Wash woke up to knocking a second time.
“Come in,” He slurred sleepily as he sat up. He rubbed at his eyes while someone opened and closed his door. He blinked up at them. “Oh, Tucker. What—”
“You’re never going to believe this!” Tucker said in a rush. The aqua soldier was wearing all of his armor sans helmet, thankfully. Seeing the Meta’s helmet put him on edge.
“Tucker, what’s going on?” He asked. Tucker was practically bouncing up and down in excitement.
Tucker grinned widely. “WetrickedYorkintogoingintoCarolina’sroomand—”
“Tucker!” Wash laughed, “Slow down! I can’t understand a word you’re saying.”
Tucker took a deep breath before starting over, “We tricked York into going into Carolina’s room last night!”
Wash blinked, stunned. “Oh no.” He could imagine poor York falling into that one—and, oh no, Carolina would skin him alive. “Is he okay?”
Tucker laughed and danced in place. “Dude. He hasn’t come out yet. Which either means she murdered him, or—bow-chicka-bow-wow!” Tucker accompanied his catch-phrase with an air thrust and a stupidly large grin.
Wash pulled a hand over his face. “Okay, okay. Let me go break up the crowd that has undoubtedly gathered in front of her door and see if he’s alive.” Tucker stopped bouncing to look at him oddly. “I wouldn’t rule out the first option,” he explained.
“Dude,” Tucker protested, “She kissed him last night!”
Wash stood up and stretched gingerly. “She also punched him,” he pointed out. “Don’t stare at me while I change.” He reached for the pants and shirt he wore only when forbidden to wear armor.
Tucker turned slightly to the side. “Do you really think she’d kill him?” He asked.
Wash shook his head. “No, I don’t. But I also don’t think she’d go for the second option just after reuniting with him.” He finished pulling on his clothes and went to brush his teeth in the small bathroom.
Tucker snickered, “Dude, reunion sex is only second to make up sex. Which, uh, might actually be on the table for them.”
“What? I’m just saying!” The aqua soldier held up his hands in a peaceful gesture.
Wash sighed as he finished, taking the time to drag a hand through his hair. “Alright, let’s go. I expect you’ll help me clear the crowd instead of adding fuel to the fire.”
Tucker huffed. “Fine. As long as I get to find out if they did it or not.” Wash grunted as he opened his door and walked out.
Turning the corner to Carolina’s hallway revealed a corridor full of people. Grif and Simmons, unsurprisingly, stood at the front.
“Alright,” Wash said loudly enough to get everyone’s attention, “Everybody out. You have work to do that doesn’t involve pestering your superiors.”
A collective groan rose up from the crowd. Grif slumped dejectedly. “But Waaash—”
“Out.” Wash stood his ground and pointed down the hallway he’d come from. “Now.”
Tucker sighed. “Come on, guys, let’s go get breakfast.” The crowd followed the aqua solder towards the mess hall, disappointed grumbling making way for excited murmurs at the thought of food. Wash sighed heavily. He then turned to Carolina’s door and, steeling himself, knocked.
There was no answer.
Wash knocked again, this time adding, “You’re welcome for dispersing the crowd.”
He heard soft shuffling and murmuring, too quiet to make anything out, before he heard a much clearer, “Come in.” He opened the door and entered the room, making sure to shut it quickly behind him, before turning to look.
York and Carolina were cuddled together on the bed, York’s arms around her. Thankfully, they had clothes on, Wash noticed with a quiet sigh of relief. “Neither of you want to know just how many people were waiting outside your door,” he told them.
Carolina groaned and pressed her face into York, who actually looked embarrassed.
“I asked where I could sleep, and everyone kept telling me this room,” York explained, “But there was a number code on the lock. I knew the room must belong to someone, probably Carolina, so I went to leave and heard whispering around the corner. A lot of whispering. So I went back and knocked and—yeah.” York shrugged. “I guess we’re good, now.”
Wash smiled a little. “I’m glad,” he said, “You guys deserve to be happy. Just, uh, be prepared for most of the army to congratulate you on doing it.”
Carolina huffed and rolled her eyes, but it took York a moment for that to sink in. When it did, his eyes bulged and his cheeks turned red. “Wh—no! No, no, no! We didn’t!” Carolina laughed at York’s near-incoherent sputtering. “Tell them we didn’t!” York pleaded.
Wash smirked and opened the door. “See you guys at breakfast,” he said as he closed the door behind him, bringing about another round of sputtering and squeaking from York. Wash laughed to himself most of the way to the mess hall.
When he opened the door to the mess hall, the occupants went dead quiet. Wash stopped in his tracks, the hair on the back of his neck standing on end.
Grif stood up quickly. “Did they do it?” Every soldier in the mess hall watched Wash, waiting for his answer.
Wash thought about shrugging, and telling them they’d have to ask York or Carolina themselves. He hesitated for nearly thirty seconds over the dilemma. Finally, he decided on shaking his head. “No, they didn’t.” A chorus of disappointed awws could be heard. Wash smirked. “They are together, though.” A loud cheer erupted from the soldiers. Grif punched his arms up in the air in celebration. Simmons typed something furiously on his datapad. Caboose seemed to be yelling incoherent nonsense, and Tucker laughed uproariously. Sarge looked oddly proud. Donut was leaned against the red leader, happy tears streaming down his face. North—
Oh, right. North. North sat next to Donut, hovering worriedly. Wash decided to grab his food quickly so he could distract North. He managed to return just as North reached towards Donut. Wash tapped the older man on the shoulder, breaking his movement, before sitting across from him.
“Don’t worry about Donut,” Wash said, “He’s fine.”
North’s brows creased, and he looked like he was about to object, but Donut chose that moment to cry, “I’m just so happy! It’s so wonderfully romantic!” Sarge patted the pink soldier’s shoulder awkwardly before turning back to his meal.
Wash nodded, “See?”
North relaxed a little. “Alright.” Wash watched him turn his attention to his food for all of three seconds before snapping up to look at Wash. “How are you?”
Wash blinked. “Me?”
North nodded. “You. Kimball mentioned you were pretty beat up. You okay?”
Wash nodded, too. “I’m alright. Dr. Grey patched me up. I’m not allowed to train or touch my armor for a few days, but I’m fine to be up and moving around.” He took a bite of his eggs before adding, “She knows she can’t keep me in bed for more than a few hours, anyways. Better to bend the rules than to break them outright.”
North shot him a disapproving look, but let it slide. “How’s Carolina been?”
Wash shrugged. “When she first showed up she was focused entirely on revenge. She hated all of us and didn’t care if she got us killed.” North looked queasy. “She’s gotten a lot better. She sees them as family, now. Epsilon’s death hit her hard, but I think she’ll be okay.”
North frowned, “I was told not to use the E-word.”
Wash nodded. “Generally a safe word to avoid around here.” He avoided North’s gaze by taking a sip of orange juice. “Who told you that?”
“Tucker.” North said quietly.
“Ah,” Wash nodded again, “Yeah, don’t use it around Caboose. He’ll cry. And not like Donut cries,” He added with a glance at the pink soldier, who was busy wiping his eyes delicately. “It’s also not good to use around Tucker and Carolina.” Wash paused. “And, on some days, me.” North sent him a look that said I’m going to figure you out whether you like it or not. Wash ignored it. “It’s only been two days. It’s still a sore subject.”
North ate his food in silence, obviously contemplating something. “What about—” He broke off, giving sideways glances to the pink soldier sitting on his left.
Wash grimaced. “Later,” he promised.
North looked like he was about to protest, but at that moment the mess hall went quiet again. Wash turned around to see York and Carolina awkwardly paused in the doorway. York jammed his helmet on and marched towards the food in the back, while Carolina crossed her arms and asked, “Any questions?” Wash shivered at the tone. The entirety of the mess hall looked back down at their plates and continued eating. Wash got an elbow to his good side when Carolina sat next to him a moment later.
“Stop smirking,” she grumbled. York appeared with two trays, and sat next to North after sliding one of them over to Carolina.
Wash’s smirk grew wider as he looked at York. “You know that waste disposal never got added to these helmets. You can’t exactly eat inside your helmet,” he said. He looked innocently down at the remains of his breakfast when he felt the stares of all three Freelancers.
North snickered. York and Carolina’s heads snapped to look at him, and the purple Freelancer lost it. He snorted loudly and covered his face in his hands, body convulsing with laugh after laugh. Sarge reached over Donut and patted North on the back briefly.
A soft noise to Wash’s left made him look up, finally. Carolina had a hand over her mouth, but the crinkles around her eyes gave her away. She giggled for a few seconds before all-out laughing.
York managed to look offended even through his helmet.
Wash swallowed his last bite and smiled innocently at York. “I should get going. Enjoy your breakfast.” He snagged Tucker’s elbow on the way out, much to the aqua soldier’s horror, and made his way to the training area, leaving York annoyed and slightly shocked for the second time that morning.
* * *
Hours later, Wash sat down against the wall of the training area with a heavy sigh. He’d done a few light trainings with everyone who was well enough. Not enough to bother the sore and bruised soldiers, but enough to keep them moving. He hadn’t done anything physical himself, but Palomo’s antics had exhausted him as usual.
“They sure look like a handful.” Wash jumped, his head snapping up to look at whoever had snuck up on him.
North walked towards him, a concerned frown on his face. Wash sighed again. “Believe me, they are,” he said wearily.
North sat next to Wash, with his legs stretched out in front of him. They sat in companionable silence before North looked over. “How are you, Wash?”
Wash stared straight ahead. “I told you this morning, I’m alright. I’ll heal.”
North shook his head slowly. “I wasn’t talking about that,” he said.
“Then what were you talking about?” Wash asked.
North paused for a moment, obviously choosing his words carefully. “The last time I saw you,” North spoke gently, “You had just woken up from a four day-long coma. Before that, you were, well. In a coma. And before that, you were delirious, unresponsive, and—”
“I get it,” Wash snapped, “You were there for the aftermath of Epsilon.”
North went quiet.
Wash sighed. “He went insane. He was meant to. He was a collection of all the horrible memories the Alpha needed to purge to survive.” Wash saw North wince out of the corner of his eye. “I’m better, now. I’m not the same person I used to be, and I’ll never be the same, but I’m better.” Wash took a deep breath before adding, “I’m good enough.”
North reached over and put a hand on Wash’s knee. “If you ever need anything, you know I’m here,” he said. Wash nodded. The silence dragged on for a few minutes before North burst, “Okay, what happened with Donut?”
Wash snorted. “You really couldn’t stand not knowing, huh?”
North took his hand off of Wash’s knee to scratch the back of his neck. “I just can’t imagine you shooting someone important to you,” he admitted.
Wash shrugged. “He wasn’t important to me at the time,” he said, “I was angry and felt betrayed. He was in my way.” North shook his head like he didn’t comprehend that, so Wash continued, “At the time, that’s all there was to it. I felt guilty later. I’m glad he’s okay. We thought he wasn’t.”
North’s comforting hand settled back on Wash’s knee. “They seem to respect you,” North said thoughtfully, “Everyone here does.”
Wash snorted. “Are you surprised?”
North lifted one arm in a shrug. “No. It just didn’t occur to me that you’d be good at leading men.” North shrugged. “You seem to do pretty well.”
Wash shook his head, “I have no idea what I’m doing. It was a train-wreck at first, back in the canyon. The Reds and Blues hated me.”
North smiled. “I doubt they could have hated you.”
“You’ve only known them for a few hours,” Wash scowled, “Watch. If I fuck up again they’ll turn on me.”
North squeezed Wash’s knee. “Then don’t fuck up.”
“Easier said than done,” Wash grumbled, but he turned his head slightly so North couldn’t see him smile.
“So what exactly happened after the MoI crashed?” North asked.
Wash settled back against the wall. “That is a long story.”