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We Take Care of Our Own

Chapter Text

“So, if Carolina is on Chorus, I’ve been working out a way to start my conversation with her. A way to break the ice, you know? I was thinking something like “Hey Carolina, if I said I liked your armour, would you hold it against me?” or something like that?”

“York, a word of advice,” 479er said, breaking up his rambling. She stood up from the pelican she was working on, holding a wrench in a way that some might consider dangerous. “Maybe don’t say something that’s going to make her want to punch you in the throat. Now pass me that screw driver.”

York complied, glad that at least one of them was happy.

**

He planned continuously.

At least some portion of every hour was devoted to the task of working out what he was going to say to Carolina. He ranged from pick up lines to long drawn out speeches that acknowledge everything that went wrong to a simple apology.

It was driving the house mad. Well, everyone except for Florida, who was doing the thing where he was equal parts helpful and no help at all. As if he were some mystical guru trying to guide York down the path that would allow him to discover the truth for himself.

Wyoming was fairly certain that Florida was full of shit and doing it because he thought York struggling was hilarious (a fact that he, Wyoming, didn’t disagree with). South agreed with Wyoming and more than once threw a pillow (or something else) in York’s direction.

York continued to fret.

**

And then the moment came.

After all was said and done. And everyone had gathered. And reunions were being held and everyone was marveling at how everyone else had survived. And planning was being put off so that everyone could be comfortable with one another for at least one night that he found her.

She had gone off by herself, and she was training. Of course she was training. This was Carolina. This was what she did when she was frustrated or stressed. Nothing had changed about her. Well, some things had probably changed, it had been years after all. But on the surface, it was just like normal.

He walked up to the area where she was training, and watched her, until eventually she stopped and her attention was on him.

And every single thing vanished from his mind. Every single pick up line, every speech, every word was gone.

For a long time, they just stood there and stared at each other.

“Hi,” York said, finally. Carolina made no reply.

York went to open his mouth, not sure what was going to come out of it but determined to soldier on until Carolina turned on her heel and left without a word.

“Was it something I said?”

Chapter Text

It’s hard not to think that it’s a dream.

Even though North knows that it’s not. There are too many people involved for it to be a shared hallucination. But it’s hard not to think it’s a dream.

But he had spoken to South. Heard her voice. Was fairly certain he’d seen her in the chaos as she dove for the Pelican, and North had almost followed her, like old times, before he’d been yanked on to a different transport. He found himself antsy to get back to base. To see if everyone else from that moment showed up as well. To see if she really had made it.

She had to. If York and Wyoming and Florida had made it then South had to. Even if it was just out of spite.

He tries to talk to Wash about it, but Wash is lost in his own mind and seems rather cagey about the whole thing so eventually he just drops it.

Surprisingly, it’s Donut he ends up talking to. The pink armoured soldier listens intently, letting North ramble for a bit before finally interrupting. Mostly about his fears that it’s a dream and that what if South really doesn’t want to see him.

“You know North, I think you’re over thinking this. I’m pretty sure it’s not a dream and I’m sure your sister misses you just as much. I mean, when Grif’s sister showed up, he was really mad about it but I’m pretty sure that that was just his way of showing that he cares. So it might be the same for you and your sister, except in reverse.”

“Wait, Grif has a sister?”

--

South, as it turns out, had similar worries.

Her confident was not, however, as sympathetic as she would have liked and rapidly tiring of her demands.

“So you saw North?”

“Yes, I saw him. Briefly. He looked fine. And alive. I told him to contact you and then I left,” Wyoming said, his voice the sound of patience wearing away.

“Can you tell me what he said?”

“We merely exchanged pleasantries. It’s not like we stopped to have a full conversation, given everything that was going on. I don’t know why you’re grilling me like this. We’ll be there soon enough and then you’ll have all the time in the world to talk.”

“I just want to be ready,” South replies, sourly. Ready for what, she’s not sure. North to be mad at her, North not really wanting to see her.

She flip flops on whether or not she should be the one to look for him. First she decides that she should be the one to take action, to own up. But then her confidence wavers and she changes her mind. He should come to her. It’s better that way. But then she flips again and Wyoming finally decides he’s had enough. They haven’t even reunited fully and he’s already exhausted of his teammates again.

South is left alone with her indecisions.

--

In the end, it’s North who finds South.

It’s a mess of people as everyone makes their way to the chosen location, an old Federation base that the New Republic had captured. The Freelancers are there, and CT and her people and a whole bunch of twitchy, unsure soldiers.

He finds her by the Freelancers’ pelican. She’s hanging back, almost nervous. It’s weird to see her like that, as in all of North’s memories she’s brash and loud and out in front. He was the quiet one, the reserved one. He passes by the other Freelancers and York is about to say something, and vaguely he notices Florida hold him back and say something to him. Whatever it is, North doesn’t hear it and instead keeps pushing through the people up to his sister.

South looks up at him and freezes like a deer in the headlights. She starts to say something but North is past words at this point and grabs her, pulling her into a tight bear hug. Whatever she has to say can wait, because all that matters right now is that he has his little sister, his twin back. South seems to understand as after a moment she stops fighting, and seems to sink against him, her arms coming up to hold him just as tightly.

“I missed you,” he says finally, after a long while.

“Yeah, me to,” South replies, almost surprising herself with how much she means it.

Eventually the hug ends, but neither of them is eager to part from each other. So they stay where they are, watching the crowds of people.

“I almost gave up,” South says, not looking at North.

“I almost did to,” North replies, though he glances at her. He can see lines on her face that weren’t there before, and a tired expression that doesn’t quite fit. He wants to ask her about it, wants to know what she’s been up to. How she wound up in the company of the other freelancers. Everything really.

But there will be time for that later. They both have long stories to tell and many things to discuss, but for now, they have each other.

And North wouldn’t trade that for the world.

Chapter Text

Carolina retreats from York amidst protests and questions from Epsilon. She finds herself having trouble accepting the reality of the situation. That everyone that she had thought was dead, had mourned, was alive. It just didn’t seem real. This had to be some joke, some weird side effect of having Epsilon in her head.

Epsilon takes offence to that and retreats to a quiet buzz in the back of her mind. Carolina really doesn’t mind that because she needs a moment to herself. A moment to think this through and let everything sink in. No matter how long that takes.

She doesn’t know where she’s heading. Her last quiet spot had been invaded and so she needs to find a new one. Away from everyone else.

Instead she finds the Director.

**

In all honestly, Leonard Church had hung back from the reunions. He hadn’t meant to, but it had just sort of happened. While he still had distance on his side, galaxies and quadrants away from the Planet Chorus, he felt he had been ready for anything of his past.

He’d survived his meeting with Connecticut, hadn’t he?

But as they’d approached Chorus, he’d been growing steadily less convinced. It had been waning bit by bit until finally the moment came where he’d drifted into that open area and found himself staring at a lineup of his former soldiers.

In that moment, he knew that he wasn’t ready.

He needed time to think, time to prepare, time to work out exactly what he was going to say because there was so much he needed to say. He wished Davey was here to help him out.

It was there that Carolina found him.

**

It’s a moment that neither has prepared for but it came too quickly. But they are both Churches, and with Epsilon in the mix there is no way that the Universe as an entity is going to pass up the opportunity to make sure that things don’t go as planned for any of them.

It certainly doesn’t help that the last time they saw each other, there had been an implicit understanding that they weren’t going to see each other again.

That it was a final meeting.

Now it was just awkward.

Leonard Church stares at his daughter and wonders how he’s even going to explain himself. What he’s doing there and in the company of a bunch of supposed insurrectionists. It’s absolutely ridiculous, the more he thinks about it. How does he explain about the trial, about coming back to himself, about finding the organization, or his new work in prosthetics and robotic limbs, and the more he thinks the more unbelievable his story becomes.

How does he even begin to explain his change of heart, never mind the rest of it?

Carolina stares at the Director, her father, and doesn’t know what to think. She’d mourned him, made peace with the whole situation, moved on with her life and now, here he was, alive in front of her. She’s more relieved than she cares to admit though Epsilon is quite content to comment on it. The other part of her is angry because if he was alive, why did she have to expend all that energy mourning him? It seemed like a waste now.

Though, she cannot deny that there is something different about him. He seems more awake, alive, present. Like he’s been freed from some prison and not the literal one he was in. It’s as if she’s seeing her father for the first time. The man he was supposed to be.

It was uplifting in a way.

They’re quiet for a long time, before Carolina starts mumbling an excuse and turns to go. It’s Leonard who stops her, not quite reaching out but finding his voice.

“It’s a bit of a long story, but I met a girl who reminded me of you.”

Carolina pauses, and eventually turns around to look at him, quizzically, and he takes a breath to continue the story.

Chapter Text

Washington is still reeling from the previous night.

Until mere hours ago, he was convinced that he, Carolina, and North were the only ones left of Project Freelancer. That everyone else that he knew, that his friends, were gone.

It’s more than surreal to find out that they’re alive, and well. All of them. Including the Director. He can feel his brain short circuiting. It’s why he hasn’t approached anyone. He’s not sure what to say, how to react and until he can properly formulate a reaction that is actually some level of coherent and not letting his voice reach that second octave, he figures he should keep his distance.

York, typically, ruins that. He slides in, seating himself across the table from Wash and starts talking before Wash has a chance to say anything or ever register the other freelancer.

“So I tried talking to Carolina and she just walked away from me. Did I do something wrong? I mean, all I said was “hey.””

And just like that, it’s as if nothing’s changed. Like the entirety of the collapse of Project Freelancer just wasn’t a thing. They could just as easily be sitting in the mess hall of the Mother of Invention, shooting the shit between missions.

Wash resists the urge to punch York.

It’s not an unfamiliar feeling, but it’s weird to be directing those feelings towards York. Typically they’re angled more towards Tucker, or Grif, or Sarge these days. He’d almost say it was comforting. York probably deserves it.

York is oblivious to this struggle.

“Wash, please. I need answers. And you’ve been hanging out with her, has she talked about me?”

“York, I think you need to slow down a bit. I see smoke coming out of Wash’s helmet,” North says, sitting down beside Wash. There’s a look of relief from both Wash and York. North is here, and balance is restored.

“Right. Sorry,” York says, but he’s taken off his helmet and he’s smiling. “I missed you guys. And like hell I’m going to talk to Wyoming or Florida about this.”

He looks older. They all look older. Tired, worn, lines on there faces where there didn’t need to be any for years.

“Hey, I missed you to, buddy,” North replies. “What the hell even happened to you?”

“I could ask you guys the same question. I mean, have you guys been together all this time?” York looks curious, and almost hurt by the idea.

“No. This is a recent development,” Wash replies, shortly. “Honestly, I thought you all were dead. I just operated under that assumption until I ran in to Carolina.”

“I think I was the only one stayed with Freelancer until it collapsed…” North pauses, picking his words carefully. “The Oversight Committee sent me here and I’ve been working with the Federation Army. That’s how I ran into Wash.”

York looks at Wash, expectantly. His eye is still messed up.

“Look, how I got here is a really long story.”

“We got time,” York says, but Wash shakes his head. He’s really not up for that one right now. Maybe he’ll save it until after York has met the Reds and Blues.

They sit in silence for a while. There’s still the sense that questions are in the air.

“Hey, North…do you,” York pauses, taking a breath. “Do you still have Theta?”

“No…Delta?”

“Nope.”

“Epsilon’s with Carolina,” Wash is almost as surprised that he volunteered that information as York and North are. “They get along better. I guess they’re almost siblings.”

The silence that hung in the air previously returns with a palpable vengeance.

“Okay, Wash. With a statement like that you better start explaining, and I don’t care how long it takes,” York says flatly. North looks at Wash and just starts laughing.

Wash just sighs and takes a breath.

Chapter Text

CT keeps largely to herself.

In this wild rush of reunions and meetings, she’s really not sure where she fits in and so she keeps to herself. Part of her wants to talk to the other Freelancers again, say something, acknowledge what happened. She used to be one of them, didn’t she? She kept the name after all.

But it doesn’t change the fact that she betrayed them. That when all was said and done, she wasn’t really on their side. And if she was being honest, once she left, she hadn’t planned on showing her face around them again.

She felt trapped between a rock and a hard place.

The rest of her companions were no help. Robert and Ian were not interested in playing nice with the Freelancers for the moment and the Director had similar misgivings to CT, perhaps on a larger scale. Though he had managed to have a conversation with Carolina, which all things considered, was more of a start than CT had.

And so she figured she would keep her distance. And then go where she was told. Just be the sheep despite all her inclinations not to.

The Universe had other ideas in store.

But that’s par for the course really.

It came in the form of Agent Washington. He hadn’t necessarily been looking for CT, instead trying to track down the members of Blue team to make sure they hadn’t started something or worse. (And he needed to hear the exact history of Tucker and Wyoming so he could get involved should the Freelancer attempt to rekindle old grudges. Wyoming was patient after all). But when he saw CT, he found himself pausing.

Even though they were only about fifteen feet away from each other, the gulf felt larger. It was actually amazing how time and questions and betrayal and a vague sense of relief could fit into such a small space.

“Wash,” CT said, surprised that she was using the old nickname. There were words waiting to spill out of her mouth but she held them back because they weren’t the words she wanted to say. She wasn’t sorry, she didn’t think she had to apologize but at the same time she wanted to acknowledge what she’d done. Wanted to acknowledge her part in everything that happened to Washington, and maybe apologize for some of that. He’d been an unintended casualty.

“CT.” It surprised Wash that he to, would use the nickname. He didn’t know what to say next. Like many of the other Freelancers, Wash had let CT go, never expecting to see her again, or get answers, or learning why she did what she did. He could feel the old emotions coming back again, equal parts anger and betrayal and wanting to tell her that she was right and he should have trusted her.

It’s a mess. An uncomfortable mess that’s not going to be solved here. It’s not something Wash is ready to deal with yet, still too overwhelmed by everything. It’s not something CT is ready to deal with yet, still not sure how to explain her actions and accept the consequences.

“I’m glad you’re alive,” is all Wash manages to say before he leaves to return to his earlier errand. Blue Team, at least, is not that complicated.

“Yeah, you to,” CT replies, and she smiles behind her helmet. If nothing else, it’s a start.

Chapter Text

CT does not have time consider her next meeting with Wash because the next person she encounters is South Dakota.

It’s not an ideal meeting.

Where Wash is patience and some form of understanding wrapped up in an overwhelming blanket of confusion, South is anger and fury and a list of demands. She wastes no time in approaching CT, in demanding answers, in wanting an explanation and there is no North Dakota around to temper her.

Thanks for nothing, North.

“Well?” South demands again and CT is not sure what to say first. Again she is caught between apologizing and not. She still believes what she did was right. She’s not afraid of South, but there is an intimidation to her that cannot be ignored.

“He had to be stopped,” is what CT finally says. “The Director, what he was doing was wrong, and he had to be stopped.”

“Well obviously!” South replies, though it’s hard to say whether that reaction comes from before or after the project fell apart. “That’s not what I’m mad about, Connie! I’m mad about the fact that you left! You betrayed us! You went off on your own and didn’t even try to tell us what was going on!”

And in many ways, South is right. She didn’t really try to talk to the other freelancers. She went outside the system and stayed there. They were supposed to be her team but she was a mole and always had to keep her distance. Couldn’t let herself get too close, lest she get caught up in their way of thinking. As much as she had wanted someone to talk to, it couldn’t have been another Freelancer.

“Only because you were all caught up in your worship of him! In believing in him because of all he’d done for you! Didn’t you see he was playing you?”

“Didn’t you see the lines being drawn after the AIs came into the picture! You’re not the only one who didn’t like what they were seeing, Connie. And I really could have used someone to talk to back then.”

Those words struck CT harder than she thought. Thinking back, she had been closer to South than any of the other Freelancers. Us ladies have got to stick together, she had said once. And they had, because the other options had been Carolina and Tex, both distant in their own ways. Because they’d both been towards the bottom of the list.

And the honesty in South’s voice probably hurt the most.

“I need to go,” she said suddenly, turning on her heel and heading off in a direction, needing distance from South more than anything else. She needed to think.

South fumed but didn’t go after her, her hands clenched in a fist.

Chapter Text

York is feeling better this time around.

He can’t say what it is. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s talked to Wash and North. That those old bonds hadn’t completely severed and that once the conversation started going, it was just like old times. Sure Wash was a bit more sarcastic now and not the old rookie that he used to be, but it added a new dynamic. And he liked it.

Maybe, York thought, maybe that was all it took. He needed to just start the conversation with Carolina and it would all fall into place. He just needed a chance. And he had just the line to do it with. And he’s risk the throat punch.

**

It’s still all too much for Carolina.

Too many familiar people who she thought she had let go of, or at least moved past. After her conversation with the Director, with her father, it had felt like enough. She didn’t need to talk to anyone from Freelancer again just yet. She still wanted to digest that conversation, probably the most normal conversation she’d had with him in years. It almost made her hopeful for the next one? It was a weird and uncomfortable feeling that she didn’t know how to deal with and didn’t really have anyone to talk to about. Epsilon was no help.

She went to train instead. It wasn’t really focused training, more so going through the motions so that she could think. Movement helped with her thoughts and she had a lot of them.

And maybe it would distract her from the other lingering one.

**

She was training again.

Of course she was training again. York didn’t know why he thought any differently. But he wasn’t an infiltration specialist for nothing, and with Carolina distracted it would be easy to sneak in around the back. Rusty skills or not.

Appearing behind her was just asking for trouble so instead he walked around her until he was in her field of vision. She didn’t stop with her motions so he moved closer until he was only a few feet away. She didn’t acknowledge him.

He cleared his throat.

“Hey Carolina, if I said you had nice armour, which you do but I think you updated it, would you hold it against me?”

**

With all her activities on Chorus, Carolina’s skills had not dulled. And with Epsilon on board, she was well aware of York. Almost too aware and it bothered her. Instead she’d stayed focused. And tried not to acknowledge him, because it was hard to imagine him as not dead. She’s come to terms with that knowledge and having it brought back to the forefront was something she did not appreciate.

The only explanation she was allowing herself right now was that York was a ghost, a manifestation of her stress.

And then he’d said that ridiculous pick-up line. And acknowledged the fact that she had changed some of her armour.

She turned towards him, looking like she was about to say something but thing deciding against it and shoving past him. The thing that bothered her the most was that York was definitely solid.

**

York watched her go.

This time, he had expected that. But she’d almost said something. And she’d pushed him.

Progress, he thought.

Chapter Text

It’s Florida who finds North.

Not that its difficult. North hasn’t really moved from the mess hall. He’s enjoyed catching up with Wash and York but he can tell that they both need their space. This is all still a lot for all of them. It’s still surreal to think you were alone in the world and then find out over the course of a few day that you are so most definitely not.

He’s still trying to wrap his head around it when Florida sits down across from him. He doesn’t really announce his presence, so much as he’s there, radiating that calm, yet terrifying, energy that North has to admit that he has missed. Really he’s missed everything about his fellow freelancers, even the things that used to annoy him.

“How are you holding up, North? It’s been a while.”

“Yeah, no kidding. Still kind of weird, when you think about it.”

“Oh believe me,” Florida replies with a good natured chuckle. “I know all about that. I managed to wrangle most of us together, and it’s still kind of weird that we’re all in the same place. I was certain Reg would bolt the minute he had the chance.”

That would not have surprised North. Wyoming did seem to prefer his own company.

There is silence for a moment, as North searches for more words. He was never close to Florida, and in the moment it feels like a dad checking up on their estranged kid.

“Look, Florida. Thanks, for finding South and looking after her. I was…”

He’s about to say worried? Or Scared? Or both? It’s hard to describe the feelings he gets when he consider the reality of South just not being there.The only thing he really knows that it’s something he doesn’t ever want to consider.

But Florida stops him.

“As much as I’d like to take credit for that North, that was actually all Reg. He’s the one that found South and brought her home. Probably the reason why she didn’t run off either. So if you should be thanking anyone, it’s him. To be honest, I think he’s always had a soft spot for her.”

North can’t disagree with that, as he reflects on that. North has always been the older brother by a few minutes, but more often than not Wyoming had always stepped in to provide them with some guidance. Knowing Wyoming he probably guilted her somehow.

“Yeah, I think I’ll do that. Thanks Florida.” There’s no mistaking the way his voice is heavy with relief, even as he tries to prevent any sort of choking up.

“Anytime North. I’m glad we found you. I admit, I was also starting to get just a little bit worried. I mean, I figured you could take care of yourself, but you know how it is.”

“I’m glad you found me to. I…I really missed you guys.”

He gets up to leave after that. It’s weird, being emotional when for so long they all kept their feelings inside, being soldiers, doing missions, carrying out orders. It feels good to say something. Florida simply nods, but there’s that sense that he’s smiling behind his helmet.

North finds that he’s smiling to.

Chapter Text

CT, admittedly, has been avoiding Florida.

She would say it’s not for any reason in particular but that would be a lie. Florida has always been something of an enigma to her.The way he could keep an air of cheerfulness about him. And how that cheerfulness could almost be threatening, but also overwhelmingly sincere. He was too easy to get along with and that made him dangerous, as far as CT was concerned.

Even now, it was like nothing had changed. Now in this moment, when they were all trying to interact, reunite, reconnect despite years of fear and resentment and anger, trying to figure out if the pieces still made a puzzle, there was Florida. Acting like nothing had changed, fitting in when all of them weren’t.

She’d watched him to talk to the other agents, jealous of how that trust was so quickly reignited. His conversation with North had just ended and she could see North walking away, clearly feeling that much more energized and relaxed. She was envious in a way. But she couldn’t let her old feelings go, or the fears that followed them.

“Everything alright, Connie?” Florida asked suddenly, and CT was kicking herself. She’d let herself stay still too long and of course he was going to notice her. Of course he would use her old nickname. She glanced around for an escape but there was none. Just Florida filling the space with an easy smile and an invitation to converse and catch up.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” she replied, curtly. Florida nodded, taking it with grace. He stood up to leave.

“If you say so, but if you ever want to chat and catch up, I’m here. I just wanted to say that I’m really glad you’re alive. I looked for you.”

He patted her shoulder on his way out, leaving CT stunned. She had thought that he would push and try to get answers from her.

And then there was a quiet voice in her brain. One that spoke up in times like these, almost to the point of being common sense. That really, that wasn’t Florida’s style unless he really wanted it, but that side only came out during interrogations. Florida really did care.

She sighed, and turned to follow him.

“Actually…it’s been a while,” She said. “Do you think we could catch up?”

Chapter Text

Wyoming, for the most part, has kept himself clear of the reunions.

Not out of any particularly strong feelings, but just a result of who he is. He never felt close to any of his teammates, and those that he felt more of an affection than most he’s already had a moment with. If anyone wants to speak with him, they can find him. Simple as that.

It’s really only his inability to say no to Butch Flowers that’s keeping him there anyway.

So far, no one has sought him out and for that he is grateful. He is a loner by nature and is celebrating the fact that he can get some quiet in before someone like South comes along to rant at him or Florida forces him to be social.

Few people truly understand the beauty of peace and quiet.

He’s really not surprised that it’s ruined by one Lavernius Tucker. The man has been a thorn in his side for far too long.

“So, you’re still around, huh?”

Wyoming turns, pointing his sniper rifle at Tucker though it’s somewhat ridiculous to have a long range weapon at such a short distance.

“Could say the same for you, mate. Thought you kicked it ages ago.”

“Ha, as if. I outlived you.”

“All evidence to the contrary. I’m right here, compliments of your former captain.”

“Well, I outlived your clones.”

“As did I. Your arguing skills still leave a lot to be desired, Private Tucker.”
“It’s Captain now.”

If Wyoming’s impressed, or even if he isn’t, it doesn’t show. He has mastered the art of the impassive visor.

This only serves to aggravate Tucker. Wyoming considers this a victory.
“Look, what I’m trying to say is, I beat you. And your stupid bounty! I bet it doesn’t even exist anymore since we finished with all that shit!”

“Well, from where I’m standing, it looks like I have a clear shot, and one I’m not likely to miss. I might not get my bounty, but at least I’ll get my man and that’s enough for me. Say goodbye, mate.”

“Are you two catching up?”

Whatever tense standoff was about to occur is immediately defused by the arrival of Captain Butch “Florida” Flowers. For a moment both Tucker and Wyoming regard Florida, and then each other, before Wyoming lowers the rifle and stands to leave.

“Something like that,” Wyoming says. “Until next time, Private Tucker.”

“Fuck you!” Tucker yells after him, flipping him off at the same time.

-

Wyoming walks away with a sense of victory and the realization that maybe he won’t be so bored after all.

-

Florida watches him go with what can only be interpreted as a bemused expression before turning to Tucker. Tucker can feel the grin on his face radiating from behind the visor. Tucker is not sure if Flowers is messing with him or not.

“Something like that,” he says with a sigh.

Chapter Text

Both Florida and Tucker watch Wyoming go as an awkward silence descends upon them. Tucker, admittedly, is at a loss. Not so much because Captain Flowers is alive, as Blue Team leaders just seem to have a problem with staying dead. Or because Flowers was a freelancer the whole time because really who wasn’t at this point?

No, the awkwardness stems from the fact that it’s just occurred to Tucker that he is still wearing Flowers’s old armour. That he grabbed from Flowers’ supposed corpse. Which, by all accounts is now standing beside him unless there was cloning involved (and honestly, he hates that that’s even a potential thought but at the same time, there’s probably a weirder reason).

God, they need to know more people. Better people.

He’s about to say something, but it’s Flowers who speaks up first.

“Anyway, it’s good to see you again, Tucker. You look well.”

“Uh, yeah, you as well…Cappy?”

Tucker is really at a loss as to how to address his former captain but Flowers just laughs. Genuinely laughs, which puts Tucker at almost a bit of ease. This is the Flowers he remembers.

“It’s been a long time since anyone called me that. It’s too bad I wasn’t exactly the best captain to you all.”

“If I’m being honest, Sir, you’re pretty par for the course. Granted, the leadership changes a lot these days.”

That just makes Flowers laugh again. “You’ll have to update me with what’s been happening. Sounds like you all have had quite the adventure to end up here.”

“You’re telling me, Sir.”

“And there’s no need to call me Sir, anymore Tucker. From what I’ve heard, we’re on equal footing now.”

At that, Tucker balks. Leadership, for him admittedly, has proven to be a bit of a struggle. He hasn’t been sure of himself for a while, even with getting everyone back together. He can’t even be sure of where he stands.

“I guess. I don’t really feel like a Captain though.”

“You know, I don’t think anyone really does? I honestly though that Blood Gulch was going to be an easy gig after everything. Shows you what I know.”

Who would have thought that looking after some idiots in a canyon would prove to be so troublesome? And really, he missed the big stuff.

Tucker shrugs.

“I was just trying to do my best, like Wash does. I keep feeling like every time I do what I think is the right thing, it ends up being wrong.”

“And that’s pretty par for the course, honestly. You know, Tucker, before I joined the Project, my squad had a pretty high casualty rate. I don’t think it was because of anything I was doing per say, but more a case of being in the right place at the wrong time. I would do everything I could to protect my men, but we were in a pretty bad spot that things rarely worked out as cleanly as I would have liked.”

There’s an awkward silence that follows that pronouncement as Tucker puts the pieces together. He’s not sure what to say.

“Sorry…to hear that,” he finally manages. Flowers pats his shoulder.

“That’s war, unfortunately. But I’ve sort of come to accept that things don’t always turn out the way you want. I don’t know how many times we improvised in Project Freelancer. But, if you’re lucky, things will turn out the way they need to.”

“But people died! Does that mean that they —” Tucker starts again.

“They did. And I’m not saying that they had to or anything like that. Just that that happened. The thing is, you’re still alive, so you have to keep moving forward for them. It’s…it’s not easy, but you do it. You get what I’m saying, Tucker?”

There’s a silence as Tucker tries to work it out, and fails. It’s been a wild time and honestly? He probably needs a nap or something. Florida notices the silence and laughs. In a comforting sort of way.

“You’ll figure it out. It was good talking to you Tucker, but I should probably check on everyone else. Let’s catch up again later.”

“Uh, yeah. Sure. Nice talking to you to, Captain Flowers.”

“And I’ll keep Reg off your back. He likes to be annoying like that.”

About a million thoughts fly into Tucker’s head that he’s not quite sure how to process, but before he has a chance to ask them, Florida has walked off.

Yeah. He definitely needs a nap.

Chapter Text

They need a new hiding place.

Certainly, what they have is good. It’s hidden, it’s safe, and easily defended. But they need a new one. One that’s bigger, with more places to hide and get away from everyone. No matter where she goes, Carolina seems to keep running into people she knows and doesn’t want to talk to.

Mostly because she’s having a hard time believing they are even alive. That she’s not surrounded by ghosts. She just, doesn’t know what to do with it all. And Epsilon isn’t much help in that regard. Maybe she should just pass him off to Tucker for a bit.

She can’t go back to training either. York knows she’ll be there and will probably try to talk to her again and Carolina has to admit that she just. Does not know what to do with that. She’s still not even sure that York’s not a very solid ghost. And that’s when she’s had enough, so with a frustrated yell, she punches the wall.

That’s also when Florida appears.

“You know, there’s actually a quiet spot just there that might be good for thinking,” he says, chipper as always, and pointing down at a path just off to the side. Carolina just stares at him and normally the silence would be awkward but it’s not this time. It’s comforting. It’s Florida’s positive attitude and his looking after the team in his own way that Carolina is never sure how to deal with because he’s so much better at it than her. Even if it is in a somewhat scary way.

Florida doesn’t even say anything more, just walks past her with a friendly pat to the shoulder.

“Florida, wait,” Carolina says, after a few moments of trying to get her thoughts in order. Florida pauses and looks back.

“How…how are any of you still alive?” She finally asks. “I thought that you were all…”

“Well, if you want to get technical, I was dead for a bit, but the Aliens have a different understanding of death that I was able to benefit from. Hasn’t let me down yet. And maybe that luck just got spread around, along with us being a little bit better at survival than we thought. But I think it was also bringing us all together that helped, at least on my end. I know it’s a bit of a shock, Carolina, but we’re here and I’m glad for it. I’m glad you made it to.”

It’s the sincerity in his voice that always gets her. He means what he says absolutely.

“And, I know York is really happy to. You should try to talk to him, before he tries something drastic. And as much as Reg might appreciate that, since you know he likes a show, I’d rather keep everyone in one piece.”

“Y-yeah. I’ll try. Can you keep Wyoming in line for me until I can?”

“I was just on my way to find him, so don’t you worry. But I did mean it about that quiet spot. Just, don’t go near the water. I’ve been told it’s radioactive.”

“I think I’ll head there now. Thanks.”

Florida nods, and heads off, humming a little tune. And Carolina turns to find that quiet place he was talking about. Maybe, she thinks, this is a second chance. To learn, and be a better leader.

She didn’t think she’d ever get one. It’s a weird feeling.

But at the same time, it feels pretty good.

Chapter Text

Much like his daughter, Leonard Church is looking for a place to be on his own. It’s a lot more people than he expected in a far more dire situation than he thought and he needs a moment to think. To re-evaluate what he was doing here and how he should proceed.

He misses Davey. Davey would be a big help in this moment, if only to provide him with a grounding point. To listen to him ramble and make sense of it. To be the confidant he hadn’t known he’d needed. He supposes that Price had been that at one point, at least in his more scientific endeavours, but that was long over. Especially with the side that Price had chosen.
So he goes looking for a place to think. He finds, instead, Agent Washington.

It’s not a planned moment. They are simply passing by each other and end up making eye contact. For lack of a better term, but Leonard knows how to read visors. It’s also awkward. After all, the last time they had spoken, Leonard had just ordered the Meta to kill Washington, and Washington had set off the EMP in retaliation. So, it is safe to say, in all fairness, they did not part on the best of terms.

There’s a pause, and a silence as both parties try to determine if they have anything they need to say to each other. Leonard hadn’t quite gotten this far in terms of negotiating reconciliation; hadn’t really expected meeting up with all the Freelancers this quickly, much less at all. In retrospect, he really should have seen this coming, given his relationship to the Universe at large. Wash’s silence is not helpful either. And eventually, they move on.

Leonard needs a better opening line.

-

The reaction he gets from the Twins is more what he expected.

To be more specific, the reaction he gets from South Dakota is more what he expected. Though he doesn’t see the blow coming. And he’s not surprised that North Dakota is not exactly trying to stop his sister.

“What you did to us was sick!” South rants, though this time North does step in to prevent her from throwing another punch. “And you’re never separating us again!”

Leonard doesn’t retaliate, doesn’t attempt to defend himself because she’s right and he knows. He’s had more than enough time to think about his actions, and all the pain he’s caused. What he did to each of them in the name of, whatever he could call his research. Certainly not science. The weight seems to increase every time he thinks about it.

“I’m sorry,” is all he can say, softly, and trying to keep his gaze on them and not the ground. It’s harder than it seems and somehow scarier to meet North’s eyes than South’s.

“You better be,” is all that South manages to reply with as North pulls her away.

Leonard can only wonder if he’s going to get a future conversation. One that might be calmer. But considering North’s expression, he’s not sure if he wants one.

-

He encounters York next, and surprisingly, a conversation happens. An awkward conversation to be sure, but a conversation none the less. York seems less interested in an apology and more interested in hearing about Carolina. Leonard is surprised that the two haven’t spoken yet, given their closeness in the project.

But then, he missed a lot of the in-between.

“So, then I tried this pick up line, but that didn’t seem to work, so, I’m trying to figure out what I can say to her that will get her to talk to me, you know?” York explains, and Leonard is trying to work out a response.

He doesn’t have one, so York continues.

“Actually, I’m not sure why I’m telling you all this,” he admits, as realization seems to set in.

“I admit I had similar questions,” Leonard is finally able to respond. “Though I do appreciate that you haven’t tried to punch me out just yet.”

“Truthfully sir, I’ve thought about it. But, you know, we’re all kind of in this together, so I guess I figured, that’s not really going to help.”

There’s a silence as the two of them contemplate the wisdom of this.

“Damn, I’ve been living with Florida too long.”

-

The last group he encounters are Wyoming and 479er. He’s surprised to see them together, given that they rarely interacted back at Freelancer. But they’re bickering about something and don’t initially catch sight of him passing by. At least until they do and the argument fades. Much like with Washington, there is silence.

Niner looks like she is going to speak, her body tensing as she considers her words before she turns sharply and heads in the other direction. There’s a scream of frustration not too far off. Wyoming, true to form, seems mildly amused by the whole thing.

“Seems she still has a few things to work out,” He says. Leonard can’t say he blames her. He’s lost at what to say in these situations and Wyoming rarely offers much.

“And you?”

Wyoming sighs.

“Since the whole project went under, I’ve been treated to a series of bad luck and reunions I would have rather avoided. The latter likely due to the former now that I think of it. But I’m in this far so might as well see it through. Just, don’t expect any favours, especially if you get in a tight spot.”

Leonard nods. It’s to be expected really. He doesn’t have the money to change Wyoming’s mind anyway.

“Fair enough.”

“And I’m not looking for any apologies. What happened, happened and I’m leaving it at that.”

Leonard leaves with the sense that Wyoming will be watching him, however. And he wouldn’t be surprised if he decided to take action if he saw something he didn’t like.

-

And that brings him back to Wash.

They meet again under similar circumstances. Not intentionally, just passing by each other. Washington doesn’t look like he’s about to stop this time, and Leonard doesn’t plan to either until the words are out of his mouth.

“I’m sorry.”

It’s said quietly, and simply. Leonard intends to leave it just hanging in the air, moving on and letting Wash do with it what he will. He doesn’t expect forgiveness. He only stops because Wash does, and he looks back, and waits, watching the back of the former Freelancer.

“Yeah,” Wash responds, before moving on.

If nothing else, thinks Leonard, it’s a start.

Chapter Text

The next person Wash encounters is Florida.

It is, like so many of these meetings, awkward.

Even more so because Washington realizes that he now occupies the position that Agent Florida once held on Blue Team.

Florida being exceedingly amused by the whole development does not help at all.

He makes Wash tell him the whole story. Or at least what he knows. And he listens, intently, because as Wash is reminded there really is no saying no to Florida.

“Well, I must say, Washington, you certainly had a more exciting time with them than I did. I even envy you for Valhalla, though Blood Gulch had its charms.”

Wash is not the first person to boggle over Florida’s fondness for Blood Gulch. He’d been there once and that was more than enough.

“Yeah, exciting is a word you could use,” Wash replies. Confusing, wild, beyond comprehension. Those are also words you could use. There are days when he thinks he has a handle on things, but then something happens to make him think he’s only just gamely hanging on. Not that he would trade it but he would like a little more stability.

“Thank you, Wash.”

“Huh?”

“For looking after them,” Florida adds. “I know they’re a bunch of idiots and a handful but you guided them and looked after them more than I ever could. So, thank you.”

Only Florida could turn a words like Idiots into an insult and a term of affection at the same time, and as much as Wash wants to argue that they’re better than Florida thinks, there’s a sense that Florida knows that to.

“Yeah, well, I didn’t want to. But I guess they gave me something in return.”

Florida is smiling behind his helmet, Wash can tell.

“I know the feeling.”

Chapter Text

“Hey! Idiot! I got a bone to pick with you.”

Tucker turns and finds himself facing the CT who is in fact not CT coming up to him. Figures that on the day that everyone else is getting happy reunions, he’s the one who has to face all his enemies. God this sucks.

“Yeah, well, I don’t want anything to do with you! It’s just been one enemy coming out of the woodwork after another. I hate this!”

CT who is not CT looks less than sympathetic.

“I could say the same for me,” he snarls. “You think I like being surrounded by Freelancers!”

“God, they’re the worst of all! I can’t believe they’re not all dead.”

“Tell me about it! They’re like cockroaches.”

There’s a brief moment where they look at each other, and for that brief instant in time, it feels like their argument, whatever it was, has dissipated in their aggressive agreement. But then CT who is not CT seems to remember why he’s here.

“Don’t try to get me with common enemy crap! I want answers and you’re gonna give them to me! What’s up with the alien tech here?”

“How the fuck should I know?” It’s a default response that comes instantly. But, if he’s being honest, Tucker doesn’t actually know. He’s got some ideas, given his time in the desert and that’s probably what this guy was alluding to since he was also there, but otherwise, it remains a mystery.

“You’ve been here longer so you should know something. Or is standing around and talking the only thing you’ve been doing?”

“It’s what I want to be doing! Instead I’m stuck in the middle of a fucking civil war that you just joined!”

They glare at each other some more. Because, once again, there is that weird feeling that they are, in fact, on the same side. Not that either of them is ready to admit it.

“Then what. Can. You tell me?” Not-CT finally forces out. It’s not threatening, but it’s not friendly either and for a moment, Tucker considers not saying anything. But at the same time, he supposes they need all the help they can get. And Wash would probably chew him out later if he screwed this up. Being a leader sucks.

“Fine.”

He goes over what they know, how they got here, and what he thinks they need to do next. Or at least, where it’s going to go. Which is likely all down in Armonia. Not-CT nods, taking it all in while asking few questions.

“So, that’s it. I’m sure someone will probably have something more specific but things are kind of a mess right now, so, I don’t know more than that. If you want to help with the alien shit, try talking to Dr. Gray. If you can. She’s…something.”

“Noted. I’ll get on that.” Not-CT turns to go.

“What? Not even a thank you?”

“Thank you, I appreciate it,” is the reply, exasperated and frustrated and maybe grateful but Tucker wasn’t really listening because it was more the principle of the matter than anything else. They stare at each other again.

“What?”

“If you’re not CT, then what is your name? Because I’m not calling you Not-CT anymore. I mean, I’ll probably come up with something insulting, but anyway.”

“Robert. I’m Robert. The guy with the robot arms is Ian, and then there’s the actual CT. She’ll probably kill you if you try anything though. And then I’ll kill you and then Ian will kill you, so we’re clear.”

“Cool. I don’t go for freelancers anyway.”

“Good.”

Tucker flips Robert the double birds as he walks away and Robert responds in kind and it would almost be camaraderie if Tucker didn’t hate him.