Posts tagged drabble.
RvB Drabble: Time Dilation
Wyoming wondered if his enhancement, his time dilation was intentional, some kind of cruel poetry at gaining a second chance at life without ever really offering a second chance at anything else that might matter. He wondered because of how the Director banned him from the recovery missions for CT, banned him but kept Wash, subtly moved him around so the others didn’t question, gave him conflicting missions at the same time on a completely different part of the planet, made it impossible for Wyoming to be in the same space as her again after she left.
He stopped wondering, his suspicions confirmed, when the Director cleared him for in-field enhancement use and added, quietly, “it can’t give you a second chance at past regrets.”
RvB Drabble: Oh Dear God in Heaven
"Yes… yes. This is a fertile land, and we will thrive. We will rule over all this land, and we will call it… This Land." The hands, sadly devoid of dinosaurs, moved over the console as if they held those sacred children’s toys all the same. The voice changed, became more hoarse, and the speaker went on. "I think we should call it… your grave!"
"What are you doing?" a woman’s voice said behind him with such ferocity that Wash jumped in his seat. He carefully swiveled the chair around to discover Four-Seven-Niner, leaning in the door frame, glaring.
"How did you-" he started, unsure how her metal armored boots were so unbelievably silent in the empty Pelican hull. “I was just-“
"You are sitting in my chair."
Wash looked down at the offending piece of furniture. “I guess,” he admitted slowly.
"You are in the hangar bay after hours, in the Pelican unsupervised, in my cockpit, sitting in my chair.” Her voice got louder with every point and Wash’s wincing had achieved full-body status by the end. He was cowering from her on the edge of the seat. She hadn’t moved any closer to him, just leaned in a little from her position by the door. “I never took you for a rule breaker, and I definitely didn’t think you were this amount of crazy, stupidly suicidal.”
"I-I’m sorry," he scrambled, his heart still racing.
"Just get out of here, Agent Washington," she said with a heavy sigh. He scurried out of the chair, turning it around to its original position, and shrank into the wall as he tried to walk past her while also being as far away from her as possible. She let him pass, turning to stare at him as he walked.
Wash reached the doors at the end of the ship and allowed himself the deep breath he had been holding.
Niner’s voice rang out as the door was closing behind him. “And curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!”
RvB Drabble: Hero Training (pre-s9)
"How come you get to be Captain America?"
North looked up at Wyoming with a sigh and a small smirk. “Well, for starters, I’m American.”
"That’s just my point," Wyoming explained. "Where’s the irony?"
"Shut up, Spidey," York called out while he was buckling in his helmet. "You’re supposed to be a snarky teenager, not a whiny one." That shut Wyoming up and with a click, the final piece of York’s armor was on.
"Everyone ready?" he asked, as those around him nodded.
"Are you sure it’s not breaking protocol…" Wash started, quietly trailing off as everyone in the locker room turned to stare at him. "Nevermind," he finally conceded, and followed everyone else to the practice field.
Carolina, Connie and South were all waiting for them as they walked out. Every muscle in Carolina’s body hammered in the fact that her patience had long ago left, and what the hell were they doing in the locker room for that long anyway?
"You’re late," she said.
"It’s a training simulation, Carolina. And you said we needed to be here fifteen minutes early. We’re late to being early. By three minutes." York said this easily, like he said everything. Carolina’s stance didn’t change, but she didn’t chew him out like she would have if anyone else had said that to her.
"Right. Let’s go."
They filed off, North jogging up to keep pace with his sister, Connie waiting out the line of people until she could walk next to Wash. “What took you guys so long?” she said.
Wash stumbled over his first word and Connie immediately knew that something was up. “We were changing, Connie, takes longer when it’s crowded.” He looked over at the team, at Wyoming and Maine, walking in silence. North and South, North making some kind of a joke and South completely ignoring it (Wash had grown accustomed to North’s humor hand gestures), York walking with a slightly out of place spring in his step behind the ever-serious Carolina. “Here we go,” he mumbled as the arena opened to them.
Three seconds in and York turned with a nod to North, and Wash knew the two freelancers would be grinning like kids in a candy store under their helmets. “Yo, Captain America,” York said, causing Carolina to snap her head and look at him. “Flank left with me behind that pillar.”
North was already moving. “Sure thing, Superman.”
"Super-Captain-what?" Carolina said, for a moment turning her head to follow their retreating bodies in confusion.
"Hulk," Wyoming said with a nod to Maine. "Time to move."
South’s voice came over the radio clearly with a disbelieving, “are you dorks actually using superhero code names?”
"What’s yours?" Connie quickly asked Wash.
"He’s got a code name already," Carolina said, her impatience in her voice. "It’s Agent Washington."
"Nightwing," Wash said, and he felt Carolina’s stare on the back of his head as he rushed past her.
The three women stood, watching and providing cover as their radios chattered with commands barked at “Spiderman”, or “Hulk” and as the guys responded to these names just as quickly and easily as they took to “Wyoming” and “Maine”.
"Do you think I’d be Wonder Woman?" Connie said softly over her radio. South gave her a look through her helmet.
"Who the fuck is that?" she spat, turning her attention back to the simulation battle.
"I think you’d be Connie," Carolina said firmly.
"Yeah, but," she said, biting her lip, trying to stop herself from arguing with Carolina during a battle even if it was about something completely unrelated, even if she was carrying her weight just fine. She’d never hear the end of it.
North answered her question when he passed her at a run, closing in on a cluster of “enemy” soldiers, with an out of breath, “hey, Wonder Woman, you coming?”
She’d never tell Carolina or South about the smile on her face as she followed Captain America into battle.
SPN Drabble: Angels are not Castiel
Angels are not born with mercy.
Otherwise, how could we watch as two boys grow up, again and again, knowing they live only as shadow puppets of the original brothers, and are doomed to their fate as well.
Angels are not taught morals.
Otherwise, how can we groom a man, watching as he nearly kills himself, over and over, to save the one we know he’s destined to kill. He dies and we bring him back. He goes to hell, and we bring him back. To save his brother, until his own hands are the ones who kill him.
Angels are not raised with love.
Otherwise they would understand how these two boys put each other’s welfare above everything, above saving others, above the greater good, above the apocalypse, above man, demon, angel and god.
What angels understand is devotion.
What angels don’t understand, not really, is family.
When they look at the two boys, angels see devotion and loyalty. Angels see strength of character. Angels see two brothers, two vessels, two perfectly poised pieces in the grand scheme of things. They don’t understand love, morals, mercy. They understand following orders. They see the two brothers and they see Cain and Abel, they see servants of the divine plan, they see destiny.
When I look at the two boys, I see family.
SPN Drabble: Best Laid Plans
So I don’t actually ship Destiel
But if I did..
and if I had just watched Free To Be You and Me…
and if I had a bit of time on my hands and an urge to write Cas…
queen-of-france asked: "Don't count the wounded, don't count the dead, just count the unaccounted for; for that is what we all will be, if you must really ask - a collateral fine print in the next issue of past"
Maine wouldn’t lie, Wash knew, he wouldn’t lie to him and he wouldn’t lie about this. Even after the Meta had taken over the body of what used to be his friend, Wash always took everything that Maine had said, that he really said, to be complete truth.
And yet here was Carolina. Standing in front of him with that hand on her hip and that cock of her head so you knew, somewhere underneath her helmet visor, she was looking down to you with a sneer. Here she was like nothing had happened, like Maine had never told Wash and York and everyone else that she died while on mission, that she was gone, that she was never coming back.
Wash used to have two columns for his friends. One for those who broke out, ran away, lost contact and left the project and it was so easy to think of them idly as normal people, the armor they wore forgotten in the bottom of some closet, while they went on with life. With smiling. With families.
The other column was for those who died.
He’d spent the last few years since his discharge from the mental ward moving people from one column to the other, carefully, meticulously, with each transfer losing a bit of himself and his shattered optimistic fantasy. This was the first time someone would be moved out of the “death” column.
He wished he could place her in the other column, the “unaccounted for”, the “missing”, the “happy”. But three sentences out of her mouth and he knew she had never taken off the armor, never genuinely smiled, never stopped to form a relationship with another person.
Not since York.
RvB Drabble: The Greater Good
"What are you doing?" Wash demanded. He had opened the door to his room and the sight of York eagerly pushing all of the furniture in the room aside greeted him.
"Oh, good, you’re here. I need help, can you grab the other side of the bed?" York said with a grin and motioned to Wash’s bed.
"What? No!" Wash said, stepping in the room and being more confused by the second. York gave him an exasperated look and pointed at the bed.
"Come on, Wash, I promise it’s for a good cause."
"Yes, exactly, what cause?” Wash crossed his arms, leaning back as York piled his nightstand on the top of his dresser.
"Fellowship. Camaraderie. The greater good, Wash.” He stopped, waiting for the other freelancer to help out with the one bit of furniture that has not yet been moved. The beds.
"I don’t see how moving all our furniture to the walls can be for the ‘greater good’," Wash said but did it anyway because York had that little kid look in his eyes and that was never a bad thing.
By the time they had lifted Wash’s mattress and frame and positioned it carefully against the wall, Maine had walked over from his room, put down the bag he carried in through their open door and had just finished doing the same to York’s bed.
"Oh, cool, you got the rails?" York said when he turned around at the sound of the mattress gently hitting the wall. Maine nodded. "Thanks, man." York walked over to the bag Maine had carried in and opened it eagerly, rummaging through it and taking out small railroad tracks.
Wash was starting to get where this is going.
His suspicions were confirmed when North walked in with a smile and a nod to the others, carrying a bag of small train cars. “HO scale, right?” he said towards York, who nodded and continued to carefully lay train tracks on the ground.
"Wait," Wash said, and it was only after everyone looked up at him that he realized he said it quite loudly. "Wait, the ‘greater good’ is model train sets?" It seemed a stupid question while he was saying it, even stupider now that it had left his mouth and the other three were giving him that look.
"Yes," Maine grunted.
"Of course," North said with a shrug and continued to lay the cars on the tracks and push them together until they linked.
"What else would it be?" York said simply. He handed one of his locomotives to North, every gesture telling the other freelancer that this train was worth as much, if not more, to York than North’s health.
Wash smiled. Of course. “Nothing, you’re right,” he said with an amused shake of his head.
"I know I am, Wash," York said with a wink. "Now come on, we can use some field manuals to make a tunnel in the middle so we can make the tracks into a figure eight."
RvB Self Prompt: Conversations with Dead People
He heard her at night sometimes. Tucker had been the first to mention it. He had called it “praying”. Wash knew Carolina didn’t pray.
He felt bad eavesdropping the first few times. Actually, the very first time, he swore she was actually talking with someone. It was only after she mentioned the name - “York” - that he knew she was simply talking to herself.
"Does it help?" he asked her one morning. She looked at him, quiet, and waited for him to elaborate. "I hear you sometimes," he said eventually. "At night."
"I didn’t know I was that loud."
"You’re not. I just walk around a lot."
"Not sleeping?" she said, even though she already knew the answer.
"Does it help?" he asked again.
"It hasn’t hurt," she said softly. "For years. It hasn’t hurt."
In the night, her voice was carried through the air as she talked to a name, a memory of a person, she told York everything. She told him about her good days. About the things that made her laugh. She cried and told him when she had bad ones. And in a few weeks, she heard Wash, too. He still walked around, and she caught bits and pieces as he walked past her door, she caught a name - “Connie”.
Another week later, she could hear Wash snoring again.
RvB Drabble: Mirrors
"Simmons?" Grif knew what was happening. It’s not like it was rare. He turned the corner and saw the man cradling his right fist in his left hand. "You know, it’s getting kind of expensive to replace that mirror."
"Just leave me alone," Simmons said tiredly, not even bothering to look up. He flexed his bloody hand, inspecting the knuckles.
"Seriously, man," Grif said, walking into the bathroom and leaning against the door. "What’s up with you?" It was like clockwork. Once a week, usually Wednesday, he’d hear him. Simmons. Hitting the mirror. Every once in a while, he hit it hard enough to break it. Grif had asked him about it before.
But this was the first time Grif wasn’t going to take “I don’t want to talk about it”, or “go away”, or anything like that. Simmons sighed but didn’t say anything more. He just continued to inspect his hand.
"Is it broken?" Grif asked after a few minutes.
"So I guess not."
"No, I guess not." He dropped his hands to either side of the sink and let his head fall against the cracked mirror. "I’m not me, Grif."
"No shit, I'm you. Most of you.” Grif looked at the man again with a frown. “Apparently all the fun bits.”
Simmons cracked a small smile. “That’s the point, isn’t it. I’m not me, and if I’m not me…”
"Simmons," Grif said, clapping a hand to the man’s back. "I have faith in you, man. It’s going to take a lot more than a few robot parts to make you not the annoying know-it-all I know and love."
"Know and what?"
"Know and tolerate," Grif said, not missing a beat. "What’d you think I said?"
Simmons looked at him, smiling after a moment. “Nothing. Let’s get out of here, we have to report soon.”
"Hey, Simmons?" Grif said as they were walking out. "If that’s your robot hand, why is it bleeding?"
"Sarge put in pockets of red paint," Simmons said with a shrug. "Apparently he wants to make my eventual death in battle as authentic as possible."
RvB Drabble: Days Like This
He’d heard how cruel the mind could be. He had experienced it firsthand. From the way his mind would egg him on when he used to argue with her. His own logic telling him he was right, his own mind insisting that logic had a place in this relationship. The way he tricked himself into resenting her for joining the army. The way his mind took the comfort away from the eulogy he was going to deliver at the very moment he needed it most. The way his mind locked the memories away, slowly, efficiently, as if it was to preserve them, as if it wasn’t a coping mechanism that wound up backfiring. The way his brain fixated on the one fact about her, about them, that she had died, and that he’d never be able to get her back. The way his mind orchestrated Alpha so that Tex showed up at the same time, because that was the only way his mind could see her again. The way his mind justified the preferential treatment he showed Tex. The way his mind justified all of his actions, with such conviction, in the face of every opposition - until Tex was gone. Allison was gone. Again.
But the cruelest trick his mind ever played on him are the moments of doubt of all those memories of Allison that were locked away, all those things he remembered aside from her death, all those instances of the two of them together. The mere suggestion that those things were something his mind invented. The slightest of doubts, in his weakest moments.
RvB Self Prompt: In My Time of Dying
She had heard that your entire life flashed before your eyes. She had also heard that it was called “life”.
She had laughed bitterly at the joke and moved on. Now, as she was dying, she couldn’t bring herself to laugh anymore. Her life wasn’t flashing before her eyes. Just as well, she thought, it was kind of a crappy life.
There was one part she wouldn’t mind reliving again, wouldn’t mind seeing a second time. She’d never admit to liking him - loving him - but she’d never need to, either. He knew. He had to.
Dying took longer than she thought it would. Longer than in any of those crappy movies she watched. She could feel her breaths slowing and every time she hoped that this would be it, that the pain would stop. She could feel herself wilt away, slowly, on a foreign planet, surrounded by the corpses of her allies. Looking around her and seeing only the faces of her enemies.
Allison died, slowly, in pain, alone, and with far too much time to think and reflect on her life. She left only a memory behind. Had she been given a choice, she never would have picked that one to be her legacy.
RvB Drabble: New York, New York
York had been to New York City only once.
He took the train in from New Jersey. He hopped on a subway line and rode it the rest of the day, taking different lines and reaching every part of the city without ever stepping foot in it. He drank the cup of coffee he got at Penn Station slowly, until it got cold and then he kept drinking it, making idle chatter with the other passengers and smiling to himself when they tried desperately to keep to themselves. He was twenty-three.
It was Wash who had first noticed this obsession of his. “Why do you say Carolina “punches like a train”?”
"It’s a saying." York had answered easily.
"No, it’s not."
"I like trains." He had shrugged in his carefree way and Wash had dropped it.
He still rode trains after Project Freelancer. He would move to a new city based on how good their train systems were. He’d travel miles just to visit an interesting station.
He once rearranged an extensive model train set display at the request of the hobby shop’s owner.
"Seems kinda specific," the owner had said when he had seen the finished product. The train tracks traveled all over the large table, an intricate map underneath with the odd model tree to symbolize forests.
"It is. Specific. It’s an old Amtrak line called the Carolinian."
"Hm," the owner had contributed, his enthusiasm obvious.
"It went from New York City to Carolina."
"Both," he had answered immediately, then closed his eyes. After a small pause he had corrected himself. "I…I don’t remember. Does it matter?"
The owner had given him a slightly puzzled look and shrugged it off. He had taken out a check book and paid York for his services without another word about it.
RvB Drabble: Invasion
The first time Wash fully felt Epsilon’s presence was the moment he saw Tex after implantation.
It had only been a day since the procedure. Yes, the AI would be stored in the armor. That’s what they were all told. But the armor was merely a real-time backup. There was a part of the AI that would be stored in you. A part they had to add with the use of a scalpel. A part that can never really be turned off.
They kept everyone for a day after the surgery. Wash could feel Epsilon exploring his brain, and it mostly made him uncomfortable. There was another mind in his, and that mind was hiding from him. He was told that it was normal. That the AI would adjust. That he should report the first conscious activity for their records.
That night he was sitting on the couch in the common room, staring at the random movie that North had dug up from his collection. He was there so he could be looking at something and not have to think. He heard the others joke that he had post-implantation sickness. It had become a common phrase lately, ever since Carolina walked into the room with bags under her eyes and a pale complexion months ago after her implantation. It was the first time anyone had seen her look less than healthy. It lasted three days.
North’s lasted an entire week.
When Tex walked in, Wash looked at her through his haze. He had a moment to register that it was one of those very rare times when her helmet was off. It had initially surprised people how attractive she was. York commented on it and spent the next few days apologizing for his comment to Carolina, who pretended she wasn’t offended. Tex looked at him and nodded.
Wash gripped his head with his right hand and the back of his neck with his left and closed his eyes as his mind exploded in a foreign memory. He could instantly tell it was Epsilon. It was the intruder, come out of hiding, marking his territory and showing just how large his span was, his command of his host was. All other thoughts, all of Wash’s thoughts, were put aside in the face, in her face, in this memory.
The AI wasn’t a partnership. It was an invasion.
All he saw for a few seconds was Tex. Only it wasn’t Tex, not really, it was a memory of someone who looked just like Tex. A woman who smiled the same way and had the same tired expression. The woman’s laugh rang in his ears and he remembered hearing Tex laugh like that, once, just when North had said something stupid and Maine had come in with a terse quip. The memory’s eyes looked at him, and he knew they were looking at Epsilon but it still felt like they were looking at him, and he wondered if all morning Epsilon had been looking at Wash’s memories, looking into the eyes of CT, or the friendly gaze of York, like they had been looking at the AI. Wash wondered if Epsilon had felt displaced, if it had felt like it was intruding on something intensely personal, because that’s the only way Wash could describe this scene. This memory. This woman. This Tex. Allison.
"What?" a voice said and Wash thought for a second that the memory had been talking. But when he opened his eyes, he realized it was Tex. This Tex. She was looking at him, something between confusion and annoyance on her face.
"Huh?" was all he could manage, shaking the image out of his mind as Epsilon retreated back into its hiding place.
"I didn’t know you knew my name." She had crossed her arms, which gave her confusion a slightly impatient look. Tex was good at making every look carry an edge of impatience.
Wash froze for a second as he realized he must have said the name Epsilon whispered into his brain out loud, too. “Oh, I must have just read it somewhere,” Wash said with a forced shrug.
"Sure," Tex said, sounding skeptical. "But call me Tex."
"Yeah, sorry." Wash relaxed into his seat again, turning his attention to the movie. "I will."
He waited another thirty-two hours for Epsilon to say something. Something that Wash could report as his initial appearance. Something, anything, other than that woman.
This time it was much more cordial. The AI manifested itself in the air next to Wash’s armor and corrected three statistics in the lock picking field manual he was flipping through. Epsilon also took the opportunity to personalize the probability of success given Wash’s experience with certain locks.
Epsilon called it past data. Wash knew it was his memories, no longer private. Epsilon had access to everything Wash had ever experienced. And it seemed to be a non-negotiable two way street.
RvB Drabble: Eulogy (pre-Blood Gulch)
He looked around the room slowly, shuffling papers in his hands because he needed something to do. There was the man conducting the service and Leonard was never sure if he was reverend or a priest or a rabbi, it all melded together for him and was never thought important enough to remember. There were a handful of people from her old job, and a couple of people from the army.
He knew he’d be talking to himself.
"I’ve got this speech," he started, already going off the planned path. He held up the index cards to prove it. "It seems to always comfort families of loved ones who have passed on. I was going to read it. I was going to find comfort in it. But standing here…" he trailed off as he looked at the coffin next to him. Her picture was on a easel on the other side of the room. It was one of those rare ones in which she was smiling. He remembered taking it. She didn’t know he had the camera in his hand.
"I am a scientist. I process things with facts and figures. I know how the universe works. I know how science conducts it. I know the symphony of life because I play it. I thought I knew the symphony of death.
"I thought, as a scientist, I knew that death was merely a stepping stone of life. It was an end point, but it was also a simple diffusion, a way to make life less orderly. I thought I knew that all her death meant was that her energy, her particles, her being were just released into the universe. That everything she was is now everywhere, all around us. That she hadn’t just stopped existing. That her existence was spread to the universe.
"The speech I hold in my hand is far more eloquent. It was not written by me, because I have no time or patience to be a wordsmith. I don’t understand sentences, I understand numbers. I had always thought it comforting, because it was a translation. It took death and grief, these profoundly human, profoundly literary concepts, and translated them for me. It ends by saying that, due to conservation of energy, you can be sure that not a bit of the deceased is gone. Every particle, every breath, every photon that bounced off of their face, they’re still here, they’re still in the universe, still travelling. Still existing. Not a bit of her is gone. She’s just less orderly.
"Still, as I stand here, in this room, next to this coffin, I find the translation meaningless. I find all of it meaningless. The comfort I thought would come of this speech is hollow. The idea that she’s still here, still around us, it isn’t a point of relief. It is a point of torture.
"She’s still here but I can’t touch her. Photons that bounced off of her smile are still in the universe, but I can’t gather them and see it again. Her heat that she radiated, I can’t feel it. I can’t know it’s her. This diffusion didn’t make her eternal. It made her indistinguishable. I can’t accept that. She always stood out. She’d never be anything less than extraordinary."
He paused to look at her picture again. He briefly, distantly, registered the looks of confusion and apprehension that adorned his audience in the small funeral parlor. His hand went out and his fingertips rested on the corner of her coffin, and he thought for a moment how proud she’d be that he’s thinking outside of his narrow box of science. His ears almost rang with her voice, her small, jokingly disapproving laugh, her exclamation of “you fucking nerd” that he grew so used to (and so fond of).
"My conclusion is simple. Grief is not something you can translate. It is not something you can avoid. It’s not something you can comfort. It is merely a state of being. It is a state that I will now carry around with me, for every moment of the rest of my life. She deserves to be grieved. She deserves to be remembered."
RvB Drabble: Messy (pre-s9)
"So saying "I think I’m falling in love with you" was bad, then." Wash said the next morning in a whisper at breakfast. Connie shot him a look. “I just want to talk, Connie.”
"Later," was all she said, all she urged. He dropped it for the time being, but later on that night he did find her, in the same place she always was. Same hallway, same big window looking out into space and the stars that surrounded them. He sat down next to her.
"I’m sorry," he said after a minute. Maybe two. It felt like an hour.
"Did you mean it?"
She turned to look at him. “How can you mean it?”
He wasn’t sure what to say to that. “What?” he finally settled on, deciding her face wasn’t going to give him any clues.
"How can you think you love me, Wash?" He couldn’t shake the tone of genuine curiosity from her voice. "We’ve known each other for a few months. You don’t even know my name."
"It’s Connie," he said firmly. "You don’t know mine either. Besides, who ever heard of names being necessary for love?"
She smiled, because she always smiled when he was being so stupidly romantic. She was convinced that Wash was the biggest sap in the program, and she liked being the only one who saw that. “All we’ve done is be physical with each other.”
"Bullshit, Connie, all we’ve done is open up to one another and you know it." He reached for her hand. She withdrew it. "No one else has seen you the way I have."
She didn’t resist this. “Love…” she said carefully.
"You can fall in love in seven months?"
She smiled again, but this time it was sadder. “Love is messy.”
"That’s part of the point," he said with such conviction. "If it was neat and clean, it wouldn’t drive us crazy."
"Love is messy, and the military isn’t."
It began to dawn on Wash where she was going, and he didn’t like it. “Love is a motivator.”
"Love is a distraction. We can’t afford distractions."
"Love is worth it. You-"
"We’d get separated," she hurriedly cut him off. "Love is messy and the Director is neat, and this program is neat. This program is order and orders, and no room for messes."
"You don’t even want to chance it," he slowly said as a statement, not a question. It was beginning to make sense to him.
"I can’t," was her quiet reply. "I can’t, and if we really knew each other, you’d know I can’t."
He didn’t say anything. He couldn’t. They sat staring out at the stars for another few minutes that felt like hours. “I suppose I should have known,” he finally said.
"So this is it, then?"
She didn’t answer.
"This is where we’re leaving it?"
He walked off after waiting for her to say something more for another hour. She didn’t. She couldn’t risk the program, couldn’t risk a transfer. Not if she fell in love. Relationships were not a part of Project Freelancer.
Connie always thought it must have been planned that the day she found out that Carolina and York were Carolina and York was the day the scoreboard went up. They didn’t hide it well. They didn’t flaunt it, which is why it took her a while to notice. But they didn’t hide it either and she knew the Director had to know. Everyone knew. Relationships were ok. Love was ok.
She was on her way to Wash’s room, months after that conversation under the stars, when she passed it. The scoreboard. She paused as the names went up. Carolina was at the top. Big surprise there.
She was number five. Out of six. (Out of forty-nine, but that thought didn’t register.)
When she finally got to Wash, she mentioned the scoreboard. She was stalling for time. She only wanted a few seconds longer so she could craft the words “I’m sorry” in a way that proved that she meant them.
What she got was an argument.
What she got was the hollow satisfaction of a slammed door and the ability to focus on how naive and utterly stupid he was being, hoping that her anger and frustration would drown out the anger and frustration at herself.
Seven months was long enough for her to fall in love.
Five was apparently long enough for her to fall out of it.
(At least that’s what she’d tell herself, and she hated that she knew it was a coping thing, something she did so she wouldn’t have to admit that if she had actually fallen out of love, then his innocent belief in the Director wouldn’t bother her so much. No, she was out of love, and all that was left was frustration and arguments. That’s where she’ll leave it. That’s where it’ll stay.)