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Chapter Text

"But you can’t trust me." 

Those words hurt, and in the years to follow that he had to analyze the situation and debate what he could have done better to make her see the fact that she was incredible, and someone who he trusted completely and utterly to take care of him and to make the right decisions and that she didn’t have to live up to the ideals of the Father who’d never told her that she was good enough as she was, that she was incredible and amazing and someone who he’d loved and truly did trust.

Maybe if he’d spoken to her after Tex had told him what she knew and requested his help she would have came with them, and she’d still be alive and he wouldn’t have been forced to see her die like she did, injured and unable to cross the distance and barely able to escape on his own. 

At times he was angry at the Director. Angry at the man who’d pushed his own daughter away until she thought that she was the one who couldn’t be trusted, and that her own feelings and impressions weren’t worthwhile and if someone trusted her, then they shouldn’t be doing so. 

Anger didn’t keep him full. Anger didn’t help him to survive, and as Delta was sure to remind him, Agent Carolina was dead, and any encounter with the Director now would certainly end with his death, or other events that would erase what was left of him, so he stayed alone. He didn’t try to hunt them down. He didn’t go after Wash or North, who he would have trusted. 

He went willingly to his death when she—Texas— came. 

And when Carolina pauses long enough to listen to the other records that Epsilon remembers from Delta she’s angry again, furious at herself and the man who she vowed never again to call father, that she could have been as blind as she was, and she vows to never again doubt herself. Trusting others again won’t come for a long time, but it eventually does in the form of the idiocy from the Reds and Blues and what Wash tells her, and while she might not be sure of the quality of their abilities, she comes to trust them, and eventually, with time, herself and a day comes when she can think of York again, and while regret still is prominent in her mind, she vows to never make the same mistake of blind trust again in someone just for the sake of approval.  

Chapter Text

"I'm sorry." The words were murmured, barely audible. In her sleepy haze, Carolina didn't bother to move. Whatever York needed, she was comfortable for once, and Eta and Iota had quieted to a dull roar in the back of her mind. The feeling of his warm body pressed against hers was almost soothing, and when he didn't continue she slowly drifted off into a semblance of peaceful sleep for the first time in days--no, weeks--choosing to allow herself to rest for once. 

"Love you, Lina." The faintest of smiles crossed her lips, and she faded slowly into the colorful landscape of her dreams.

The next morning she woke up to Eta and Iota buzzing in her skull with York gone, and when she learned of his perceived betrayal she vowed to disregard anything that he might have said in their shared moment of peace. She had no need to listen to or forgive someone who she'd trusted who'd abandoned her for her worst enemy, the one person who had the power to destroy all she'd striven for over the years.  If he'd loved her, then why didn't he trust her enough to at least tell her that he didn't believe that she'd understand whatever he was doing? 

She wouldn't be making the same mistake again.

Chapter Text

“David, I swear to—“ She breaks off to dodge behind a car, grabbing her bag at the snowball hits the window. “David, don’t be stupid.” She stands up, carefully swinging her backpack up. He doesn’t remember things like she does, and he doesn’t understand how it feels to be leaving the one fragment of her family that she has left. He doesn’t remember how it felt when her mother left and never came back, and how her father refused to look at her for months after that. He doesn’t understand, and she can’t fault him for that.

 She has no illusions. She doesn’t expect to come back—even if she did, he would be the only thing there for her, and he’s planning on entering a whole different field than what she’s chosen, and she’s glad that one member of her family isn’t going to be eaten by the war and the military that fights it. He’ll be alone, but he’ll be safe. He’s got enough money saved up that he’ll be fine, and she’ll be gone from all the memories that she can’t stand to remember.

 The thump of a snowball hitting slamming into her backpack sends her spinning, and she finally grabs her own handful of snow and hurls it at him, knocking the white powder all over his chest, and she smiles for an instant at the look of shock on his face. It’s good to see him laughing, and she thinks that maybe he’s happy to see her happy too, but her plane will be leaving soon, and she needs to get going.

 “Hey. David.” She approaches cautiously, ready to dodge any snowballs that might be coming her way. “I’ll see you, okay?” She doesn’t dare say any more than that, and she’s biting her tongue as she does, because she’s remembering her mother leaving years ago, and how many times she wasn’t there, and her absent father, and how she’s leaving David just the same as they left her.

 This is different. She tries to tell herself that, and that she’ll see him again, but she honestly doesn’t believe that. This isn’t goodbye, but she doesn’t think she’ll see him again.

 ---

 It’s years later when she sees him again, and she doesn’t even recognize him at first among the recruits. She is Carolina, and all he is Washington, a new recruit who’s inexperienced in their particular field, but he’s still seen far more war than she’d ever want him to have to see. He’s here now though, and he’s a member of her team and one that she’s never going to let down, just like the rest.

 She doesn’t talk to him about where they are now, and he doesn’t say anything to her, but she knows he worries, but she pushes that away. He’s Agent Washington, and she Carolina, and while he might still be David at times the person she was years ago when they were siblings is miles away from who she is now.

 It isn’t until she’s hanging from a cliff, nearly frozen and bleeding that she realizes that she’s lost him, and how her actions have driven them all apart, and how Maine isn’t Maine anymore, and she doesn’t even know if David is still alive or if he is if he’ll still be her brother after this, and York is gone and everything is lost and she did not say goodbye and once she can move she does the only thing she can stand to do and she runs from everything and some part of her mind remarks upon the fact that it’s snowing again as she looses him.

 ---

 She tracks their records. North and South are AWOL, and so is York, but Wash is still active, and she doesn't know what to do, so she trains, continuing to research as her hate for the man who was her father grows. She catches wind of some of the things that he’s done, but the moment that she determines that what the Director has done is irredeemable is the moment that she sees Agent Washington move from active to MIA, likely deceased.

 She is going to kill the director. What he has done has tore her family apart, and countless others. Her team has been torn apart, and they are all dead and gone.

 What she does not expect to find when she goes to find the Simulation troopers who worked with the Alpha unit is a very much changed but very much alive Agent Washington, albeit one who follows her reluctantly at times, and doesn’t always agree with her and doesn’t follow orders. The distance between them is necessary,  and even if it hurts, she knows that what she is doing will protect him and others, and that she cannot expect him to follow her like he did before she failed, and when he chooses the Simulation troopers over her it splinters another part of her away into dust, but she isn’t going to stop. This is what she has to do.

The fight with her--Texas--breaks her, but by some miracle they come and help her, and she doesn’t understand why they came if they couldn’t even listen to her before and she manages to scrape up the pieces of herself once more for a little while so she can do what she has to. 

 After she leaves the Director to die, she tries to let it go, but there will always be a part of her that’ll be angry at the father who left and rejected her because of a resemblance to a woman who she’d never be, but at the same time she feels pity for him, and determines to not make the same mistakes that he did. Wash tries to understand her, but he isn’t the same brother who threw snowballs at her when she was trying to leave for her plane, and she isn’t the same person she was then.

---

“Wash, I swear to hell, if you don’t stop and get them to focus—“ Carolina is speaking through gritted teeth as she glares at the assembled troops that he’d chosen to accompany them—some of them younger than she had been when she’d joined the military—and how one of them pauses to throw a snowball at Simmons at the order of Griff to do so, and she wants to yell.

She moves to round on them, but as she does, a snowball slams into the front of her helmet.  Ignoring Epsilon laughing at her as she irritably scrubs the snow away with a fist she looks to see Wash standing before her, frozen, the other soldiers nervously watching to see her reaction.

It takes a moment, then she laughs. It’s slightly hysterical and somewhat broken and when she moves to clumsily hug David through his armor he flinches away at first, but for a fraction of a moment she is with her brother again, and they’re both going to be okay and they are both alive and here for this moment, no matter how long it lasts.

Chapter Text

They’re on shore leave when some idiot takes it upon himself to whistle at her, whooping loudly. York’s ready to defend her in an instant, but Carolina just shakes her head. She’s going to enjoy this, and just because she’s in civvies and they don’t know who she really is doesn’t mean that she couldn’t kick their asses if she was to decide that she wanted to. This is going to be her nice evening, and no one will be ruining it. 

So she ignores them, moving along the boardwalk with York’s arm linked in hers, the flowers that he’d given her carefully held in her other hand. The heckling doesn’t stop when they sit at a cafe, and as Carolina goes to order, York is left holding the bluebells.

Not a minute passes before he hears the crash, turning quickly to see Carolina slamming a man down to the ground. He knows that she doesn’t need his help—these are nothing more than local thugs, but as she takes the second one down he grins, calling out over the noise and waving the bouquet over his head to show her. 

“Kick hiss ass babe, I got your flowers!” 

In the end, the owner asks them to leave as he stares at the broken chair and they oblige, and York can’t help but grin as he sees the look of disbelief in the other patron’s eyes as he passes Carolina her flowers back and they walk out of the shop hand in hand. 

Chapter Text

“Well Sir, I think that’s certainly a shame.” Connie’s face was even, and South didn’t know what she was doing. 

“Agent Connecticut. I don’t think that you fully appreciate the severity of the situation.” The Director replied smoothly. South just stared at the blood she could see beading on the back of Connie’s head. She wasn’t stupid enough to argue with the Director. Leave that to fucking Connie.

“I feel that I do. We went into the mission and did what we could based on the information that we received.”

“And need I remind you that you failed, Connecticut?”

“No, Sir!” Connie replied, her voice far cheerier than it should have been. The blood had dripped further down Connie’s neck, and South wondered how long it would be till she’d pass out or if they’d get out of here before that. “I just remarked that perhaps some of your intelligence may have been rotted to the corps.” 

South snorted, grateful for her helmet. When the Director turned to glare at her she froze, standing at attention once more. 

“Agent Connecticut, this is hardly the time for jokes.”

“Sir, I wasn’t joking.”

“Agent South.” South straightened up again. “Please escort Agent Connecticut to the infirmary. I will be speaking with her later.”

“Yes Sir.” South looped her arm around Connie’s back, tugging her after her. It took a moment for her to get Connie to actually follow her, and before they could exit, Connie turned back to the Director once more, refusing to let South tug her away.

“Sir.” Connie called back, surprisingly determined. “I think that you should be sure to check on your information. It may–” South drug Connie out the door before she could continue, keeping a firm grip on her as they moved down the hall. 

Connie turned her head to glare up at South, and this time South let herself snigger at the other’s expression. 

“Connie. That was stupid.”

“So?”

“… You’re supposed to be smarter than that.” South glanced at the leaderboard as they passed one of the many available for their viewing pleasure. Connie, who’s grip on her position had been tenuous at best, had slipped down off. South was proud to at least see that she’d retained her spot. That could probably be attributed to the fact that she’d been the one to haul Connie out of the mess they’d gotten in to, and she wasn’t going to feel guilty that the other had dropped off completely.

Besides, once Connie wasn’t suffering from a concussion she’d be as distant and careful as she always was. South wasn’t stupid.  Any jokes or closeness from her now would be gone as soon as she got medical help for the other.

The door to the med bay was rapidly approaching, and Connie’s grip on South wasn’t as tight now. 

“Come on.” South pulled Connie towards the door, frustrated that they couldn’t have come here immediately after landing. Connie would be fine, but this wouldn’t be as frustrating if they’d had time to get her checked before she’d had a chance to mouth off to the Director and screw things up even more.

“South. I’m tired and I think we need to discuss something important.”

“Fine. Connie, you know what? Get in the med bay, then I’ll stay and let you tell me whatever the hell is so important that we have to talk about it now.”

“Good. Now carry me in.” Connie nodded towards the door, then looked expectantly at South.

Grumbling, South simply tugged Connie along with her. Once inside the room, medic’s swarmed them, pulling Connie away and working her out of her armor.

“M’am, we need you to leave.” One of the Doctor’s looked at South nervously, and she glared back. She didn’t need to leave, and they wouldn’t make her go. They’d tried that once before when North had been the one in the med bay, and they’d quickly learned not to tell her what to do.

She settled down, crossing her arms and making sure to stare at the medics. There was always the chance that Connie wouldn’t want her here when she woke up, and that did bug South slightly. Still, she sat and watched as they cleaned the wound, tapping her foot irritably.

The clatter of approaching footsteps came echoing down the hall and South jerked her head to glare at whoever was approaching. Wash didn’t react to her, instead stumbling in, breathless.

“Connie!”

“Yeah Wash, she’s here.” South snapped at him, unsure as to why she felt the need to be defensive about this.

“Is she okay?”

The Doctor’s were glaring now, so South sighed loudly, responding. “Yeah. She’s fucking fine. That’s why we’re in the med bay, Wash. Because Connie’s fine.”

South was somewhat surprised to see Maine at the door, looming quietly behind Wash. At his inquisitive look she sighed irritably again, then pushed past the two of them and out of the room.

“I don’t care what you do. I’m going to wash the shit of off my armor.” She left them behind, heading for her bunk. It didn’t really help that the blood on her armor had come in part from Connie, and South was going to have to wash it all off. Connie would probably be gladder to see Wash and Maine waiting for her than South, anyway. Those two were close to her than South would ever even care to be, and that was that.

South tossed her helmet down on the floor of her personal room, glaring at it as it clattered to the ground, then continued to strip the rest of her armor off. She wanted to shower, to clean the sweat and muck of and then she’d hopefully get some sleep before they got called out on some other mission that she didn’t give a shit about.

The showers were blissfully empty when she arrived in the locker room, and she took her time in the shower, scrubbing herself down until all the grime was gone. That done, she didn’t feel much better. The purple in her hair was fading, and she noted to herself that she’d need to open up one of her precious boxes of dye and try to touch it up a little. That would make her feel better. Why was she worried about Connie, anyway? She’d be fine, and if she wasn’t then it wasn’t any of South’s business, and she didn’t care.

By the time South made her way back to her room at least an hour had to have passed. She made sure not to pass the medical bay as she went. Wash and Maine would probably still be there, and there was also a chance that North might be looking for her, and she had no desire to deal with him now. Her armor was still waiting for her on the ground and she took the time to kick it into the corner before she crawled onto the pathetically tiny mattress, her feet hanging off of the end of the bed.  

Sleep didn’t come easy, but hours had still managed to pass before South woke in the dark, tensing at she stared at the opening door. Light from outside made it difficult see just who was standing there, but given the size the only one that it could be was Maine. South was prepared to snap at him when she saw who he was helping along. Connie looked utterly exhausted, but South noted carefully that Maine left once Connie nodded at him and left her leaning on the door frame.

“Are you okay?” She looked at South carefully.

“Yeah.” South shrugged in reply, sitting up. “What?”

“You didn’t stay. I figured I’d come see you.”

“Well, you’re here now.”

“I am. I saw the leaderboard.”

South snorted. “You asked for that one.”

“…Yeah. I did.” Connie nodded, a frown crossing her face.

“Um, you can sit down.” South awkwardly patted the spot next to her on the bed, and Connie slowly made her way over to South.

“I’m not supposed to be walking. Maine helped me here. They wouldn’t argue with him.”

“Why are you here?” South challenged.

“I already said that. You left. I still had things to tell you.”

South didn’t reply, trying to ignore the fact that Connie had edged closer to her. If she’d wanted to, she could have placed her hand comfortably on Connie’s leg, but she didn’t’ move.

“I wanted to say that if they send us out again, we need to be sure that we check our intel.”

“So?”

“Because if they’d sent us out with someone like Wash it might have been cat-astrophic.”

Connie sniggered at her own joke, and South tried to resist a groan. “Connie. Come on. Puns? Really? That was shitty timing earlier with the Director. You don’t have to keep it up.”

“What if I want to?” Connie stared up at South determinedly.

“Then you’ve spent too much time with Wyoming.”

“South, puns are great.” Connie nodded to her, wincing as she moved her head, then carefully leaned it on South. South tensed, waiting to see what the other would do next, but when she simply stayed there without moving South spoke up.

“I’m tired. I want to sleep before they call us all out again, so I’m going to lay down.”

“You’re warm.” Connie mumbled.

South rolled her eyes, adjusting her position so she was laying against the wall. Connie grumbled slightly as she did and was disrupted from her position, then looked down at South.

“I’m not supposed to walk on my own. I might have a concussion.”

“Then stay.” South surprised herself with the force of her statement, and she reached up to tug Connie into a position next to her. “Just don’t make any more shitty puns.”

Connie didn’t reply to that, simply snuggling up against South, so South took it as agreement. The space really wasn’t big enough for the two of them, but its small size did mean that Connie was pressed up close against her, and that she could feel the other breathing softly.

Besides. South would be lying if she said that she wanted Connie to leave, or that she hadn’t been pleased when Connie had revealed that she had actually wanted to talk to South, even if it was for a shitty reason as puns.

It was kinda nice to not be alone at night.

Chapter Text

“South, hurry up!” Connie yelled at the other, grinning. “Come on. We can’t waste this time.”

“Fine.” South said, slinging an arm over the other’s shoulders, glancing irritably back at North, York, and Carolina, frowning at just how much both York and Carolina were hanging on her brother.  She looked back to Connie and noted how excited the other was, and the fact that she was relaxed for once and hadn’t yet objected to South’s arm hanging over her.

South let Connie tug her through the crowds, glaring at anyone who dared to glance at her and Connie for more than a moment. Connie refused to let her stop until they’d reached their destination, and when they did she stared forward, stopping so abruptly that South nearly ran into her. While Connie stared forward, South found herself staring at Connie, taking in the little way that her bangs would flop to the shaved side of her hair, leaving Connie to constantly brush them out of her way. South could see the outline of her bra through the thin fabric of her shirt and wondered for not the first time why the other hadn’t brought a jacket or something to keep her warm.

“This is it.” Connie breathed, tilting her head to stare at South. “This is what I wanted to show you.”

“This.” South continued to stare at Connie until the other took her by the hand, rolling her eyes and dragging her forward to join in the line behind the civilians that surrounded them.

“Yeah South, this.” Connie didn’t let go of her hand,  and South certainly wasn’t going to pull it away.  “I remember one of these from when I was a kid.”

“You live on a spaceship. You want to ride this rickety piece of shit?”

“South.” Connie elbowed her in the ribs and South winced, rolling her eyes. “Come on. It’ll be fun.”

The line moved forward and South stared up at the rickety metal contraction that they’d soon be climbing on to, glancing at a sign that boasted how it’d been molded directly off of antiques from earth, something that really wasn’t even comforting. Still, the sign caused her to realize something.

“You didn’t tell me that you were from Earth.” South took a turn to nudge Connie in the ribs, raising her eyebrows.

“I’m not.” Connie looked uncomfortable, fidgeting for a moment.

“Then where’d you ride one of these?”

“A place like this. On leave once, a long time ago.” Connie didn’t seem keen to offer more information on the topic, so South decided that she’d have to bring up the topic later when the other wasn’t paying as much attention in a quest to get more information on the topic. She still didn’t know much about the other woman, and she wanted to.

“And it was so wonderful that you just had to drag me on it with you?”

“Yes.” Connie pulled South forward again as the line moved. “We don’t get off that ship for things like this enough, and I plan to enjoy every moment of it while it lasts before we have to go back there.”

South didn’t miss the disgust in Connie’s tone, and it irritated her. Why did the other have to be so determined to analyze everything about the MoI and find faults? Sure, the Director was a huge dick, but that didn’t mean that he was as crooked as Connie seemed to think he was.

“I still don’t agree with you about that.”

“I know.” Connie met South’s eyes for a moment, then glanced down, reaching in her pocket to pull out a handful of tickets that she’d bought, counting out the amount that she’d need carefully.  She didn’t speak again as they moved to the front of the queue and passed off their tickets, carefully climbing into the rickety seat. South settled down by her, slumping down in the seat.

The wheel took it’s time turning, emptying the other seats to allow new passengers on. South stared out at the flashing lights of the dingy fair, scouting the crowd for any signs of her brother. They’d nearly reached the top, hovering there when South finally spotted his corn-silk white hair, stained pink by a nearby garish light with York and Carolina on either side of him, flanking him. York had an arm over North’s shoulders casually, and Carolina had latched on to his other arm, leaning on him slightly. South let out a snort at the sight, choosing to ignore that she’d been holding on to Connie in a similar way recently.

“South.”

“What.”

“Do you ever wonder why we’re here?”

“No.” South replied shortly, finally turning to look at Connie and away from the disgusting display that was her brother. Connie was staring out over the crowd, and South was struck by how small the other looked this close and out of the armor. She knew how strong Connie was, but still, it was strange to be this close.

“I do.” Connie added after a moment, unperturbed by South’s short response. She shivered slightly, and South rolled her eyes, noting that of course she’d be cold now before the thought crossed her mind that she could possibly scoot closer to the other to offer warmth. That’d be the polite thing to do, of course. No ulterior motives at all from South.

South scooted closer, draping her arm over Connie’s shoulders. “Fine. So tell me why you think it’s strange that we’re here. I’ll listen.”

Connie let out a little sigh, leaning her head on South’s shoulder.

“I don’t know why the Director does what he does.”

“None of our business?”

“As it’s our lives, I’d say that it is.”

“Look. Connie, we don’t need to worry about it. It’s not our job. Come on.”

The smaller woman made a noncommittal noise, looking up at South to meet her eyes as the wheel turned.

This was it. South could make her move now, just slowly tilt her head slightly and turn it down to meet the other’s lips. Connie was hesitant, and after just a moment she pulled away from the kiss and South, sitting up and scooting slightly away from her.

“I don’t really—“ She began, but South cut her off.

“It doesn’t matter.” South stared over the edge, scooting back to her own side of the seat, glancing out to see if she could see North again.

“Yeah, it does.”

“Why?” South snapped, turning slightly to face her.

Connie took a deep breath, then continued. “Because I like you. Or at least I think I do.”

“Great. So what?” The wheel slowed to a stop, the man running it lifting the bar so they could climb out. South was out first, irritably moving a few feet away before stopping to wait for Connie, who approached slowly, looking hurt.

“I already said. I like you, and I don’t—“ She faltered, pausing before continuing. “I don’t like kissing much. It makes me uncomfortable.”

South didn’t say anything for a moment, debating that revelation from the other, scrutinizing her before shrugging.

“Okay. I like you too. Next time just tell me if something’s going to bug you that much, and I just won’t do it.”

“Really?”

“Of course.” Connie looked so hopeful, and South slung an arm over her shoulders again, hesitating as she did so. “I said I like you. I want you to like me. We don’t have to kiss.”

“Good.” Connie nodded, relaxing cautiously again. “Thank you.”

“Yeah.” South nodded to Connie, a little confused as to why the other wouldn’t want to kiss, but if it was something that bugged her that much, then South just wouldn’t do it. Problem solved. She’d ask Connie about it later, but for now she felt a need to go find North and see if there’d be any opportunities to get blackmail pics of him with York and Carolina. That would be the best use of her time for now.

“Want to help me get pictures of North with York and Carolina?”

“Absolutely.”

“Great.”

 

Chapter Text

This wasn't supposed to go this way. Connie was supposed to be back in the common area by now, secure in the MOI with South at her side bragging loudly about how well they'd done, casually swinging an arm over her shoulder as Wash tried not to stare. That was what was supposed to happen when they returned. South wasn't supposed to be in the med bay, and Connie was supposed to be on the leaderboard, albeit far from the top.

She wasn't supposed to be alone. She wasn't supposed to be sitting on her bunk alone, waiting tensely to be called to speak with internals or the Director. She wasn't supposed to be dreading seeing Carolina because she knew that the other would undoubtedly be disappointed in her failures.

This was all wrong.

A knock at the door came, and she didn't respond. Carolina would've just came in—the bunk on the other side of the room was hers, anyway. It couldn't be South. Wash wouldn't be able to say anything to comfort her now. There wasn't anyone she wanted to tell her how it wasn't her fault, that she'd be able to do better next time and that she wouldn't drop the ball again. She just wanted to be alone and to not be forced to think about her failures.

A few minutes passed, then the door smoothly opened of it's own accord. Expecting Carolina, Connie feigned sleep, ignoring whoever it was. She could afford to be immature this once, to not want to talk with whoever it was. Besides, she was exhausted and sore and probably should be sleeping, so pretending to be asleep wouldn't surprise anyone.

It didn't sound like Carolina moving, so Connie reluctantly peered up, lifting her head from where she'd had it pressed into her blankets to stare at the figure silhouetted in the light from the doorway.

She didn't need to say anything as she processed who it was, simply scooting down to sit on the floor, huddling there with the blanket still wrapped around her. Maine moved quietly, settling down on the floor to sit at her side. He wouldn't try to reassure her, wouldn't try to pretend that she hadn't messed up, but she knew him, and she knew that he'd simply be present.

Connie didn't say anything. Maine didn't either, and they simply sat in silence. When her head finally did bob down onto her chest as she began to fall asleep Maine carefully shifted himself, allowing her head to lean on his shoulder, sitting quietly. Wash had been worried, but Maine knew him, and he'd interacted with Connie enough to know that Wash's worries would only frustrate her. Besides, Carolina had been worried about her, and if Maine was to help her with this it'd take a little of her stress away, and that was the least that he could do.

They were a team, after all. They needed to take care of each other, and Maine knew that he'd do what he could to protect them—something that some of them needed more than they knew, or in Carolina's place, would ever admit. She was harder on herself than anyone else on the team, and he saw that. It rubbed off on those around her as well, and he'd heard Connie complaining about it to Wash before. He heard more than the others expected, and he used that to his advantage.

Connie wasn't purely innocent, he knew that too. She'd murmured about things that he knew were better left alone more than once. They didn't seem particularly dangerous, and he knew that they'd keep an eye on her. It wasn't his problem.

It was a few hours before Carolina did enter the room, staring at Maine for a moment before shrugging, sitting down on her own bunk, and glancing through a file on her datapad. Finding Maine here wasn't a rarity, and she'd grown accustomed. Besides, Connie had never complained when York had convinced her that she should stay with South for the night so he could have some "private time" with Carolina, so she'd let this slide. (She'd nearly beat York after the first time that he'd convinced the other without Carolina's knowledge that they needed the time alone. It'd paid off in the end, so she'd let that slide as well.)

"I'm going to sleep." She stated quietly. Maine simply nodded, so Carolina carefully settled down in her own bunk, planning to catch a few hours sleep before going to train. She'd wake Connie up then if she was still asleep—she'd ask her to train with her—that way she'd be able to work on the flaws Connie had on the previous mission, but hopefully without causing any more tension with the other.

Either way, she'd figure it out when her alarm went off. Having Maine in the room added a sense of security, and she knew that he knew that. He'd either duck out in a few hours or stay till morning, but both options would be fine, so long as Wash didn't come looking for him and stumble in during the night. That was where she drew the line—if Wash was allowed to stay, then York'd be along soon, and North and South would only be a little while after that. Florida would inevitably follow—and Carolina had learned already that the line needed to be drawn, as Florida wasn't someone you'd want to sleep nearby unless you planned to wake up with yarn adorning your form.

Carolina thought fondly of some of the past escapades that they'd encountered before the leaderboard had been placed, but brushed the thoughts away. She needed to sleep. There wasn't time for ruminating about things that had been a waste of time—albeit an enjoyable one.

She glanced over at Maine and Connie one last time, noting that Maine had relaxed as well, then let her eyes close. Regulating her breathing, she began to clear her mind, focusing on resting in the tentative peace that would cover their room till morning or till they were disturbed.

For now, she would rest.

Chapter Text

“Kiss me.”

South looked at Connie, squinting slightly in the half light that was slipping into the darkened room, glancing quickly over at North to be sure that he was still asleep where he’d settled earlier. Maine was still awake, and she pointedly nodded at him.

“He won’t care.” Connie murmured in reply, edging closer to South. “C’mon.”

South tilted her head down, carefully kissing the other while surreptitiously glancing towards North to be sure he really was sleeping, and wasn’t going to be lecturing her about this later. She did't need that from him, and while she doubted that Connie would care, she knew that the other really did need to be more careful.

After a moment Connie let her lips leave South’s, her head falling on South’s shoulder. Connie let out a quiet sigh, and South reached her arm out, draping it over the other’s shoulders to pull her close.

“Thanks.”

“Anytime.” South replied, genuinely meaning what she said. Moments like this weren't bad, when things were quiet and Connie was here and they could pretend that things weren't going to hell.

 

 

(And in years to come she would remember what had happened, and she would hold on to that memory as a record of what the project had stolen from her, what it'd taken that she should have had.)

Chapter Text

Connie isn’t sure what they have. Wash is too nervous to ask. Maine doesn’t talk.

At least, he doesn’t say anything unless it needs to be said or he finds other ways to communicate. 

Connie sees things that she’s sure that the others don’t. She sees the way that the Director manipulates South, pitting her against North, and she sees how he sends them into situations where they can’t succeed, and how those who aren’t up to his standards are discarded and left behind. 

She’s being left behind. Falling off the leaderboard hurts, and she begins to research. Takes the time to hack into terminals that she probably shouldn’t. Wash doesn’t understand, couldn’t. He’s innocent, as much as someone in their field can be, and it hurts her to see how the Director will tear him apart and reshape him. Maine follows Carolina unquestioningly, and Connie knows that he’s one who’s willing to do anything to win the war.

She can’t talk to them.

The insurrectionist leader is brash. When she contacts him and offers a tidbit of information the first time, his actions surprise her. He could change things. He could fix the project before it hurt anyone else, cut out the infected skin before it would fester and spread.

She doesn’t know when Maine and Wash became part of the infection in her mind. Carolina’s always been a part of it. South is so caught up in it all that Connie pities her. 

In the end, she accepts that they all need to be stopped. The insurrectionist leader provides a welcome distraction, one that she readily uses on the occasions that she’s given shore leave. 

Wash notices the distance between them. Maine wouldn’t be one to approach her about it, she knows that, and she does what she can to push them away because she knows that Maine would kill her for the cause and she knows that it would kill Wash to hurt her and it would hurt him to see Maine do it.

She’s protecting them. 

In the end, she spends the night before the mission alone. She knows what’s going to happen, and it hurts to know that she has to loose them all for this. Maine’s still in the med bay as far as she knows, and she takes comfort in the fact that he won’t be there to hunt her if--when--she leaves. 

Before they board the pelican, Wash catches her arm. 

“Um, Conn-CT. Be careful today, okay?”

“Wash, I don’t need your help.” There’s a venom in her voice that she doesn’t mean to turn on him, but it’s there all the same and she can tell that he’s hurt. 

“Sorry, CT. We’ll talk about it after this, Okay? Maybe we can try to check on Maine”

She hates how nervous he looks to ask that, and she hates that she’s going to meet her lover and most of all she hates that she still feels the same about him, even now. That she can’t help but care, and notice the little habits he has that made her fall in love with him. Maine will comfort him when she is gone if he lives. 

“Sure. Fine.” She pulls her arm away and boards the ship, and she doesn’t say anything on the flight because her stomach is sick and she knows that they’ll all be dead soon, and she’ll be left with a lover who she’s already desperately clinging to as a distraction and she’ll loose the friends who accepted what they saw of her.

The wound needs to be cauterized before the infection can spread. They need to be cut out before what the Director’s done can continue to harm others. She’s doing them a favor. 

----

Later, when she lays on the floor of a strange vessel, bleeding out while her lover cradles her she feels as empty as ever. Crying hurts. So does everything. All she can think of as she dies is that she’s going to be alone again, and the lover that she’d tried to cling to wouldn’t leave with her when she needed to, and she’s dying now because of it. She wishes that she would have given them a chance. That she’d tried to trust them because this so obviously did not work, and she has nothing else to do but try not to choke on her own blood now as the world slowly fades from her, and despite her company she feels more alone than she ever had before. Regret and pain are her pallbearers. She has failed to cauterize the wound, missing the disease of the greater whole, and has fallen to the sickness that held it all in its clutches.

 

 

Chapter Text

“So what if I broke my arm! I’m still doing it.” 

“Wash, I don’t know about that, and I think that you should know that doesn’t really qualify as a whisper.”

“North, I’m doing it. I told York that I could, and I’m not going to give up on it!” Wash continued in the same pseudo-whisper, staring across the locker room.

“Um, Wash? You should really shut up, but if you don’t then I’ll be more than happy to stay and watch.”

“South, I don’t need help. I’m absolutely fine.”

North moved to stop Wash as he stumbled forward, but Connie was at his side, gingerly placing a hand on North to stop him. 

“Wash, you said that you’re going to do it. We’re behind you the entire way.” Connie carefully watched North as she spoke, noting his barely visible nod and the skeptical glance he gave her before she retreated back to stand with South.

Wash was determinedly moving across the locker room, approaching Maine where he stood, reaching into his locker. York laughed audibly from where he sat, pretending not to notice the events taking place. Carolina hadn’t entered the room yet, likely the reason that the current events had yet to be shut down. 

“Maine.” Wash began, staring at the other Freelancer. 

Maine slowly turned to stare at Wash, inscrutable under his helmet. 

“I think that you should–”

“Washington.” Carolina’s voice interrupted the scene. “You need to get to medical.” 

York stifled his laughter with a choking noise, ignoring the glare that Carolina sent his way. 

“Maine. Why don’t you help him?”

A moment of tense silence passed, then Maine nodded slowly, placing a careful hand on Wash’s shoulder, leading him from the locker room. Wash stared back at North, surprise evident on his face as he futilely tried to mouth the words ‘It worked’ back at him. 

The situation diffused by Carolina, the freelancers began to disperse. North still felt that he might be better off following Wash, but York approached and caught his arm once Carolina was out of view. 

“I didn’t think he’d do it.”

“I didn’t think Carolina would send him with Maine.”

“Hey. She pays attention to them. Probably noticed Wash staring. He’ll be fine.”

North sighed, shaking his head slightly. He noted that South and Connie had already disappeared, and Wyoming was now making his way into the locker room.

“You’re sure?”

“Yeah. C’mon. Let’s go try to rest before Carolina decides that we need to see if anyone else can break an arm before the day’s over.”

Chapter Text

Connie isn’t one to start fights unnecessarily, but when she’s alraedy had a long day and all she wants is to buy the new spy thriller that she’s been waiting for AND her work’s been miserable, her temper is short. 

Just like her, actually. 

South is tall and good looking and Connie spots her on the same aisle that she’s on and even if she doesn’t like to ask for help she’s going to put that aside just this once because she just wants to get her book and go home.

And when South mocks her choice of books, refusing to give her the volume and insists on trying to flirt, revealing her name? Connie, for the first time in weeks, actually snaps, surprising the other woman as she’s elbowed in the gut, Connie snatching the book from where it’d been held above her grasp. 

Clutching the book victoriously, Connie turns to race towards the checkout stand, stumbling and running into a bookshelf. South chooses this moment to smile condescendingly and offer her a hand, and Connie is simply so done with the world and everything and the tall blond standing over her that she throws the book.

Some part of her mind realizes that she’s going to regret this later, and even as South huffs irritably Connie scrambles to her feet, grabbing for the book and before she has time to try to formulate a reply the manager is at her side, quickly removing the book from her grasp and ushering the two of them to the exit, snapping a photo of the two and carefully informing them that neither of them will be welcome back in the store, and that if they return then they’ll both be asked to leave again.

Connie is fuming. She storms off before the woman who’d called herself South could say anything, and when she arrives at the apartment that she shares with Maine and Washington, neither of them are too keen to ask her what happened. 

in the morning, Connie is well rested and fully regrets everything that happened. She reminds Wash to remind her to not go to that book store again, then sets off for work, running late already.

It isn’t till she’s just barely managed to make it onto a nearly empty elevator that she notes with horror that the other occupant of the elevator is the woman from the book store. South. 

South is grinning like a shark, and Connie is staring at the floor, looking up to watch as South deliberately approaches the elevator door.

“Nice to see you here.”

“Hi.” Connie is mumbling, barely even speaking, because why did this have to happen to her?

“You’re working here?”

“Yeah.”

“What floor?”

“...35.” Connie is nervous now, fiddling with her phone and debating texting Wash about the encounter.

She looks up in time to see South push all the buttons on the wall, dragging her hand across them, deliberately staring at Connie. Connie gulped. 

“I liked that bookstore. I bought comics there.”

“I liked it too.” 

The first few stops drag on for an eternity. 

Connie breaks the silence. 

“I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, I’m kinda sorry I pushed all the buttons here, but there’s not much I can do about that now.” 

“I really am sorry.” Connie looks up now, meeting South’s eyes. “It was a bad day--” She stops, taking a deep breath. “I was way out of line.”

“Your taste in books isn’t that bad.” South shrugs, and Connie finds herself staring at the way the braid in her hair is trying to hide the pink dye in it and how her eyes are staring at Connie and how she’s meeting South’s gaze.

“You thought it was yesterday.”

South shrugs. “My brother reads them. Of course I did.”

“That’s a terrible excuse.”

“Then maybe we should both agree to stop projecting. I know another book store where you could probably get it.”

“Connie.”

“What?”

“My name is Connie.”

“Oh.”

“You’re not really named South, are you?”

“I really wish I wasn’t.”

“Do you think you could give me the address for that store?”

“I’ll walk there with you if you’ll tell me when you get off work.”

“I’ll think about it. It’s not like I’ll be getting off at a reasonable hour, because someone decided to push all the buttons, and now I’m going to be even later than before.”

South doesn’t look at all repentant. 

“Let me know before that, then.”

“I will.”

Chapter Text

Church is kind of a big deal. Like. Bigger that anyone else. It's not his fault that he's twice as powerful as everyone else around, and

who's he to complain if everyone wants to shower praise on him. (He's not going to complain. The only time he does complain is when Flowers tries to get him to work with the man's team. He doesn't need those idiots. He isn't even sure how Flowers stands them, or how Caboose and Tucker could even help him. And Church is the best. He doesn't need help.)

Except in this moment, no one is showering praise on him. There's just a furious blond woman who's just extricated herself from the wreckage of the Auto repair shop that just was destroyed in his fight with the Omega. This is far from the first architectural casualty he’s caused.

This is the first one that he’s started to feel genuinely bad for. The woman glared  at him, then something in her glance had changed slightly to something that she couldn’t describe.

(He’d hoped that she’d suddenly become forgiving when she saw who he was. Sadly, he wasn’t nearly that lucky.)

She punched him. Balled her hand into a fist then sent it crashing into his gut with a force that he wasn’t used to coming from anyone. (Other than Caboose. The idiot didn’t understand how strong he actually was.)

“What the hell?” Church wheezed, bending over to clutch his stomach. “What was that for?” He looked at her again, trying to remember where he’d seen her face before.

“You know what it was!” 

She glared at him fiercely for a moment longer. Church had the definite feeling that if it hadn’t been for the cackling laugh that echoed from a nearby alleyway he would have been on the receiving end of yet another punch to the gut, and for once in his life, he was glad to hear Omega. 

The woman grabbed his arm, tugging him along with her, shoving him roughly into a car. “Get in.”

“Hey! Don’t do that! I can’t just...” Church began to complain, trailing off to pause and stare at the woman again. 

“You’re fucking kidding me.” She glared at him as she started the car, neglecting to buckle her seat belt. “Just shut up until we’re out of here.”

“Yeah, no can do. I’d rather not let myself be silently kidnapped by some crazy bitch off the street. You really don’t get who I am, do you?”

“Church.”

“What?”

“You’re Church.”

“I don’t get it. I’m supposed to be the Ghost, right? Super cool hero? Fights crime?” He glanced at the rapidly passing scenery, musing that if she really was kidnapping him, at least she was his type--someone he could almost remember, almost as if--

“Tex.” Church wasn’t sure where the name came from, staring at her. 

“Sure.” 

“I know--knew you?”

“Once.”

“Cryptic much?” Church griped back, regaining some of his former bluster. “Who told you my name? Was it Flowers? I swear, if he doesn’t stop meddling, I’m going to move out.”

“It wasn’t Flowers.” Tex took an abrupt left. “Stay with him. He’ll at least keep you safe.”

“I don’t need to be protected!”

“You really don’t remember shit, do you?”

“Yeah. Going to go with no?”

“Get out.”

“What?” 

The car screeched to a stop.

“Get out.”

“But--I remember you. I knew you, right? So you’re helping me.”

“Nope. Do me a favor. Don’t tell Flowers that I ran into you. Also. Stay away from Omega.”

“What? You can’t just say that then go!” Church’s voice grew desperate. “I remember you! That counts for something, right?”

“Church. Don’t whine. You destroyed my shop.”

“I didn’t mean too. “ Church’s tone grew sullen. “I’m sorry I messed up with trying to save people.”

He glanced over at Tex, shocked into silence as she aggressively pressed her face to his, engaging their tongues in a battle that Tucker would have been proud of. 

When she broke away Church could only stare, muttering under his breath. As a result, when she leaned over him, opening the door and pushing him out, he wasn’t prepared to attempt to stay in the car that rapidly sped off, leaving him sitting on the sidewalk, costumed and utterly confused as to what had just happened to him and why and what he could remember of Tex, and how that kiss had been confusingly familiar. 

He was still that confused when he arrived back at the apartment that he’d shared with Flowers and the rest of the self named ‘blues’ since he’d woken in the hospital. Flowers was out, for which he was grateful. Caboose wasn’t, which made him want to punch something. 

Even as Caboose blabbered on about how Church was his best friend, Church found himself more distracted than usual, trying to remember Tex. She didn’t fit in with what Flowers had told him, and the more he thought, the more his head hurt. 

Later, in the evening, after he brushed off Flowers’ concerned questions about what had happened with Omega and slunk out onto the fire escape to sit and think, he almost remembered something--an encounter? But he doesn’t know.

More than anything, he’s tired. 

(And when he’s asleep in his room, three weeks later and Tex appears at his window he has questions to ask and she has answers, and if they eventually stray onto other topics, Church isn’t going to complain.)

Chapter Text

Flowers’s presence is an enigma. He appears where needed, and not for a moment longer. The King trusts him explicitly at the advice of his counselor in his old age to protect his son. Age has weakened his mind and body, and the poison that he and his love both ingested through one of the cruel tricks of the war, killing her within days and leaving him to suffer.  (The King is also a fool- Was he able to forget his care for her, his illness would be healed. His love is killing him.)

The King’s love was a curse, and despite how Flowers serves him he has seen more than enough of failed and twisted relationships to know of the signs of those who could harm him, should they appear. Living is all that he strives for, to experience as much as he can before someone halts him in his steps. There is joy in living, and he sees it in all, be it the spirit of the King’s disgraced daughter, the tension in the emotions of those who are young and foolish and brash, and he enjoys their company in the good fight that they fight. 

He’s killed one of their number before--manipulated the woman to her death at his hands. The incident was necessary. He’d seen the changes in her emotions, the shifting of his own at her exemplary character and observations of things that only he himself had noticed before. None of them could have thought it to be his fault at the sight of the body, not after so long of practicing and knowing exactly how to hide his tracks should he want to. 

Either way, she died crying in his arms, bleeding from a wound he’d given her. That was better than others.

Not all had went with that semblance of peace or an impression of love. There had been countless men and still a few other women who had fallen at his hand or through his actions. some had fought back. All ultimately failed. 

He remembered them fondly. How could he not, when they’d all contributed to him, guiding him and allowing to experience life as fully as he could, allowing him to understand the things that they would never have the chance to do so. 

The potential for love didn’t mean that love would be felt. It simply meant that there was opportunity there for such an emotion and care, and if allowed to grow, could only bring death. Killing was a merciful thing, and it allowed him to continue on. It could be grown from where nothing had been before, although most in this land were too foolish to realize such a thing. Their obsessions with bonds and the resulting connections limited them, and led him to view them with a disparaging sympathy that only one of his age could have.

The King was foolish, and Flowers was at his deathbed in place of the son and daughter who refused to see him at this time. He marveled again at the foolishness of the man, choosing to provide him with a kind smile as he passed painfully. It was all he could do for someone with such a limited view--offer sympathy and kindness.

Years passed. The disgraced daughter of the King fled from the land, and the son was hidden away when rebellion came, with Flowers tasked as the one to keep him safe. It was a quaint life, and a slight change that he welcomed. He’d not lived in such a way for many years, and as a result was pleasant. 

There was a man in the town who was in somewhat attached to him. He had the potential to be a threat to the son of the king, but Flowers dismissed him.

He was old. Not somewhere reaching Flowers’s age,  but old enough that he deserved to have attention paid to his views. There was some physical attraction, a spark of interest, and Flowers resolved that he would need to end the man, ensure his own continued safety. He would take the time to meet him first, to interact enough to know how to end him best, then would act.

This would ensure his safety. 

They first spoke as Flowers ventured into the town nearest to where he remained with the King’s son coming with him in disguise to meet with the peasants he chose to associate with. 

The other man was cultured, that was obvious. He didn’t mix with the people of the town any more than Flowers did. Where Flowers had an ageless quality and a brisk cheerfulness, the other man held a roughness with his obviously foreign voice that intrigued Flowers to a surprisingly pleasant degree.

He would murder him before the week ended. That would be the best plan of action. Anyone who was as old as the other seemed would undoubtedly be aware of the danger of taking on a lover.

Plans changed.

A dark night came, and a seemingly chance meeting moved the date of his planned assassination to later. Perhaps he would allow a few more days to slip by. It was rare to meet to someone who had experienced what he had, even with how time had shaped him differently. 

And the attraction that he’d previously felt? There was something exquisite in it, and for once he understood the emotions of his past lovers and victims, what had brought them back to him even with his reputation and the haunting knowledge of what deadly creature nestled behind his optimistic facade. 

For once, he was willing to risk death for a love, willing to let someone know him so wholly that there could be no returning, to truly allow himself to live without caution for the first time in years, and when death came in the form of a potion fed to him from a lover’s hands, he died with calm and understanding and knowing that he had truly lived, and that the man would never forget him, even as he had never forgotten those who he had killed before. 

 

Chapter Text

Simmons is neurotic.

More than part of the time. Grif has moved past that though–it stopped bugging him years ago. If Simmons was going to worry as much as he seemed to be wanting too, then Grif would easily make up for that in the lack of worry. Sometimes it’s best to just let Simmons worry until he finds his solution or Sarge gives him something to do, but that’s not always the case. That’s something else that Grif has learned through a long exposure to the other man.

It’s worse now that they’re fighting a battle for the fate of a world. Simmons does care about his squad, and he seems to have taken the fact that they’re his responsibility to heart, even if he can’t even stand to talk to them without having flashbacks to trying to talk with girls in high school. This is something else that Grif knows about Simmons.

There are times though, late at night, when Grif wants nothing more than to sleep when Simmons’s muttering wakes him up and he’s forced to drag himself over to the other and plunk down on his bunk, making the other man move to allow him space. At this point Simmons will usually begin trying to explain to Grif just what he’s been worrying about, but Grif knows what to do best. He’ll just listen till he falls asleep again, sometimes tracing the lines on Simmons’s skin where the cyborg parts merge with his pasty skin. If he’s lucky, Simmons will give up and fall asleep with him. 

Grif is usually right about Simmons. He knows him that well after this long, and this is no exception. Grif knows that things will work out, and if they don’t, then it’s not his problem. 

Odds are, things will work out. He just has to help Simmons remember that. 

Chapter Text

 It didn’t start like this. It didn’t begin with his slipping into your place in your mind, leaving you locked behind iron bars and unable to break them or speak out, but whatever happened to leave you so displaced and confused, you are here now, and Carolina is there, lying on the ground, and you are moving towards her because Sigma is telling you that this is the right thing to do, so you do, and as your hands move across her neck you almost regret what you are doing to her, but Sigma is there and his voice is the only one that you here, and then she is gone, falling away just as you’ve now been pushed away by the new voices that are here, crowding you farther and farther away.

Soon enough, you loose patches of time. Minutes at first, then hours, days, and it only keeps accelerating, but Sigma is telling you that this is what is meant to be and there are far too many voices in your mind, and for a moment before you’re pushed away again, you wonder how Carolina lasted as long as she did with Eta and Iota. 

Sigma pushes you away then, and you fade back into the oblivion at the back of your mind to forget.

Chapter Text

Sometimes, when it’s late at night, and she’s sure that North thinks she’s sleeping, but she knows he isn’t, because the thing in his head won’t or can’t allow him to, she thinks about everything that she can’t talk to him about.

It sucks. He sucks. Theta sucks. She misses when she’d actually trusted him once.

When they’d first been out here, alone, North had used to try to pretend to be positive about what had happened, to convince her that this was for the best and that she  should be glad to be with him, but with time that’d stopped, and she’d been glad of it.

This all sucks. He knows that she thinks that, that she blames him for everything that had happened, and most days he doesn’t try to convince her that it wasn’t his fault now, and she’s glad, because more than anything else, she’s furious with her brother, and she hates him and the fact that he’s still here with her even in this hell. She’d just wanted to get away from him when she’d enlisted, and she hates that he’s still here now more than anything else. South’s still stuck with him, the one constant in her life, and she can’t stand that.

Things would have been better if she’d never enlisted. South’d had good grades, if for no other reason than to prove to every teacher who thought that she was worth less than her brother that they were wrong, that she was every bit as good as him, if not better. It’d been easy for him, but she’d fought for it, to prove that she was better while acting as if she didn’t care about any of the shit that they tried to force down her throat, and she’d done good for herself.

Enlisting was supposed to get her out of that. Out of his shadow, and into something that she could use to prove herself to be her own person, someone who could be strong and powerful, and wouldn’t ever be the second option after a brother who was thought to be superior.

It pisses her off.

What if she’d done something different? She couldn’ve gone away to school, taken an offer that’d take her far away from home. Could’ve ran off with her pre-enlistment girlfriend.

Any of those things. Just not what’d happened.

She shifts from where she’s pretending to sleep, lying on the floor of some burnt out husk of a house, and irritably kicks her helmet out of the way and heads for the door. Safety be damned, she needs to get away from him, from being in the same room and pretending that it’s all okay—pretending that she trusts Theta to keep an eye on anything for them.

There’s the other thing, the thing that North doesn’t know. Niner isn’t the first person she’d have wanted to get in contact with, but she’d been the one that she’d found on the other end when she’d managed to fix up her helmet enough to get in contact. She’s not given her any information yet, insisting that it’s not safe, or something along those lines to tide them over till she knows what she’s going to do.

She could be free from him. Step out of his shadow once and for all, and be the only person she can be now. There’s no going back to what might have been, no way to change her past and make it into something better where she’d’ve never enlisted, where she’d actually have gotten out to somewhere where she could be herself.

But now it’s too late to consider any of that. She is where she is, and she knows what she needs to do for this to end.

She goes back in a few minutes later. Doesn’t need North looking for her. Definitely doesn’t need Theta snooping.

They move out the next morning. North doesn’t say anything about her leaving, and when something appears on her radar later, she realizes that her decision’s already been made for her, and all she needs to do now is simply step out of the way, and so she does.