Wash’s arm as they switched off his armor.
There was no more flaky blue, white, and yellow, it had fallen off.
Calling Wash Church wasn’t on purpose, although sometimes it was accidentally on purpose. Most of the time, it was because of the light blue armor that matched his wrist. But sometimes…
Sometimes Agent Washington said Church things.
In the same way, or the same words Church would say it… and sometimes Caboose wanted him to say more things like that, and so he would call him Church.
It was bad, he knew Agent Washington did not like it. That it hurt being called Church. Because he was not Church.
But that fact hurt Caboose too. So maybe they were even.
“I’m sorry that you lost your friend.”
Wash looked up at him, he had been rubbing his left wrist.
“He had been gone a long time,” Wash answered quietly. “It was flaking off, even when he was alive.”
“But you wish it was still there anyway,” Caboose said.
“I’m sorry too Caboose. I gave him the choice but maybe I shouldn’t ha–”
“It’s okay, Church!” Caboose forced his cheerfulness turning before he could see Agent Washington’s flinch.
He was not a mean person, and being mean did not make him feel better.
He thought things would be better with Epsilon back again.
But there was always someone else. Or something else.
There was always unfinished things. All the Churches were always running towards the unfinished things, and Caboose didn’t mind, he wanted to help! He’d come with them and try to help them!
But… somehow… even if he tried to keep up, he was always left behind.
He watched Agent Washington stand on guard at the edge of the cave.
Agent Washington was like that too, he realized. He had been Epsilon’s best friend, even before Caboose… and he was Carolina’s friend, and the Mean man’s friend…
But he was here too, with Caboose, being left behind.
The others were all walking away. Church always yelled, but–
“You’re my problem! You’ve always been my problem! Each and every one of you, is just a problem, that I have to deal with, on a daily basis!”
Tucker walked off, and then the Reds.
Agent Washington waited. He did not leave.
Caboose bit his lip when he realized he was waiting for him. He wondered if Agent Washington would stay and help if Caboose stayed and helped, and realized he would, because they’re friends.
Caboose turned and walked off. Wash followed him.
Church could be left behind this time.
Church being in his mind felt good–although he was really really angry–but most of him was really happy too.
Caboose ran full tilt at all the robot ladies.
Hey, listen man… I’m… sorry… you were the one that helped me the most and I was … a jerk… I uh… you know I’m not Church… your Church. I sort of am… I don’t exactly know what I am, but–
“I know what you are,” Caboose answered. He pounded one of the Texes in the face with his gun, “You’re my soulmate!”
And everything was okay.
Except it wasn’t.
Church left. Again.
And it was one time too many.
Weren’t Soulmates supposed to complete each other? That was why it hurt when they were apart, so why did Church keep leaving?
But Church had never been complete.
So maybe Caboose wasn’t allowed to be complete either.
He carefully painted glitter around Freckle’s leg. He turned. Wash was watching him. He cheerfully waved. Freckles was so good. He wouldn’t leave. He was a good best friend.
“I should have been there for you Caboose, because that’s what friends do… that’s what soulmates do, I’m sorry.”
Agent Washington was not Church.
But he was Agent Washington, and they were friends, and sometimes Caboose forgot he had more than one Best Friend.
It was sort of stupid of him. He had two bands of glitter, not just one. Cause he was special.
He stared at his wrist.
“You say that a lot,” Caboose pointed out. “But lots of times it’s not your fault… sometimes it is.”
Wash nodded, “Yeah.”
“He wanted to save us,” Caboose said. “Everytime, Church just wants to save us.” He sighed sadly rubbing his blank wrist.
“I’m normal now,” Caboose said. “Just one left…”
“I know I’m not Church, I’m not… really your soulmate, but I’ll try, we’ll get through this.”
Wash always tried. Church never tried, but he didn’t really have to, because he was Church.
“You are though! You’re just as much a soulmate as him. And you stay!” Caboose said. “And…” Tears started to cloud his vision. “Thank you for staying.” He was shaking. Trying not to think what would happen if he lost the band of blue and yellow too.
“It’s–it’s okay!” Wash said awkwardly patting him on the back. Caboose pulled him into a hard hug, as if holding on now would prevent him from losing him later. Like Church, like Delta, Like Epsilon. Like the whole rainbow on his arm.
“Besides,” Caboose tried to speak normally, “Church is never Church either. He’s always different. He’ll be different again next time.”
“Caboose, I don’t think…” Wash couldn’t finish the sentence, changed his mind. “…lots of crazy things have happened… maybe he will.”
He figured, all he had to do was be close by, and the explosion of glitter would point them to exactly where Church was. The message narrowed things down after all. Tucker said it wasn’t his worse plan.
“He would understand something as simple as death.” kept echoing in his head.
Church always came back.
He ALWAYS came back.
And Agent Washington was always there when he left again.
But Church was still gone, and Wash was in danger, and he couldn’t fix it.
And the yellow, grey, and blue on his bicep had started flaking.
He had never been so angry. Not since he fought the Taxwoman and even then Church had been there to help him be angry, but this–
They had just gotten Wash back. He was going to be okay and they just–!!!
“YOU. HURT. MY. FRIEND!!” He shouted angrily clubbing the others soldiers.
He was still in the balcony when Locus hauled Wash over his shoulder and ran towards his ship.
He didn’t get to say goodbye.
He didn’t get to say goodbye… again.
“You okay man?”
They were in the ship on the way to save the day. To Earth. He had never been there, but heard it was a nice place. He wasn’t very excited though.
“Huh?” Caboose asked.
“You keep … rubbing your arm,” Tucker said.
Because he could feel glitter rubbing and he had to stop himself from taking off his armor and checking.
Wash would be okay. He would be okay. They would stop the bad man, and things could go back to normal. They would tell Wash about it after, and no one was going to die today.
“Best friends should be able to say goodbye,” Loco whispered. “Bye bye.”
“Bye,” Caboose said softly, shoulders sagging.
The machine flashed.
And Glitter exploded all around them.
Because it was Church.
Of course it was Church.
“Caboose! Pull him through!” Tucker shouted.
“No, Tucker…I… I know what I need to do.”
Loco was a good friend.
“Seriously what the fuck is happening right now? Is there something in the water? We already did the glitterbomb thing! This stuff doesn’t come off armor! I had to paint over it last time!”
He would be lying if he said that he didn’t want to grab his hand and pull him through, but if he did that, then he wouldn’t have gotten to know Church, and he wouldn’t have met everyone, and become friends with Carolina and the Reds and even Tucker. He wouldn’t have met Wash.
Everything was gonna be okay.
And it felt… better now… because he got to say goodbye.
As they left the secret base, he pulled off his gauntlet.
Around his wrist there was light blue and dark blue glitter.
Church was gone, but he wasn’t really. He smiled.
Everything was gonna be okay.