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Come on, Carolina

Chapter Text

“Hey, uh C? I have something you might wanna see.” Wash poked his head up from the other side of the filing cabinet gesturing to the drawer in front of him.

“Is it a lead on where Mass could’ve gone?” They were searching the last known location of the former agent Massachusetts trying to find a clue as to where the rest of the Freelancers had vanished to. Massachusetts was not an organized person. It seemed that they had kept every single hard drive, notebook data-chip and lunch receipt from their time as a freelancer. No wonder they were never trusted with higher level secrets.

“... Noooot exactly.” Wash held up a data chip from the drawer. It was a little older than the average chip and had a hot pink sticky note pasted to the front reading “For Carolina???? (Isn’t she dead??)”

“Is it... a trap?” She wondered aloud. “Why would Mass have that? Why would they keep it? Where did it come from?”

“We could find out? Maybe they wrote it down somewhere?” He said digging through the rest of the drawer. “Aha!” He produced an ancient laptop and a USB chip reader. “We can plug this in and see what happens!”

It took a while to boot up the old thing, find a power cord for it, guess Massachusetts’s password (it was “p455w0rD” and written on a sticky note stuck on the underside of the desk), but eventually they had the file open. There was a text file titled “Label” and a folder titled “Delta and Carolina’s Shit” on the chip. Wash cut a questioning look at the agent on question.

“I have no idea what it could be.” She opened the text file.

«Yo this is the data file Delta sent to like. Most of us? To hold onto for Carolina he said. I dunno what it is but I’m too scared of her and like York too much to open it so I will just hold onto it until I get a memo from Delta to do something with it. Wonder why it wasn't for Wash... EDIT: so like. Carolina killed York and then Maine threw her off a cliff? The official statements say they died in the line of duty but Freelancer gossip has always been more reliable and states otherwise. I’m gonna keep this tho. I dunno why. I just. I know he sent it for a reason and i dunno if I can bear to trash it yet. I’m not gonna open it, even though it’s not like they’d know. Seems disrespectful. Maybe someday I’ll give it to a new Carolina or some shit.»

“Delta? Why would Delta send a data file for you to everyone? Why did Delta have this file? What’s on it?” Wash looked at Carolina who was staring at the screen as if the disk had a ghost stored instead of some files.

“I don’t. I don’t know what it could possibly be.”

“Did Delta leave a message? Should we open the file?”

“Yes. Let’s... lets do that!” She tried to sound sure but ended up sounding alarmed.

The “Delta and Carolina’s Shit” folder contained two files. Another text file entitled “Agent Carolina- Read me” and a folder entitled “Memories”.

“So should we listen to Delta?”

“Yes.”

«Agent Carolina- Things in the near future seem uncertain, even to me. York is very worried about you. He has strong emotional attachments to you even after recent events. I am not much one for hope or sentiment, but he is. He has a collection of files with great sentimental value. He cannot, or perhaps just will not, share them with you. I know that if anything happens to him it is statistically probable that these files will be wiped. Perhaps I am growing sentimental, but I do not feel that such a fate would be advisable for these files. I am sending backups of these files to you in the hopes of preserving them. Statistically one of the 30 agents I have chosen to receive these files will hold on to them. And given your history of tenacity it is highly likely that you will retrieve them somehow. I never thought myself very nostalgic, but perhaps York is rubbing off on me because this file certainly is. Good luck, not that you have ever needed it. -Delta»

“Well shit.” Wash said looking over to Carolina. He worried about how a message from their late boyfriend would affect her, how he could break her even now. Her hands gripped the edge of the chair, denting the metal with her strength as she reached the end. There was a tense moment of stillness before she suddenly surged forward to click out of the files and eject the chip, which she snatched out of the reader and immediately shoved into a secure pocket under her armor. 

“We should ah. We should keep looking for clues as to where Massachusetts has gone.”

“Okay.”

Chapter Text

   As always seemed to happen in Carolina’s life, shit got in the way. They had missing Freelancers and other reds and blues to deal with. They had to deal with the fucking reporter and the creature coming for Tucker. Fucking time travel and doppelgängers and side-quests galore. She didn’t have any time to give the chip the attention it truly deserved. And then she did.


              One day, all of the sudden. It seemed like life had become simple and still again, like it hadn’t in so long. They lived in a mostly abandoned canyon in a handful of bases and practiced sustainable farming and lived lives as normal as any space marines who’d been heroes and galaxy savers and war criminals and then heroes again could be. And she had time. So she sat alone in her room and put the chip into a slot on her helmet.


                 She reread Mass’s note. She reread Delta’s message. She opened the file. Turns out, surprise surprise, York was very sentimental. The folder of “Memories” contained a lot of things to sort through. At first, Carolina was overwhelmed. So much shit from her past filed away in the kind of organized chaos only York could create. So she did what she thought was best, and started at the beginning.


                A digital scrapbook of early freelancer memories. Group photos and early leaderboard rankings. Him and Wash beaming at her the first time she came out on top. Bright smiles and shiny armor. All of the Freelancers getting to know each other. Their relationships slowly developing before her eyes. Her relationship with her boys, the progression obvious even in these old photos. It got a little rougher from there. Written accounts of early missions. Saved obituaries of early fatalities. Dirty limericks and an abundance of silly jokes specifically written to fuck with Wyoming. Another scrapbook a little less organized. Scratched armor and weary smiles littered the pages. The labels became less formal and more shorthand. No more “me and the other freelancers (left to right North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, me, Carolina) celebrating a job well done” and a lot of “this bitch kicked me so hard in the training room I landed in the mess hall”.


             And then “uncensored brain logs”. She remembered those. When they first prepared for A.I. implantation they had to keep track of the kinds of thoughts they tended to have the most and the way their thought patterns work. Somewhere between scientific observation and journaling. York joked that he couldn’t write about wanting to get into all the other freelancers’ armor all the time, and that his logs were incredibly censored. Wash wanted to know what kinds of things he felt he had to hide from the director. Carolina always thought perhaps the frequency with which York fucked the Director’s daughter should probably stay out of the reports,  but she never said that aloud. These were logs just filled with things they should never tell the Director. Not just salacious things. He wrote about the fact that he thought the director’s accent made him sound like if Colonel Sanders were constipated. And kind of a dick. Silly human moments and perspectives of other Freelancers. Things that meant nothing, a stumble, a word flub. Things that were endlessly hilarious to them, but would have been viewed as a weakness by the higher ups. He wrote about how scared he was that they didn’t know everything.


              But mostly he wrote about his friends and lovers. He talked about his worries and his love and how much he hated the way they were pitted against each other. How it made him scared of what to come and changed people he loved into more frightened angrier versions of themselves and ruined the happy camaraderie they claimed to value. He wrote about love and compassion and loss and fear. And sex with Wash and Carolina. Lots of sex with Wash and Carolina.  But mostly it was deep and emotional. Carolina took a lot of breaks while reading these logs. It was a lot to take in, but ultimately, she pushed on.


          There were only two files left. She felt desperate to stop, to not let it end. As if finishing these files would mean York dying all over again. She wanted to pause. To draw it out longer so he wouldn’t be gone so soon. But Delta had wanted her to find them. He had gone to all these lengths to make sure she would read these files. These were important to York and it would feel wrong to leave them sitting unviewed after all they’d been through. She was also insanely curious.


          A file from just before Tex showed up was the second to last file. “Please?.ppt” She opened it and immediately an image of her, Wash and York appeared, along with the title “Why the Three of Us Should Fuck the Freelancer Rules and Get Married: A PowerPoint by your soon to be fiancé, York” If Carolina hadn’t been teary-eyed before this would have pushed her over the edge. This, more than anything else made her want to show the files to Wash.

          Why hadn’t he gotten this? Hadn’t he been more likely to stay alive and loyal? Wasn’t he always a better fit for York? Wouldn’t he have appreciated the sentimental value of these files more than her? What made her deserving of all this love from someone as wonderful as York? But she couldn’t show Wash. He’d moved on. He was happy with Tucker, but what they had was still new. She couldn’t bust in on that. An ex-girlfriend bringing along scrapbooks and PowerPoints from their dead ex-boyfriend to dredge up their past love from a lifetime ago.

            So she watched the slides on her own. Keeping it together. Mostly. The points ranged from “fuck the rules” to “please?” to “I love you guys and I wanna make sure no matter what happens we are all legally tied to one another” and “three people can get married in this galaxy now.” It was a good PowerPoint. He had never shown it to them. He was right not to. She would’ve said no. Her career was too important. Being the best means no real attachments. She thought if he was here now, presenting it to her after all she’d been through with the Reds and Blues and all, that she’d probably say yes. But he wasn’t. York was dead. Wash was with Tucker. And she was alone in her bunk with one file left.


             “ComeOnCarolina.mp9”

Chapter Text

The video began with a guitar riff and very close footage of York’s hands playing his guitar. It then cut to Wash and York doing a choreographed dance as York smiled at the camera and sang the lead and Wash sang backup. It was clear they put a lot of time and energy into the song and dance. And plenty of effort into the filming. And then edited in what looked like an ancient version of iMovie. There were lots of transitions and them singing and dancing. Wash doing silly steps. York playing instruments she didn’t know he played. They also cut to training room footage of her. And still images of the three of them. Slow zooms on their faces, instant replays of good moves in the training room. Bright lights and slideshow transitions. Crazy angles and lots of dancing. It was everything she’d expect from a music video made by them.


         The song was another story. York (and Wash) on the recording begged her to stop training and spend time with him, as he had often done in real life. He called her a bitch, as he had done teasingly and lovingly so many times when she had beaten him in combat. Or stolen his fries in the mess. Or short-sheeted his bunk when he asked her to wash his sheets. Or teased him for too long in the bedroom. Or when she had hurt Wash’s feelings by saying something that crossed a line during a fight. That time he had meant it. And it had hurt.


          But most of the time it was a joke. She was a bitch. But someone in the relationship had to be and it wasn’t going to be either of them. And if anyone else had called her a bitch Wash and York were on them. Carolina remembered one of the only times Wash had successfully beaten South in the ring was when her trash talk targeted her and York. He had knocked her unconscious in a matter of seconds. He was never able to recreate those results.


           York called her a bitch. He asked her to stop training so hard and spend time with her. Those were things she had known him to do. But he also got a lot deeper than he usually did. Silly date ideas she was used to. But... Tex did always get the best of her. In her defense, an A.I. super-soldier created by her father based on the memories of her mother was not something she should be expected to beat in a fight. And more importantly she had made it hard for him and Wash to love her. She had been hard to love. She had cared more about some stupid leaderboard than her two amazing boyfriends.


           After the video were the typical iMovie credits which informed her that York had written and performed the song as well as edited the video, while Wash had choreographed, sung backup and worked the camera. And then there was a blooper reel. 10 minutes of Wash and York, happy, unbroken by the world. They flubbed lines. They tripped and fell and fucked up the dance. They burst out laughing. York forgot his own lyrics while Wash stumbled through his own choreography. The York and Wash on screen were clumsy and dumb and laughing like children. The blooper reel was incredible. Carolina started the whole video over again.


          On the first listen through Carolina had missed things. For instance the jokes about babies with green eyes (accompanied by a picture of her gradually zoomed in until just a single eye was in the frame), and rings (accompanied by a bad photoshop of her proposing to her boys), but under those silly spoofs she could feel his real true feelings. She knew he thought about maybe, after everything settled down, retiring and having a calm life. Maybe he had wanted them to someday have a calm domestic life. Marriage, kids. She knew he wanted them to get married. She had seen the PowerPoint. Why should the babies with green eyes be any different. She looped the video.


          On the eighth or ninth play of the song she noticed how hard she was crying. She watched it in her helmet over and over and just. Cried. Like she never had. Not when she gave up her AI, not when she lost York, not when she’d almost died time and time again. She hadn’t even cried when Epsilon sacrificed himself and she lost the last bits of Project Freelancer and her family. But this made her sob. They had been happy and carefree for a while. They had just wanted to have fun with her. And she didn’t even given them that.


            Eventually, she had things to do, so she paused the video, dried her tears, and got shit done. A little less present than before. Where once she pored over research again and again, she now skimmed it before passing it along without taking in anything but the essentials. Her attempts to get the rest of the base to eat more vegetables were lost as she blindly shoveled whatever was being served for dinner into her mouth. No more hours were spent patiently going over the same books again and again, instead Carolina just sent Caboose sparknotes of the books he was supposed to read for book club. Everything she did became quicker and more efficient, the least amount of time and effort spent away from what truly mattered to her. It was easy not to care, not to notice off the training field.

Sparring Tucker she overestimated him. Or underestimated her strength. She expected him to block, to duck, to tense his muscles the way he should when being hit. Why didn’t he block her? Why didn’t he dodge? She was sparring a soldier, not Caboose. But either way, she accidentally hit him harder than she normally would. His stance was off. Or he was too light. Or she just hit him way too hard. But he went flying directly into a boulder off to the side. Maybe a little too close to where they were training. The impact with the rock knocked him unconscious. Why didn’t he have his helmet secured? Didn’t he know that head injuries could be serious and anything can happen during training. Maybe she shouldn’t have hit that hard. His helmet was unsecured. Maybe she should’ve been on him about his helmet. But he wasn’t a child. He should take care of his own goddamned helmet. And now he was unconscious.

Wash was by his side in an instant. While he checked up on Tucker’s vitals he asked her what the fuck was wrong with her. His voice was loud and shrill. “Tucker’s not a Freelancer.” he shrieked, as if that could change the past. "He’s not Tex, for fucks sake, and he’s definitely not their enemy. Jesus Christ what the fuck C.”

            But she hardly heard him. She was already drifting away from the sparring ground. Craving something she couldn’t put her finger on. She left without making sure Tucker was okay, he would’ve been if he’d ducked, or secured his helmet. She found herself in her bunk pulling up the video without thinking about it. Watching footage of her slamming North with almost full strength only to be thrown back as he stood his ground and retaliated just as hard. She listened to Wash and York call her a bitch and tell her she was hard to love. She watched what were once her loving boys hold hands and step and rock and attempt spins in time with the music.

            Days passed where all she could think about was getting back to the files, to the videos. As time went on she made more and more time to be alone in her room. And anytime she was, she watched the video over and over, crying in her helmet so no one would see her. She didn’t go on watches. She didn’t go to movie nights. She didn’t go with Caboose when he said he had a lead on a new friend and needed her for backup. She didn’t listen when Wash pounded on her door and lectured her about he couldn’t be the only adult here. She definitely didn’t open her door when Doc came by trying to insist that she needed a checkup.

             She tried to pretend she was okay. She went to the mess and did dinner duty, ignoring concerned glances and pestering questions. She sat and pretended to listen to Sarge’s speeches. She avoided any and all conversations. She saw Kaikaina out of the corner of her eye and for a moment imagined she was someone else who wore yellow armor and flirted with her incessantly. She watched Wash’s feet and remembered the way he’d tripped over himself in the video and the bloopers. When watching Grif and Tucker try to teach Caboose how to play a game on the Xbox 3000, all she could imagine was York. In her mind’s eye she saw him lying on the couch in the base like he had lain in the video, in a way she assumed he thought was suggestive with just 2 old Xbox controllers strategically placed and no clothes. Had Wash taken the picture? Had he thought it was a good idea? She drifted away from their invitations to play Mario Kart 278 towards her room.

A few days later, as everyone excitedly got ready for an event to honor them as hero’s on chorus, she feigned sick and said she would watch over base. A month ago she had been excited at the opportunity to go places and meet people and leave the canyon without anyone being in danger. Now she didn’t care, she didn’t want to go with her friends as they boarded the spacecraft in their nicest armour. She didn’t go with them for safety or make sure they were all armed just in case. Instead she sat on her bunk watching dance moves she’d all but memorized and analyzing every line of the song, and every file in the folder. She watched. Looking, hoping, praying, for some little tidbit of York she was missing. Something that could connect her with her lost love as much as the song.


        And then, one day, a loud crash yanked her out of her immersion in the video. Caboose had borrowed a rocket launcher. She startled and then went to start the video again only to notice that she hadn’t checked on Caboose. She should make sure he was okay, shouldn’t she? She moved to check on him only to fall over. Her legs were uncooperative as she tried to stand. How long had she been sitting here lost in her own helmet. Looking around she saw heaps of trash. She noticed a strong odor coming from inside her armour. How long had it been since she had last cleaned and showered?

           What the fuck had gotten into her? This was not a healthy way to spend her time. Who the fuck would spend this much time watching a video over and over at the expense of their health? And then she realized. She was acting just like her father. And that just killed her. She couldn’t be him. A sad broken once powerful person replaying video of past loves and crying in an empty room. She didn't want to end up going as far as he did to get her mother back. She was scared and desperate and alone and lost. She was unsure and heartbroken. She could feel her obsessive personality taking over as her depression came back to root deeper than ever before. So she did what she always used to do.

            She went to Wash.

Chapter Text

  She pushed herself to her feet, only slowed down by her stiff body’s limitations. It felt like coming out of the freezer all over again. Except this time it wasn’t a nefarious plot which had wreaked havoc on her body, it was her own stupid choices. She limp stumbled out of her room. Past where Grif and Simmons were bickering about dishes in the mess, past where Caboose excitedly chatted with what appeared to be yet another sentient walking weapon on the couch in the lounge, past where Sister, Doc, and Donut were having tea in the garden, to the training field where Sarge ‘supervised’ Wash and Tucker’s sparring.


           She didn’t have it in her to care that walking into the ring while a freelancer and a wild card sparred was dangerous and stupid. She just stumbled right into the middle of them and let out a very pathetic plea to her old friend. “Wash. Wash I don’t, I can’t.”


          Wash disengaged instantly and whirled on her. “What the fuck, Carolina? What has gotten into you? You’re gone all the time and when you’re here you’re being destructive and careless. What is it now that is so important that you had to charge into a combat training situation. We all know that you’re sure enough of yourself that you can waltz in here without a scratch but you could’ve caused me or Tucker to get injured. Again. What is.... Carolina?”


        As Wash berated her for how fucking stupid she’d been. What a fuckup she was. How much she’d dragged them all down. She’d fumbled to remove her helmet with aching shaking hands, not caring that Tucker and Sarge would see her messy and crying. Shaking and exhausted. “Wash. Please,” She implored clumsy fingers tripping over the clasps to eject the chip from her helmet.


        Realizing what state she was in, Wash instinctively reached out to comfort her, to make sure she was alright. Instead of letting him hug her, or holding onto his arms for support, she shoved the chip into his outstretched hand. “Please Wash, just take it. Please. It should’ve gone to you, please take it.”


         “Okay.” He tucked it into a safe pocket in his armor and then, without hesitating scooped her up into his arms in a bridal carry. “Sorry guys training will have to wait. I have an old friend who needs my help.” Carolina protested and tried to squirm away but the exhaustion and soreness from holding still for weeks on end was finally becoming too much. And she had to admit, being held again was pretty nice. Wash carried her back into the base, past the barracks and into the largest bathroom.


           He very lovingly dumped her on the floor of the bathroom. “I’m going to help you with whatever this is. But first you need to take off your armor so I can make Grif and Simmons clean it and take a fucking shower because you smell worse than Georgia after he lost that bet with South.” Carolina stared. “C’mon. Strip”. She nearly cracked a smile.


           “Why am I getting the strangest sense of deja vu?”


           “Yeah, yeah, buy you dinner first. Come on, Carolina, let me help you.” She flinched at the phrasing but helped him unbuckle and pull of plates of armor until she stood there in filthy leggings and a sweat-stained T-shirt reading “I survived UNSC basic training” where someone (York) had crossed out the “UNSC basic training” and written “Sparring with Tex”. “Keep going. Those need to be fucking boiled or something because I know you won’t let me burn them.” She smiled half heartedly and continued to undress.


           In a different time, he would have stayed, but today once she was in a frankly disgusting sports bra and an old pair of, were those his boxers? Or had they been York’s, and then his, and now Carolina's, he pushed her into the shower, gently, and told her not to come out for an hour before leaving. Carolina followed her orders. It was easier that way. She washed her hair and scrubbed her skin and shaved because it would mean more time in the hot water smelling everyone’s soap and not having to move.


            Eventually she heard Wash in the bathroom outside the shower. “Hey, C, I brought you a towel and some clean clothes. Once you’re ready come into the mess?”


             “Okay.”


             “Do you mind if Doc sits with us for a bit just to make sure you’re alright?”


              “So long as it’s just Doc, and not also O’Malley, that works.”


             “I’ll see what I can do.”


              She wasn’t quite okay. But she was clean and calm and had people who loved her who could help her. She was going to be okay.

She dressed and walked into the Mess, where Donut seemed to be teaching Caboose and his new mechanical friend (she’d deal with that later) how to make grilled cheese and soup. Caboose had burned 3 slices of bread and a banana so far. She sat down at a table where Doc and Wash were talking quietly.


             “Hey there, Carolina! Do you mind if I give you a quick scan?”


             “Go for it, Doc.Thanks for looking out for me.”


             “That’s my job! I’m happy to do it. Looks like you’re a little sleep deprived and a little dehydrated and should eat something, but other than that you’ll be okay with a little rest.” An explosion sounded from behind Carolina but she didn’t look up. It would be fine. Probably.


             “Thanks, Doc.”


             “Agent Carolina!” Caboose bounded over to her and she turned back towards the kitchen. Behind Caboose his new friend was spraying fire extinguishers while Donut frantically tried to save the food from the foam and fire. “Agent Washington said that you were sick! And so I decided to make you soup because sick people need to eat soup! But Donut won’t let me in the kitchen without him so he and Smoky are helping!”


           “Thank you Caboose. Is Smoky your new friend?” She asked, feeling a smile creep onto her face.


           “Yes! I called him that because sometimes he is covered in smoke! He is very good at putting out fires! He is a good friend!” In the background Smoky was indeed successful at putting out the fires and Donut had salvaged some of the sandwiches and the soup.


           “He seems like it.”  Donut and Smoky carried over some sandwiches and bowls of soup and set them on the table.


           “Hello Carolina! I’m so glad you’re no longer horizontal. Seeing you laid flat was so disheartening! We threw together some tasty things for you to eat to help you get back on top!” He placed a plate with a sandwich and a bowl of soup in front of her, and she immediately dove in.


           Everyone chattered about what she’d missed while she was ‘sick’ and caught her up on the events in Chorus. Tucker, Kakaina, and the rest of the reds came in, grabbed food and joined in on the conversation. Soon Carolina had finished her sandwich and emptied two bowls of soup. She looked to Wash. “Did you look at it? Did you see it?”


          “No. I think you should be there. He left it for you.”


         “Alright, let's get on with it then.” She stood and cleared her dishes.


          “If you’ll all excuse us.” Wash slid his hand out of Tucker’s and joined her.

Chapter Text

Wash stared at the file list, scrolling all the way to the top and then all the way back down. “So. Where should we start?”


          “I went in chronological order and we saw how well that went.” She sighed and then opened up the scrapbooks from the beginning.


          “Is that- Oh wow. Delta wasn’t kidding when he said York had kept a lot of memories. Are they all like this?”


          “Some are. Most are a little more heartbreaking than that. I just. I thought I was done being crazy obsessive never leave the training room Carolina. I thought I had grown past that. I’ve met all these people and mellowed out but the second I was given a connection to the past I gave up on the present. I’m just like the fucking Director.” She clicked through the old memories faster and faster until she ran out of pages in the digital scrapbook. Wash put a hand on her shoulder.


           “Hey. Hey! Look at me, C. You’re nothing like your father. And if you were ever in danger of becoming like him you have all of us around you to look out for you. If you seemed like you were gonna be like that asshole we would stop you. We’ll keep you from losing yourself. But it’s okay to be a little sad and nostalgic. Now, can we see what other embarrassing pictures of me York felt the need to preserve forever?” He opened up the next scrapbook and laughed as the first picture (labeled “this asshole. He’s my new best friend”) showed Wash himself tripping over his own gun barrel and falling towards, if he recalls correctly, a pile of leftovers from fish casserole night that York had nudged towards him right before he tried to do his ‘cool fun flip trick.’ “I miss him too. I wanna see what he thought was worth saving.”


           They clicked through everything, Wash commentating on the past and reminiscing about their Freelancer days. Making connections between their old friends and new ones. Being nostalgic and caring about their fallen friends without getting lost in the grief. Carolina felt herself growing more and more okay with the past and the fact that it was the past. She had been happy. But it hadn’t always been that great. She’d been young and self destructive. Her friends were competitive to the point where most of them had died at one another’s hands. In another time. In another context, those friends would’ve been good for her, though she knows many bridges would’ve been burned with some of them in any competitive environment. And for Carolina, at least back then, the world was a competitive environment.


             They laughed and cried and reminisced and things were okay. And then there were two files left. Right before Wash could click on “please?.ppt” Carolina grabbed his arm to stop him. “Let’s uh. Save that one for last. It’s a lot.” The song had been the most important thing for her, but she had a feeling that the PowerPoint would impact him more strongly than a music video he’d helped make. She wanted him to have a few more minutes at laughing at silly things from his past before he was faced with what could have been.


             “Alrighty! ‘Come On, Carolina’... why does that sound familiar?” He opened the file and it started to play. As the now-familiar guitar riff started Wash’s eyes grew wide “oh my god. I’d completely forgotten!” He broke off with a laugh. Pausing the video until he got himself back under control. “I... cannot wait to see which of the stupid shit he kept in the final version.” For the whole song, Wash watched, completely delighted. He kept pausing to laugh and humming along as he started to remember the times singing and listening to the song.


             Right as the song got to the end, before the credits could roll, he restarted it. This time though he sang the harmonies and did small, sitting versions of the dance in his chair, laughing and poking Carolina’s side. For the first time, Carolina’s heart felt light listening to this song, the past and the present working together to remind her that she’s a bitch and made her loved ones’ lives difficult. But she also made them fun? They still had loved her. They’d had fun with her, and at her expense. They reminded her that it’s okay that she’s intense so long as she remembers what’s important. She laughed at Wash’s antics. He stood up and held his hand out to her “C’mon Carolina, have fun Carolina.” He invited her to dance. She shook her head and laughed as he danced around her, throwing looks at their old love on the screen. Things were happy and light.


          She pointed out the credits to him. “I feel like choreographer is putting it generously. Oh my god there’s bloopers. Oh heck. How much of the bloopers is me failing at my own dance moves?” He covered his face with his hands, either in shame or to smother laughter, it was unclear which.
          “It’s entirely comprised of your fuckups.” She deadpanned.


          “I don’t know if you’re kidding because it could be. But York messed up a lot too so it could be his mistakes.” He hit play. Immediately the Wash on the screen fell over and knocked York into a wall. “In my defense, what you can’t see was that he had left his armor on the floor and I kept tripping over it.”


          “Really? Did it magically disappear in all the shots of your feet?”


          “Shut up.”


          They continued like that. Wash commenting about how none of it was his fault, even though most of the time it was clearly on him, and Carolina teasing him and poking holes in his story. He would steadfastly defend himself, until the point where he tried to stand up to prove that he could do the whole dance without messing it up.


         “I bet I can do it better.” She rose to her feet and determinedly started the song over.


         “Oh boy, competitive Carolina back to knock me off my feet. On the dance floor.”


         “I will wipe the dance floor with you.” She grinned stretching and bouncing on her toes, determined to beat him.


         “You’re on Carolina. Good luck Carolina. You’ve always had two left feet!” He sang.


          “Yeah well one of these left feet could kick you without trying that hard.” She pounced on him, ticking him so he fell to the floor laughing, the dance-off forgotten.


          “Hello miss Carolina and agent Washington! Tucker sent me to find you and give you a message that... I forget. But I will tell him you are busy! See you later, have fun rolling around on the floor!” Caboose appeared in the doorway and then vanished before they could respond.


          “Oh. Uh. We should probably get back to our friends.” Wash said. Getting to his feet and holding a hand out to Carolina.


           “You’re right. But I think first we should look at the last file. You should really see it.” She sighed, sad that the lighthearted moment had passed.
            “Okay,” He opened the file.