On Iris, at some point in time, Simmons closes his eyes, and when he opens them, he’s on Iris, at another point in time.
He knows when, though. This is where Grif would walk away, not even looking back as they called after him. Well, Sarge called after him. Simmons said nothing.
But something’s changed, there’s a rift in time that Simmons needs to fix, and he’s ready for the job.
“Who is the time-shredding fuck?” Simmons says and turns around to see Grif walk away.
He is, however, walking towards a ship.
With the others.
“I cannot wait to join you all on what will surely be an absolutely amazing adventure. Oh, how I love those,” Grif says loudly.
“He is the time-shredding fuck,” Simmons says and gulps.
The bigger part of him doesn’t want to be, but yet Simmons finds himself crossing the barren hills of Iris to catch up with Grif who is heading directly for the aircraft.
Simmons’ hand closes around his elbow and holds him back, keeps him here. “Grif.”
Grif doesn’t say anything in return, but he looks at him, visors so close they almost touch.
It’d been to save Grif the pain of regret that Simmons had decided to fix this paradox. That, and the fact that Grif was still gone, dealing with another point in the past. But Simmons had thought- He’d really thought that he could spare Grif like this.
No need to bring up bad memories.
Except… That is exactly what they are doing.
“Why are you coming along?” Simmons asks Grif.
In his surprise, Grif’s helmet pulls away from him. It takes some seconds before he answers. “Hey, when Wash says we head out in five, you know we head out in five, or he’ll be bitching about it the next time we-“
“No,” Simmons says, and his mouth is feeling very dry now. “Why are you going with us?”
“I, uh.” He can almost see Grif frown behind the visor. He knows too well how the dark eyebrows will knit together, curving towards eyes clouded with confusion. “I guess I want to? Not really sure why, though.”
“You don’t want to,” Simmons says without stuttering. He thinks of the extra training Wash gave them on Chorus, when he needed to make sure that they could truly fight, that they could kill. Kill and survive. That takes fast and hard blows, no hesitation. Quick, done, clean.
Simmons hadn’t been good at that. It’s easier, with the knife at least, when he’s angry. Wash had said not to feel too much, that it could make you hesitate. Right now, Simmons thinks he is right.
Quick, done, clean.
Get it over with.
“I mean, it wouldn’t be my first choice,” Grif admits gingerly. His head keeps turning towards the spaceship behind them. “Or second choice. You know the drill. Eat first, then sleep. This is something else. But we gotta do it, right?”
“You don’t have to do anything,” Simmons says. His own voice seems distant. “You’re not in the military anymore.”
“Right…” Now Grif is the one to stutter. His voice keeps fading as he struggles to find the words. “Right. That’s a… Huh. That’s a really good point.” He shakes his head, shifting the weight on his feet. “But it’s worth the trouble if we don’t get to deal with Caboose sobbing, right-“
“You can stay behind. It’s fine. We don’t care.” Simmons looks away, towards the empty bases, as he adds, “You’d be better off here, anyway.”
“Yeah, this place is pretty great.” A jolt goes through Grif’s body, and his head snaps towards Simmons. “Wait, are you staying?”
“No,” he says, voice cold and hard and steady. “I’m going out there to find Church.”
“Right.” Grif shifts again. “That sounds like it’s going to suck.”
It will. Simmons knows that oh so well.
Fuck irony, or whatever this is.
“Well, you don’t have to think about that. Because you don’t give a shit.” Before his hands can start shaking, he clenching them into fists. “You don’t want to find Church. You want to stay and- and play pretend and sleep and eat and do whatever you want, and you’re ready to leave me- I mean, us. You want to leave, and you’re a bad job of pretending you aren’t.”
“I wasn’t-“ He can hear Grif inhale, a moment of silence as he tries to collect his thoughts. “Or… I don’t think I was…” Grif presses a finger against his chest plate. Simmons can’t even feel it. “You’re the one fucking telling me to stay-“
“Because you’re selfish, Grif!” Simmons yells. He doesn’t mean to, but the words need to be forced out of his mouth. “Tucker’s right. You don’t care, and you don’t want this, and you are thinking about yourself right now, not Church. And that’s- that’s just fine. Do you. Stay here. But you don’t get to be a part of the team if you don’t want to.” Simmons closes his eyes and remembers: I don’t like you. Any of you. “Wouldn’t want you to feel bad, having to hang around us. It’s not like we’re forcing you to come, so- so the choice is yours and you made it, right? You want to stay.”
“Sure, I will!” Grif has raised his voice so it matches Simmons’. “Rather that than having to deal with your bitching. What the fuck is wrong with you-“
Oh, so many things.
“There’s nothing wrong with me!” Simmons says. “I’m not the one thinking I’m better than my team. I’d never quit, Grif, and you know that, but you thought about it- are thinking about it, and you want to, and you should do it. You don’t want to be here. Fine. We’d be better off without you.”
He waits for Grif to reply. He doesn’t.
He just stares at Simmons, visor oh so painfully blank, until Simmons has to turn his head and watch the sunset instead. The light makes his eyes hurt.
“Fuck you, Simmons,” Grif finally spits. “You’re right! That’s what you want to hear, right? You always get a kick out of that. Being right. Fuck yeah, I prefer this over- over-“
“Us,” Simmons finishes for him. And that- that had been what had hurt the most back then. To believe that Grif would choose something else over whatever they have when they’re together. “I get it. Fuck you, then.”
“Right.” Grif flips him off, and Simmons does not wince. “Have fun getting yourself killed without me.”
Simmons’ headache splits his skull. The back of his head tingles. “It’s not like you’d care,” he forces past his teeth.
The sun is gone now, swallowed by the waves. The final beams are light are reflected in Grif’s visor as he stares, and finally, they fade away. Grif tilts his head. “I don’t like you,” he says without missing a beat. “You know that, right?”
“Yeah,” Simmons says. “I do.”
And then Grif walks away.
Simmons doesn’t call for him.
And yet, the silence is broken.
“Stay with him,” Genkins’ voice whispers inside his head, the same way he must have urged Grif to stay. “Or tell him you do want him to come along, or he will hate you, like he still hates you for it.”
Low blows, Simmons thinks, dirty fighting. Lies, all of it. Of course, Genkins would be lying, that’s how he is, and Simmons shouldn’t listen to him even if-
“Fuck off,” he hisses, and there’s a cool sensation against his skull as the AI leaves.
Simmons only lingers for a moment, just to see Grif walking away from him - again. The sight hurts as much as the last time.
When Simmons opens his eyes, it’s still Iris, but there is no sign of a retreating Grif, and the sun is high on the sky.
It’s safe. Done job. Good job, me, he thinks, but it’s a weak comfort.
“Man, am I the only one with a headache? Memory-travelling sucks.”
Grif’s voice has him jumping on the spot, but a cool relief floods through him when he sees the other man without his helmet, showing off a smile so small so that Simmons only recognizes it through familiarity. It’s Grif’s smile, even if most say it doesn’t count. But Simmons takes what he can get from Grif.
“You got that right,” Simmons says, a nervous smile behind his visor.
“It’s like all the crazy that’s our life summarized in a concentrated pill that makes you go straight through the fucking looking glass. I wonder how normal people live. I think I’ve forgotten the concept. Normal. Did I mention I just blew up Tex?”
Grif actually sounds proud, and Simmons snorts. Some of the tension starts to leave his body, melting away.
“Now my balls are having phantom pain.” Grif’s grin freezes and his eyes dart around, checking if any of the others are near before he leans closer and says, “Hey, do you think Huggins is still mad at me? She said she wasn’t, but her irony skills aren’t on point yet. And I did fuck up big time. I’d be mad at me… Getting killed- or well, not really. But I thought… Still, she’s here, but. I don’t know. I just hope she still likes me after all this.”
Simmons still has a bitter taste in his mouth, caused by all the ugly things he’d been forced to say. The things Grif had said in return.
Simmons looks at Grif and says, “You’re forgiven.” He blinks, tearing himself out of memories – oh how ironic, given their situation. He coughs. “By her. I’m sure. She’d be loud about it if you weren’t.”
Relief fills Grif’s face, making it softer than before. His expressions are easier to read now, after all that happened on Iris when Simmons was gone.
“Oh, good,” he says, and that small smile is back again. “That’s one less thing to worry about.”
He turns, about to walk away.
Simmons inhales before calling out, “Hey, Grif?”
Grif’s warm eyes stare at him. “Yeah?”
Simmons has said so many things today – or, can he even use that term when time is broken? It feels like an eternity, and the guilt keeps sticking to him, making him want to ask for forgiveness, want to ask if Grif ever really had a voice telling him to stay.
“Do you…” he begins before the words just refuse to come out. So strange. It’d been easier to force out the sentences earlier. His breathing hitches before he finds a good way to continue. “-your balls still hurt? You might want to get that looked at.”
Grif winks at him, and Simmons sort of wants to die. Just a little. Maybe not.
“Nice to know you care about my balls, Simmons,” Grif says and turns away to be told which part of the timeline to fix next.
Simmons watches him go. “Yeah,” he says when no one can hear him. His shoulders slump. “I care.”