Work Header

Nom de Guerre

Work Text:

They have acquired a larger portion of building than usual, a really lovely variation. Properly speaking it's a house, or a duplex, or something along those lines, but it's tiny and shared (spoilsport neighbours to bring it back to the land of the possible instead of a godsend like they really do deserve) and just not much of a difference from the recent faceless succession of hotel rooms. It smells less of antibacterial hand gel. That's something.

Everyone seems to greatly appreciate the difference in space, having beds and such. He doesn't see why, but he's not too prone to their use, so there is that distinction (which everyone complains about. They're so nonsensical for clever people).

It's four in the morning; the light stretches and bends like blue-grey rubber outside the windows it seemed for once safe enough to open. He sits on Nate's bed with a weighted thump and no particular reason; it was just the first one he came across (walked into, really; Colin's night vision is perfectly acceptable but his focus is not so much).

Colin rolls away from the sudden, startled punch Nate throws out, and clicks his tongue against his teeth disapprovingly.

"Shut up," Nate groans, indistinct, aimed chiefly at or through his arm and still-pristine rented bedding (bloodstains don't come for a while yet). "What do you want, Colin?"

"Well." He clicks his tongue again but approvingly this time, and because it felt pleasantly strange the first time, and because he hasn't slept in thirty-seven hours and he can do whatever he wants. He can always do whatever he wants. "I have determined that our ragged group now wants for, nay, demands—"

"English, Colin," Nate says, because he is a horrible monstrous spoilsport and possibly because he doesn't take kindly to being woken up. Colin's hands still in mid-air, in the middle of describing an arc like the bastard child of an aleph and the infinity sign. "It's late."

"Early," Colin corrects him, ruining the frozen shape with a sharp, cheerful correction, which boils down to pointing. Putting it like that would be inelegant, though.

"I just woke up," says Nate. "You woke me up. Against my will," he adds. Colin can barely see the chemical burns on his hands as he hauls himself upright, night vision or no. "Please find it in yourself to be more comprehensible."

Colin pauses and looks to an imaginary crowd by the morning-cast blue wall. For guidance, obviously. He isn't insane; they are by no means there. "We need a name," he explains.

Nate looks at him in a fashion most people would characterise as dead (but Colin knows that one, it looks back at him from mirrors and other people's glasses and windows when he encounters them and isn't speaking, Carson says, and he must trust in Carson always). It's actually a lot closer to tired; most people jump to conclusions. "Like what?"

To his disgrace, the perfect and clear idea Colin had earlier has fled and it did not even occur to him to write it down. He examines his hands in the half — not that, not even quarter, the eighth-light, just in case, and then despairs utterly (well, almost utterly. Well, somewhat. Well, barely at all); he is reduced to blurting out the first two words he thinks of.

They're quite ridiculous. Nate stares at him in wide-eyed earnest, then falls back against the bed and folds a pillow against his ears as if that's enough to pretend Colin isn't there. "No," he says, muffled once again, "Happy Cactus is acutely, hideously incongruous and will strike fear into the hearts of exactly no one. Possibly negative anyone."

"But what if someone was—" Colin starts, hands in stuttering motion as he picks through brilliant threads, allergies or phobias or something else to defend himself with both in laughing awkward verbal sparring and against the very real panic that Nate will see this weakness, he'll finally notice, and—

"Colin," Nate says, "you're being ridiculous, it's I don't even know what in the morning, go to sleep. Pretend you're actually sane for a couple hours. I don't know, but make sure it involves getting off of here."

—And that is where he leaves it.


John, who everyone else refers to as Moen for a reason Colin cannot deduce, has acquired the table of the tiny sort-of dining room. This happens every time they have a flat surface and he has something to do; he turns to it like a flower to the sun and anything he possesses expands. There is a laptop in front of him, a flurry of handwritten and printed and stolen-scanned-photocopied-borrowed papers like an inky snowdrift arrayed around him in piles whose order or meaning Colin also cannot deduce. He's never had much of a head for mathematics, though, and it is probably involved.

The awareness that he could turn that into a pun tugs at his mind. Carson might if she was here and also telepathic but he's told he only has a sense of humour when — this is when Carson's being, she warns him, smiling, optimistic, and he thinks that is not fair — he's trying. Still, he thought of it. That's good, she'd say. (Stop picturing me in your head with these inevitable inaccuracies, you'll see me in a week, she'd say. But with less of his voice to it.)

He knows John is fantastic and invaluable and everything but that doesn't make what notes he can see not be gibberish. "We need a name," Colin tells him, more insistent this time (he has not slept for two days, now), leaning against the table.

"I suppose," John says, leaning down to pick up whatever Colin has knocked over. "Recognition, reputation, and so on. I'm sure you can supply another word. What were you thinking?"

Colin's mind produces something he's all but forgotten, hazy and so slow it's detestable, and to detest it comes slowly as well. It's a memory wrapped in lies and that's interesting. He shrugs and almost doesn't realise he's spoken.

"What." He speaks very slowly. Colin is not stupid and if this were not John he would be angry on principle. "What does Montana even have to do with anything?"

It is three in the afternoon and the light thinks its true calling in life was to be yellow molasses. It fills the room through the windows he himself opened earlier and makes Colin's eyes spark and sting behind glasses whose lenses probably need to be replaced.

"You're right, I suppose," he says, squinting.


The problem is that Colin is useless for this part. John is organised and clever, Chris can amuse himself, Nate is probably being helpful. Colin is like a weapon, he is a weapon, he's all but single-purpose and pointless otherwise; all they can do is direct him at something and step back. He is self-aware enough to realise this and himself enough to usually not care: yes, all of that is true, and? He's better at that part than almost anyone. They would be nothing without him, he thinks quietly, vicious, frayed. Tired and not sure why this is a good idea, being awake.

(Sometimes it still doesn't seem like enough, only being good at two things.)

Reading was an unsuccessful experiment. His brain feels scoured with steel wool and, worse, nothing will stick. It's five o'clock when Chris walks in, looking slightly more battered than when he left yesterday, bruises and dried blood that's probably not his. Colin pounces on him like a child and while Chris shouts out his surprise, one of his hands is out of commission, cradled against his chest, and he's easy to pinion.

"Using my hat against me?" he demands, furious and temporarily blind, "have you no honour at all?"

Chris makes fun of him in that manner very often. Colin lets him go. "Hi," he says, hands still, unadorned words almost completely alien to him. He cannot stop smiling. "Did you lose?"


"Good. Excellent. Fantastic," Colin says, the final word suppressed almost into a squeak as an oncoming badly-timed yawn makes his voice break. He steps around before Chris can decide to go do whatever he thinks is worth doing in the honoured company of himself and... his eyebrows. God but Colin's actually honestly verging on exhaustion here, which is rare. Still, everything can wait: he is currently a man on a mission.

His mission is not to watch Chris rearrange his hat but he can do that also. Colin is very smart and clever, he can multi-task.

"I have determined that we need a name," he says.

"Really." Chris looks at him oddly. Colin is long past the point of actually collecting the strange gazes that he acquires; the world is too generous with him but only in that one respect. "Like what?"

The words roll off his tongue with a comfortable, habitual flourish; apparently he picked up some of what he read after all. He doesn't realise for a moment that the way they felt in his mouth meant he was lilting, his hands raised, but he does wish he could get a better handle on his ideas, even if making things up on the spot is never particularly boring.

(On his left hand: so far this idea is his best. On his right: it's Chris he's talking to. Colin holds his right hand higher for a reason, more than just habit.)

"Clever, but inelegant." The words are like a judge's sentence would feel if in the latter case it ever actually mattered; Chris looks so grave he'd never be able to convince someone who actually knows him that it's not an act. "Are you even trying any more?"

That is simply unfair. Chris has been away for a day; how can he have been warned of Colin's current conceptual crusade? Colin admits temporary — always and only ever temporary, despite this new and substantial disadvantage — defeat, stands aside and lets Chris pass.

He checks on the outside world's continued existence as long as he's near the door. The sun is drifting bright and violent towards the horizon; the blue walls are losing their colour; Colin has been awake for a clean fifty hours and a messy handful of minutes and is beginning to resent it.


It takes until he thinks about it for Colin to realise that he very much wants the new girl — Jenny, he'll learn it, he will, she's theirs so she matters so he ought to know her name — to stay. It's odd because they're not even sure of what she can do yet, should do, will do. (Not going to the police or any of their childishly grudge-cradling other enemies would be a nice start. She went out with Nate today, unused to this vortex of quiet preparation in comparison to the storm she first encountered, or Colin would be more and immediately worried.)

He wants to keep her, and so he must be polite, and once she's back and has disengaged herself with grace from a strange, laughing argument with Nate about — either zucchini or soap, one or the other or something else entirely, Colin goes to her with his metaphorical hat in his literal hand. It makes an odd combination, he knows, but that's all right. It's perfectly fine. She only looks at him a little bit oddly when he doffs it to her and starts to explain.

Colin wants Jenny to stay, so he goes to her with an offering, held out graceful and elegant (see) like a rose or a song. A gift. His last idea, his latest, his best.

His judgement is, admittedly, perhaps a touch skewed. But she nods like she doesn't understand why he thought to ask her.

"Sure?" It's a question in her mouth and it shouldn't be; if anyone is clear on what Jenny is saying it should be Jenny. "Sounds good to me. Kind of catchy."

"Thank you," Colin says, his hands and eyes and smile involuntarily, honestly, joyously wide. He has been awake for fifty-two and a half hours and suddenly that is fine.


The rooms they have in this strange stunted creature that believes itself to be a house are bisected by a hallway and it is here (dark blue, open doors casting light instead of shadow) that Colin goes. He throws his head back like singing; he howls. Not incoherent, not pain, not anything bad: "Brethren! Comrades!" Colin shouts, and feels pleased with himself because that was a joke, "I have news!"

They filter out into the hall far too slowly, considering the thickness — or lack thereof — of and pertaining to these variably blue walls (the neighbours will complain again but Colin will truly never, ever care; they are not real people and they are not his so why would he?) and the limited amount of space. They are sullen or annoyed or tired or confused or ...bearded... but they are all looking at him and they are his and that is, and everything is, just fine.

"We're the Decemberists now," he tells them simply, and doesn't think to await commentary or, indeed, really wonder why everyone immediately looks at Jenny.

He doesn't care and he is tired and spinning, listing dizzily, and it is all entirely worth it. They have a name. Names are important. And Jenny chose it; he knew he was right about her. Of course he was; Colin is right about everything, usually. (He is sort of absentmindedly considering going and being right about lying down.)


"Why did you encourage him?"

"It's our own fault, I suppose. I didn't think to warn her when I told the rest of you."

"I'm sorry! I had no idea what to say, all right?"

"No, listen, it's fine."

"I'm not—"

"I just said, it's fine."

"All right. So."


"I guess we're the Decemberists now."

"So it would appear."

"Stop looking at me like that, guys, I said I was sorry."