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What Doesn't Kill Us

Chapter Text

Present Day…

23 July, 2029

 

Recovery jobs were the absolute worst in Agent Washington’s opinion. Gathering Intel and waiting were not his strong suits, since he was prone to letting his anger get the best of him. Unfortunately it was the only way to complete his current mission, seeing that the people he was looking for were hiding. Orders from the top, he could not disobey, not if he wanted to keep his high paying job. Besides, it wasn't all bad, he did have his closer co-worker accompanying him on this operation as well. And he did trust them, for the most part…Even after the shit they went through or so. At least that was what Agent Washington kept trying to tell himself.

A gravely grunt broke Washington from his thoughts. Said grunt originating from his companion whom had tilted his head in a question once he got Washington's attention.

“Sorry, got distracted. What was that?”

Washington's companion grunted again, this time with annoyance, and started moving his hands quickly in sign. ‘We are done here. Time to go.’

“I knew that Maine.” Washington sighed. “I was on my way.”

Maine rose an eyebrow. ‘The apartment is in the opposite direction.’ The larger man signed, his face the picture of dispassion.

Wash’s face heated at the mistake. “Right, I'll just… I knew that, but I was following you.”

‘I have something to take care of. Alone.’ Maine signed back.

Wash gave pause to that. “You aren’t meeting Sigma are you, because I thought we talked about how bad of an idea that was.”

Maine fixed Wash with a steady stare. ‘No.’

“Oh, uh, okay... I'll head back by myself then, see you tonight?”

With a short nod Maine walked off heading in the opposite direction.

Taking a moment Wash ran a hand through his hair with his eyes closed. Focus, he thought to himself, no distractions.

Tug.

Washington took a deep breath. It’s just another job, no big deal. Stop being paranoid.

Tug, tug.

Wash’s brow gathered together. Something was pulling on his pant leg.

Wash ruffled his hair, took a deep breath, then glanced downward to figure out what was grabbing his pants and was caught in the gaze of huge chocolate colored eyes on a young, scared face.

Startled Washington jerked his head up in alarm searching the immediate area for the small child’s parents. Hopefully, they only took their eyes off the kid for a moment and were looking around or calling for the child. However, everybody on the street was otherwise occupied, too busy to care about the man’s frantic movements, or a missing child.

Realizing he was not doing anything helpful or productive Washington looked back down at the kid. “Um…” He muttered unintelligibly.

The child’s hand was still attached to Wash’s pant leg. The kid’s big brown, glossy eyes continued to stared up at the man with fearful hope. The child was wearing a light blue tank, shorts, and sneakers. Nothing else to suggest who he was or where he came from.

Once the child was sure he had Wash’s full attention he let go of Washington’s pants and placed a fist in his other palm at waist level and raised both up simultaneously.

Understanding dawned on Wash’s face, and a soft look fell upon his features. “You need help?” He asked out loud while signing with his hands back to the kid.

The child’s face lit up marginally as he nodded frantically, making the curly black mop of hair on his head bounce around. Wash had to clear his throat in order not to laugh at the child.

Instead Washington took a knee to get closer to his new charge. “What's wrong, why do you need help?” Wash continued to speak verbally whilst signing his words.

‘I'm lost. Scared.’ The child signed back quickly.

“My name’ is Washington. What’s your name?” Wash answered back carefully, not really use to dealing with children. Not that he didn't like children, just that he had virtually no experience with them. Just tons of experience with small animals -cats mostly- and he doubted the two lined up.

‘Junior’

“Okay Junior, let's see if we can locate your parents.”

‘Thank you, Wash.’ Junior signed back holding Washington’s offered hand tightly with his tiny fingers.

Washington smiled back at Junior, leading him in the direction he hopped the child came from. And if all else failed he could take him to the police station and help Junior talk to an officer, not many people knew sign language.


 

“What the fuck’d you mean? ‘you lost him’!” Tucker screamed, the pitch of his voice raising with each syllable. “Church, this is a busy street! You're supposed to hold his hand!”

“How the fuck was I supposed to know that? The kid usually sticks to my side like he’s glued there! I'm not a god-damn nanny.” Church screeched back.

“Oh-hoho, don't give me that! You said you had it handled!!” Tucker yelled back sarcastically. “I thought you would realize he is only four fucking years old!”

“How many times do I have to tell you I'm not good with kids, dumbass! I don't even like kids!”

Tucker let out an aggravated snort, “You don't like anyone, and you've literally never told me that! You always say, ‘sure I can look after your kid, it's easier than dealing with Caboose all day, at least they distract each other’! Well Church, where is Caboose because it seems you lost him too!”

“Oh, cry me a river.”

“Ahhrrggg!” Tucked screamed, slamming his fists into the sides of his head. “You don't get it!” He half whined. “I already have the fucking child services up my ass -and not in the good way- and now you go and lose my kid! What the fuck man, I thought you had my back!”

“Alright, alright calm down. It'll be fine.”

“No it won't Church, they already think I'm a terrible dad! They've threatened to take him before, this just gives them a reason!”

“Um…” Church cleared his throat gesturing behind Tucker.

”Ahhhh, what now!?” Tucker groaned whipping around and coming face to face with a rather tall, pale stranger sporting a dark gray jacket with yellow accents, a black button down, and dark jeans. The blonde was greying at the temples, had dark circles under his dull grey eyes, a natural scowl adorning his lips, and freckles everywhere,almost enough to disguise the silvery scars across his brow and chin. But what really drew Tucker’s attention to the mystery man that looked at least ten years older than he probably was, was the small dark skinned child clinging to his hand and leg.

“Junior!” Tucker exclaimed nearly tripping over his own two feet to get to his son. “Oh thank god!”

The movement startled Junior into hiding behind Wash instead of mirroring his father’s actions.

Hurt by the reaction Tucker jerked to a stop. “Hey, come on Junior.”

Wash awkwardly watched the exchange before tapping Junior softly on the shoulder. ‘You're dad's not mad at you Junior, he's just worried.’ Wash signed slowly after getting the child’s attention.

Tucker followed Washington’s signs, slowly deciphering their meaning. “That's right bud, I'm mad at Church for not keeping you close, not you, c'mon bud-can I get a hug?”

Junior looked up at Wash then over at his father. Deciding it was safe he ditched his new friend in favor of rushing into his father's open arms.

Washington stood there stiffly watching as Junior hugged his father tightly around the neck and buried his small face into the man’s shoulder. Finally acting as he should, having been reunited with his dad.

Tucker stood back up keeping his son tucked protectively against his chest. “Thanks for getting him back to me dude.”

Wash nodded dumbly, “Sure… Uh, no problem.”

“Hey asshole, why don't you thank him too? You know since he saved you from being murdered by yours truly.” Tucker seethed over his shoulder.

Church sighed at length stepping up beside his friend. “Yeah, thanks for-- Wash?” Church stumbled for words as he realized who he was thanking, actually taking a good look at the man.

Agent Washington froze like a deer in the headlights before his fingers twitched at the hip where his sidearm was hidden. The jacket Wash wore despite the ninety degree summer weather suddenly made sense and the slight movement was noticed by Tucker who caught sight of gunmetal gray. Tucker’s breath staggered as he stepped back away from the man, despite knowing not every civilian with a side arm was bad news. However, Tucker was getting 'not a normal civilian guy’ vibes glaring at him now that he took in the way this man held himself, like the guy was ready to pull some action flick badassery at any giving moment.

“Church?” Tucker hissed.

Instead of pulling out the pistol Washington smoothed down his jacket, as if that was his goal to begin with. “Epsilon.” He stated flatly.

“Y-you, I thought you were dead.” Church stuttered out.

Wash let out a short sardonic laugh that was so loud a few people passing by stopped.

“You mean you thought you killed me with your scheme. Sorry to disappoint Epsilon but I'm still very much alive.”

Tucker elbowed Church harder than necessary and whispered urgently. “Hey, why don't you like , not anger the crazy guy with a gun, yeah?”

Church shot Tucker a withering look. “I wasn't.”

Washington snorted in contempt. “It doesn't matter, I'm not here for you. Though if you are here then it looks like Intel is finally on to something.”

“Wait, you are still with them? Why?”

“I didn't really have a choice, now did I?”

Church took a step forward. “You better not be after Tex.”

Agent Washington shook his head, exasperation clear on his face. Tucker was starting to figure out why the guy, Wash , looked like he hadn't slept in weeks.

“Tex, York, Delta, North, Theta, they all are fugitives, they need to be brought to justice.”

“Aren't you worried I'll warn them?” Church rebuffed. “I could tell them you are after them, they sure as fuck don't want to get mixed up in that bullshit again.”

“At worst, you'll get Texas a warning. But I know you are just as clueless as we are about the location of the others.”

The conversation died with Church and Wash locked in a glaring contest.

“So… Not that this isn't exciting and all but, Church? We uh, are going to be late.” Tucker cut in nervously.

Church side glanced Tucker then nodded. “Right, nice seeing you Wash.”

“I wish I could say the same.”

After his parting remark Agent Washington turned heading back down the street and merging with the hundreds of people trying to get to their destinations.

“Wwhaaat the fuck was that!?” Tucked belted out as soon as he was sure the other man was gone.

Church sighed. “It's a long story.”

“Well, I got time. We still have to find Caboose. Hopefully he hasn't bought another pet.”

“Fuck.”

“And I'm not cleaning up the mess when it dies this time.”

“Fuck!”

 

Chapter Text

Many Years Ago…

17 November, 2019

 

Just over a year into his new job Agent Washington was still dubbed the 'rookie’, or the 'new kid’. Regardless of his actual age -nineteen,and only a year or two younger than some of the others-  Wash thought he should stop being teased so bad. In the year since he was recruited many others had followed making him far from the newest, or the youngest member of Project Freelancer .

Only the best of the best were selected to sign on to the project any be dubbed an 'Agent’. Furthermore, despite Washington’s minor -major?- rage issues; having sent someone to the hospital during his high school career, and being discharged from the military early because of a fight he got into with a superior. Wash -formerly known as David- was good at what he did.  

The point was: Washington was doing well in his tests, maybe not good enough to keep up with the top dogs in the project, but above average for sure. I mean, he was near the top of the leaderboard. He definitely should have left the title 'Rookie’ behind by now.

Washington had high marks in many categories. His best being; endurance, knife work, and survival. His marks just were not 'Carolina’ high. But he was getting close, almost in the top ten. His leadership skills were getting better. Though he would never actively admit to anyone that he purposefully trained hard with the leaderboard in mind. He liked to think himself above the 'leaderboard drama’ as the triplets liked to call it.

“Don't tell me you were hit by a freeze-ray.” The lighthearted tease sounded from the entrance of the training room.

Wash’s cheeks colored as he realized how he was oddly frozen mid-snap kick, his aim being the stationary punching bag, like some mockery of the crane pose, for an undetermined measure of time. Hey, someone should really commend him on his S-class balancing skills. Washington hadn't even swayed when York’s voice startled him away from his own thoughts.

“Just wonderin’, y’know? Since you've been stuck like that for a few minutes.” York chuckled as he pushed off the open door frame and strode over to where Wash was at.

Trying to cover up his faux pas Washington tried smoothly lowering his foot to the ground and replying, “I was just practicing my balance, pretty impressive right?” When he instead caught his foot in a strap hanging off the bag, twisted at an odd angle, and ended up face down on the mat with said foot still caught up, only managing: “I was jus--” Followed by an unmanly shriek and a painful sounding crack of his chin bouncing off the hardwood floor peeking through a gap in the padded mats.

York was bent at the middle in an instant, clutching his stomach while howling with laughter. “O-h my God! W-ash h-ow?” He gasped out. “Y-ou spent th-e b-etter half of f-ive min-utes sta… Standing there per--perfectly balanced and, and the second you move, pft, you end up on you FACE!” His words dissolved into more laughter as soon as he got out the last words.

Washington grumbled as he pushed his upper body off the floor. His chin throbbed, no doubt about there being a giant bruise sitting on it in a couple of seconds, and blood dribbled out from his slightly parted lips. Running his tongue along the inside of his cheeks and gums found the source. He must have bit down on the inside of his cheek, thankfully not taking a chunk of it, but enough that there was a steady flow of red liquid pooling on his tongue.

“Har, har, York… Laugh it up.” Wash groaned as he twisted around trying to untangle his foot. “Why the heck do these stupid things have straps in the first place?”

Reining himself in York moved to aid Wash, making quick work of freeing the younger man’s foot. “What are you doing in here anyway? It's Sunday, the only day we get off unless assigned to a mission. I thought you’d be off working on that new trick you were so hyped up about?”

Wash tested his freed ankle to make sure nothing was twisted or broken. “I already figured it out last week, besides I was bored. And with North, South and Carolina out on mission today I just couldn't…”

”Relax? I got’cha, me neither. That's why I'm roaming the halls of Mother .” York replied with a shrug.

Washington's face scrunched up with disgust. “I really wish you would stop saying that. It's weird.”

York grinned. “Saying what?” He egged.

“You know what .”

Wash stood up ambling over to his sports bag to find something for his bleeding mouth.

“I’m at a loss Wash. I have no clue what you mean.” York faked the hurt in his voice as he followed Wash over to the benches.

“You referring to the MOI as 'Mother’. In certain context it sounds…. Wrong…”

York was having a hard time holding is smirk at bay. “Oh, c’mon Wash, you know Mother takes care of all our needs.”

“Uhg, knock it off York! Where is Maine when you need him?”

“Actually I thought he’d be here, or with you. But seeing as you are here and he is not, I haven't got a clue.”

“Wei’d.” Wash mumbled around the relatively clean shirt he had just stuck partway in his mouth as makeshift gauze. “W’en ar’ ‘fe o’ers c’mn bac’?”

York shrugged, “Any time now I suppose.”

“Oh,” Wash muttered reaching back into his bag and pulling out his phone, habitually checking it as always. A notification blinked in the corner and he opened up the screen.

'Wash, CL is bk. ND in medbay, Hes fuck up. -CT’

“Shit!” Wash spat out turning abruptly and booking it out of the spacious training room.

“What's wrong?” York called after him.

“Check your messages!”

York flipped out his phone as he ran after Wash. Cursing as he read the similarly shorted message from CT, South and Carolina. “Damn it, this isn't gonna be good.”


 

“I think you should be more worried about your brother than your Tiff with me, South.”

“Bitch, don't even suggest I don't care about North!”

“Your actions would imply otherwise.”

Wash and York busted through the waiting room doors just as Carolina was finishing her sentence, effectively pressing the pause button on their argument.

“How’s North?” York asked at the same time Wash shouted: “Is North okay!? What happened!?”

South kicked one of the plastic chairs savagely before plopping down in it with her arms crossed over her chest. “He’s fine!”

Carolina side-eyed the other woman before shaking her head in defeat. “He got shot up on our mission. Most of the bullets were stopped by his armor, but some got lodged in his arms, legs and stomach. Nothing vital was hit, thankfully, and they didn't get very far past his skin, he's in surgery to get them removed as we speak.”

“Thank God for advanced Kevlar and power armor.” York sighed sitting down with relief.

“Connie!” Wash whined, turning to the third female in the room. “Why didn't you say he was alright?”

“Sorry Wash, I didn't find out until just now as well.” CT commented apologetically.

Washington’s shoulders slumped with relief as he took a seat next to York. A couple of seats down from them was South who was still steaming mad and grumbling to herself.

“At least he’s gonna be okay.” Wash lighted trying to take the tension from the room. Unfortunately it didn't work well because he had to add: “What I wanna know is why it happened… I mean I thought this was an in-and-out job. Low risk.”

Carolina nodded, “That's a great question Wash.” She paused, turning ninety degrees to look back toward South. “You want to explain?”

South glared back, and for a moment Wash thought she was going to ignore Carolina's request.

“I told you, it wasn't my fault!”

“If you just listened--” Carolina rebuffed.

“Look, I already said I didn't have the time! And, I would have been fine if North would have stopped bitching in my ear for one fucking second.” South cut her leader off haughty. “You know what he's like, has to be in everyone's God damn business, protect every, be the Goddamn human shield, like the ass-wipe he is. Well he's not my dad, and he's not my leader, and he sure as fucking hell ain't my mom, so he can stick it.” And with that South stood abruptly and stormed out of the waiting room kicking the door violently open as she went.

“And I thought I had anger issues.” Washington said under his breath.

Everyone in the room was staring at Wash when the younger male eventually stopped watching the swinging doors to further discuss everything with his peers.

“What?” The younger male asked feeling a bit uncomfortable under three sets of calculating eyes.

“Ever notice every time you open your mouth, ya make things worse?” York asked fixing Wash with a raised eyebrow.

Wash hung his head fixing his gaze on his intertwined fingers. “Sorry.”

“No,” Carolina spoke up almost drowning out Washington's apology. “This was my fault. I pushed her, and she's right. North was being a little pushy with her. He worries too much sometimes. South is just mad North got hurt because of her and pissed that I had to step in to save them when she assured me they had it handled.”

“It doesn't help she's a total hothead.” CT added.

Carolina smirked, “That is true as well.”

Both Wash and York snickered at Carolina's agreement. South was indeed a hothead, and she was insanely difficult to deal with. Anyone who knew the twins couldn't figure out how North was able to put up with her for so long, and even less could understand why he willingly tailed after her when she was pissed.

“The important thing is that the mission was a success and North is going to be fine as soon as he gets those bullets out.” Carolina finished choosing a chair to sit in herself.

“Right. But what exactly is it that the Director needed at this remote oil platform?” CT asked out loud before she could catch herself.

Carolina tilted her head to the side and thought for a moment. “Nothing major. Just some blueprints and coordinates, your basic data files.” She finally replied with a small shrug at the end.

“What are the blueprints for? And where does the coordinates go?” Washington asked, not able to keep the excitement from his tone.

“We weren't told. Just taking some things from the bad guys that they don't need their hands on.” Carolina replied.

CT hummed, a questioning brow raised as she eyed Carolina thoughtfully. Her arms were crossed snugly over her chest from where she was leaning against the opposite wall, and a tick in her jaw slowly set in as her brow lowered. However she didn't open her mouth to speak again, just quietly studied Carolina.

Wash was under the impression that CT didn't agree with why they took the data, but for some reason was also not voicing her opinions like she so freely did with him. Washington looked to York curious if he also picked up on Connie's word behavior and quickly realized the other man was also focused on Carolina, a small smile on his lips.

So Wash was the only one who noticed Connie's actions. That was fine, he could talk to her later when they were alone. I'd be easier to get her to open up that way, in any case.

“The surgery is going to take awhile, we can take turns waiting for North while the rest of us get some dinner and relax.” Carolina eventually dictated. “I'll stay first.”

“I'll stay with you Carolina,” York announced as he stood from his chair. “Wash and CT can take next.”

“Sounds good, see you in an hour.” Connie said before making her way out of the waiting room.

Wash sprang from his chair rushing after the woman. “Connie, hey wait up!” He called seeing his chance already revealing itself.

Chapter Text

Present Day

23 July, 2029

 

The apartment Agent Washington was temporarily sharing with Agent Maine in this big bustling city was small, and simple. It was located right on the edge of a residential district and neither in a 'good' part of town, nor a 'bad' part of town. Within walking distance was almost everything the Agents would immediately need, and the subway was just two blocks down. The apartment was on the third story of a ten story building, two bedrooms, one bath, dining nook attached to a kitchen that Maine could barely maneuver in. It was already furnished by Freelancer before the two Agents occupied the space.

A well used blue couch sat opposite one of those new Holovision Projector , an electronic slowly replacing the television, or HV[P] for short since people were so original. A coffee colored stand was what the holovision projector was sitting on, in the stand was your standard video player and a few movies, Wash supposed the reason for the extra luxuries was so the room looked lived in.

Other than the minimal furnishings in the living space there was a table for two in the dining nook, with an extra 'china’ style cabinet pushed against a wall. It housed not fine tableware but extra appliances such as a waffle iron and a blender. Another part of the cabinet held plastic containers for putting away leftovers.

The bedrooms were simple as well, a bed, a desk, a wardrobe, a nightstand. Nothing too fancy but also not completely barren.

Wash was in the process of pacing the living room, deep in thought about everything that happened earlier in the day. Maine and him had just arrived three days ago, leaving the newly repaired MOI and settling in the apartment. Gamma and Sigma had found some evidence of York’s hacking about a week prior, making Wash wonder why he didn't ask Delta to do it for him, maybe they split ways? The Director waisted no time deploying Wash and Maine to track him down, much to South’s utter annoyance.

Agent Washington was just glad Sigma wasn't assigned to the job. The guy gave him the creeps, shoddy, manipulative, and way too ambitious for Washington's liking; York never liked Sigma either. Unfortunately, he was paired up with Maine most of the time and Maine had a quick change in attitude ever since, causing Wash to step in between the two and trying to keep Maine away from Sigma’s poisoning personality.

Hopefully York really was still in the area. Wash was looking forward to catching him since he was one of the top few on his shit list. Probably number one or two, Carolina would have held York's place if she hadn't died during the MOI crash landing.

Wash’s knee bumped the corner of the couch signifying what had to be his hundredth pass by. “I need some air.” He muttered to himself. He was getting fidgety, rubbing his hands together, pacing, running his fingers through his hair. He needed a walk. Too many things were bouncing around in his head and the small space of the apartment was starting to close in on him, making him feel trapped. Washington couldn't stand feeling trapped.

With a quick glance at the holographic clock the holovision projected while on standby Wash made up his mind. It was going on nineteen hundred hours, about two hours since he parted ways with Maine, an hour and forty minutes since he found out the guy he'd rather have never saw again was living in this particular city, and an hour and a half since he'd been pacing his living room. He had to go for a run. Maine would probably be gone at least a few more hours, not that the larger man would especially care that Washington had his own schedule of things to do when not actively working their job.

Wash quickly changed out of his jeans, button down and jacket. Switching into some gray sweats, a yellow tank and his favorite gray and yellow hoodie. He removed his gun from the holster attached to his belt and removed the clip, pulled back the slide to release the chambered bullet and put all three on the top shelf in his closet. Wash pulled down from the shelf a combat knife instead and attached it’s sheath to his left calf, rolling his pant leg down to conceal the weapon Wash finally tied up his running shoes before leaving the apartment all together.


 

Three hours and just shy of fifteen miles later Washington was making his way back through the apartment's threshold. He hadn't been planning to jog that long, but when he got lost in his thoughts since of time passed meant nothing. Besides; fifteen miles wasn't his record by a longshot.

Washington was however dripping in sweat and felt really sticky, also thirsty. He hadn't brought anything for his jog -since it was supposed to be a short one- and only bought a sports drink halfway through.

Without bothering with the lights Washington skulked into the kitchen and searched the refrigerator for a drink. The line of electrolyte-enhanced sports drinks that all but covered the first shelf was a testimony as to exactly how often Wash took long jogs. Selecting a blue one Wash broke the seal and tilted it to his lips. The temptation of chugging it gone was almost too powerful to ignore but Wash knew better and was resigned to sipping at the precious liquid.

Once halfway through the twenty ounce drink Washington set the bottle on the counter and reached for a red apple sitting in a bowl of fruits. He took a large bite as he turn around intent on leaning against the counter for a while stalling his much needed shower.

Movement in his peripheral had Washington dropping the apple in favor of a utility knife sitting in the knife box next to the fruit bowl. With a flourish of the wrist Wash sent the knife sailing through the air.

In the short second it took for the utility knife to sink into the opposite wall with a dull thunk Wash had already rearmed himself with the combat knife strapped to his leg.

The kitchen light was flicked on and Maine stood in the kitchen entrance, a pistol of his own drawn, pointed at the ground, and a shallow cut adoring his upper bicep.

“Jesus Maine! You startled the shit out of me!” Wash hissed through his clenched teeth.

Maine calmly placed his pistol on top of the refrigerator before using both hands to sign: 'I’m not the one sneaking about the apartment in the dark.’

With a shaking hand Wash reluctantly slid his knife onto the countertop.

“Sorry about that, it's a habit of mine.”

Maine snorted, 'Sneaking around in the dark? I could have shot you.’

Washington rubbed the back of his neck, grimacing in distaste as his fingers caught on the raised skin and cold metal implants housed between the C1 and C2 vertebrae.

”And I got you with a kitchen knife.” Wash pointed out after retracting his hand quickly from his neck. ”Here,” He added grabbing a paper towel and moving forward to dab at the stream of blood trickling down Maine's arm and dripping off his fingers, staining the Hem of his perfectly white tee and leaving red droplets on the linoleum.

Catching Wash’s eye Maine awkwardly signed him a thank you, the movement being a bit jarring because of how close Wash was.

Washington gave the taller man a half-hearted smile. ”Just hold this,” He said taking Maine's right hand and transferring the paper towel to him without taking it off the man's arm. “I'll go get the first-aid kit.”

Washington quickly removed contact from Maine and slipped out of the kitchen. On his way to the bathroom Wash plucked the knife from the wall. Mumbling to himself about needing to buy more drywall spackle and paint.

Wash reached under the bathroom sink a produced one of the smaller first-aid kits. He carried both the knife and the kit back to the kitchen, placing the knife in the sink then turning to Maine who had barely moved an inch. Looking up at Maine who was a whole head taller than himself Wash realized they would need to sit down for Wash to help him, the kitchen was too small.

“Let's move to the table,” Washington suggested gesturing to the dining nook then following behind as Maine complied.

When seated Wash opened the kit on the table pulling out everything he needed. Thankfully Maine only got nicked by the knife and the wound was shallow, and only a few inches long.

One trip to the kitchen for water, a dollop of antiseptic, gauze, and some bandage tape later had Maine all fixed up.

“I'll buy you a new shirt.” Wash said as he cleaned up.

'Don't worry about it, a soak and some bleach will work.’ Maine signed after getting Wash’s attention.

“But--”

Maine held up a massive hand a little closer than comfortable in Washington's face effectively cutting I'm off. 'Its fine.’

Wash shook his head, “Maine--”

'No.’

“But I--”

'Shower.’

“Mai--”

'Sleep.’

Wash threw his hands up in the air. “Uhg! Fine you win, goodnight.”


 

Flashes of long blonde hair and whispered words of comfort invaded Washington's dreams. The scene before him changing with enough speed to give someone whiplash.

Flashing red lights.

Sterile white rooms that smelled a bit like bleach.

“I hate goodbyes.”

Blaring alarm sirens that rattled the brain.

Copper blood dripping from cracks in his armor.

Near red eyes studding him like some experiment.

A beautiful woman’s smile.

Dirt flying up in the air from a nearby explosion, sending him rocketing into a wall.

“...Don’t say goodbye.”

Pain, so much pain, seeping into his bones and pouring from his skin.

Washington tumbled out of his bed in his hasty jolt awake. Legs tangled in gray sheets had the man writhing on the hard ground in frantic need to get free.

He had soaked sweat through the back of his night shirt, his hair was matted down and stuck to his forehead. His breath uneven and rushed.

Gun, where was his gun. He needed to get free, he couldn't be trapped. Couldn't be held down. He needed to move, he needed  his gun.

Wash crawled across the floor, digging his elbows into the carpet hard enough to leave rug burns. Panic set in when he couldn't find what he was after. He couldn't be without a weapon, it wasn't safe! No one was going to save him, he had to protect himself. He had to get to safety. They were after him, he was going to get killed.

His blood roared in his ears at the fast pace, whistling of dropping artillery sounded so close yet impossibly far away at the same time. Blood and grit caked Wash’s taste buds. The rough ground digging into his skin as he stayed as flat to I as physically possible.

Washington ran head first into his wardrobe causing his sidearm to drop off the edge and almost land on him. With shaking hands Wash snatched the pistol off the ground, the cool metal in his grip had his breathing steady marginally. Flipping himself over Wash pressed his back against the wardrobe, numb to the drawer knobs digging into his back as he cocked the gun.

It felt light. The gun was too light, Wash’s heart dropped as he went to remove the clip only to realize there was no clip.

Why? Why was there no--

Looking up Washington finally took in his real surroundings. Early dawn light drifting through the curtains, illuminating a familiar space.

He was in his room.

The bed’s mattress was askew, sheets trailing from where he landed to where he sat now across the room. His nightstand must have been knocked into at some point seeing that it was almost two feet away from the bed.

Wash closed his eyes and took several deep breaths. His grip still tight on the empty gun, but was reality starting to really sink in. He was safe, no one was after him. He was in his room. He wasn't in a hospital, nor was he on a battlefield. There was no woman with blonde hair.

“Your name is Washington, David… Wash for short. You are in the city of Armonia, in the US. You are working a job. You are safe.” Washington relayed to himself out loud.

“You are safe.”

Trembling hard because of the adrenaline leaving his system Wash used his wardrobe as a purchase to help him stand. Once on his feet Wash snorted as he spotted the full clip sitting on the wardrobe's top. He placed his is told next to it and once he knew he wasn't going to been unsteady or sick Wash made his way over to his bed.

Using his knee Washington corrected the bed's mattress and gathered up the strewn sheets. He removed the fitted sheet that was soaked through with sweat and tossed both into the laundry basket on the other side of the bed frame. 

He went to his closet and took out a new set of sheets. After making the bed in near military perfect fashion Wash moved the nightstand back into its place.

The clock was missing and after a sweep of the room Washington found it under the bed, thankfully not broken nor unplugged. The time read 04:57, Tuesday the 24th.

Of course Wash only got four hours of sleep, despite Maine's attempt to send him to bed early the night before. Heaving a sigh Washington set off to throw his laundry in the wash and take another shower.

Maine was up two hours later, and despite all the questioning glances Wash’s way, Maine kept his hands still. After they ate the two of them left the apartment together, ready to work their job.

Chapter Text

Present Day

24 July, 2019

 

'No’

“Junior, you can't say no. I have to go to work.” Tucker sighed with exasperation as he hurried around the kitchen making himself and his son a quick lunch. “Turkey or PBJ?”

Junior stood on his chair at the counter, reaching over his nearly empty cereal bowl to point at the peanut butter jar Tucker held out beside the bag of meat.

“Figures, since it is only the tenth day in a row you've ate the same thing for lunch.” Tucker teased as he pulled out the rest of the supplies to finish the sandwiches.

Junior knocked on the counter to get his father's attention back. 'I don't want to go with Uncle Church!’ The child signed haltingly.

“Junior, I can't take you with me. It's dangerous.”

Junior folded his arms across his chest and pouted.

“I'm serious little man. I can't, and there is no one else to watch you. You know what happened last time with Sister.”

Junior's eyes went wide and he shivered a bit, tears welling up.

“Shit! Sorry, com’ere.” Tucker nearly launched himself across the island to pluck his son from the stool and cradled the boy to him. “My bad, I won't mention it again.”

Junior pressed his forehead into Tucker's collarbone. Tucker sighed, he fucked up. Again. Damn it.

After a couple seconds Junior leaned back in Tucker's ams to sign again. 'But Uncle Church lost me!’

Tucker gritted his teeth, yeah, Tucker hadn't forgotten that little fiasco yesterday evening, and the asshole had the nerve to evade all his goddamn questions about how he knew that guy last night. He still wanted to drop kick Church off the third story balcony of his townhouse master bedroom. Not only did he lose Junior, but it took two more hours after that to find Caboose who indeed bought another pet. Because apparently turtles can look lonely, or some shit like that.

Whatever, it was Church's problem now. Good thing the two of them lived next door instead of with him like they did when in the military. Sometimes Tucker wished he lived farther away but the townhouse was the only thing he could afford. besides the fact that the only reason he could afford such a nice place was -and here's the kicker- Church owned the God damned building which encompassed Tucker's house sandwiched in between Church’s on one side, and two others on the opposite. Church was such a terrible landlord that he only charged his tenants a minimum rent seeing that they had to fix everything that went wrong themselves because the guy refused to lift a fucking finger to help anyone out. Surprisingly enough the cheap rent doesn't keep tenets around for very long, well Church was an asshole.

Infact one of the only reasons Sarge, Donut and Lopez moved into the townhouse at the opposite end was because Church rarely gave a shit and ignored the! As long as they paid their rent. Having freedom to do whatever he wanted to his section of the building was another reason 'I’d ever live under a roof owned by a dirty-rotten, no good Blue.’ were Sarge’s exact words if Tucker remembered correctly. Then like the crazy fucktard he was, he completely painted the two houses on his end of the building scarlet red, or rather he ordered Grif and Simmons to do it and Simmons ended up painting the whole thing alone, only to have to repaint it when Donut complained the shade was all wrong. Needless to say, Simmons and Grif shared the townhouse between Tucker's and Sarge’s.

Tucker still had no clue how or why Church owned four identical connected townhouses in the middle of a rather decent part of the city. They had to have been at the very least a half a mil each. When and where the fuck’d he get all that cash? The guy lived as if he was strapped all the fucking time, yet he owned what could be considered as four buildings?

“Junior, bud… I know you're mad at Uncle Church but there is no one else to watch you. I don't trust Sarge, I can't understand Lopez, Uncle Grif and Uncle Simmons work with me on the same shift, so does Uncle Caboose but I'd never let him watch you alone in the first place, and Uncle Donut is busy today. I'm really sorry bud, I don't like it either.”

Junior’s pout deepened. 'I wish Auntie Tex was back home.’

“Me too, J, me too.” Tucker said even though he knew that guy yesterday was looking for her, again pissed that Church refused to tell him why. Texas was a badass, she could handle herself. Even if that meant taking on ‘Mr. Six-Foot-Something-of-Muscular-Prowess-and-Moody-Melodrama’ who looked like a badass motherfucker that could probably kill you and not loose any sleep over it. Tucker can call him SFSMPMM-BAMF, not really, that was lame and more importantly, impossible to pronounce.

A soft sob sounded from under Tucker's chin. Shit, not the water works. He thought with despair, he couldn't handle it when Junior cried. It made him feel useless as a father.

“Com’on bud, its not that bad.”

“Daddy.” Junior choked.

Fuck, Fucking, Fuckberries. It was that bad if Junior started actually talking to him.

“Okay, okay, none of that. I'll see what I can do. Sit tight for a sec.” Sweeping aside the lunch fixings with a forearm Tucker sat Junior down in the clear spot he created.

With a flick of the wrist Tucker opened up the palm held communication device that looked like a solid bracelet to anyone who wasn't familiar with the new phones that were created around five years ago -which was no one and their mother since everyone had one now- . The holographic display lit up in his palm and he quickly found his boss’ number and hit call. While it rang Tucker pulled the earbud from its little compartment in the front and placed it in his ear just in time for Vanessa Kimball’s face to appear small and three dimensional in his palm.

“Don't tell me you are calling in today, I already had a hell of a time when Caboose went missing yesterday.” She spoke immediately as Tucker held his wrist up so the feed would scan him probably back to her.

“Yeah, I know, you complained to me all day about it. But no, I'm not calling in. I just need a favor.”

Kimball rose a brow, “And what exactly would this favor entail?”

“Junior, my kid, he doesn't want to… uh, stay with my sitter. I was hoping you'd let me take him with me to work. He's a great kid, quiet, he listens and won't cause problems, promise! I'll ask Jensen to look after him at the front desk. And I'll make sure he has everything he needs, please Kimball?”

“Jesus Tucker calm down. How old’s Junior again? Four?” She places a hand on her chin, rubbing absently in thought. After a moment she nodded. “Alright, that's fine. But this cannot be a common occurrence. You’re just lucky you’re stuck in the building today and not on a job with Grif and Simmons.”

“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Tucker belted out, startling not only Junior but Kimball on the other end of the line as well. “You won't regret it…” Tucker dropped his voice a little and wiggled his eyebrows at her. “I can give you my thanks, if you know what I mean.”

“Officer Tucker, that is highly inappropriate.” Kimball reprimanded, her image fuzing as she moved.

“Ah, don't be like that you know you want some. I'm a ten on the hotness scale baby, bow-chicka-bow-wow.”

“Lavernius! Get your ass down to the Security Firm now! Or I'll fire you!”

“Ouch, harsh considering I'm your best man. I'll be a little late though.” Tucker almost didn't get the last bit out before Kimball ended the call.

“Alright little man, looks like you can come with.” Tucker alighted lifting Junior up off the counter and placing him on the ground. “Run upstairs and pack a backpack of things to do while I get ready and finish our lunches.”

Beaming Junior nodded frantically before turning to run away. Tucker was about to straighten when Junior came running back to throw his little arms around his father's neck and kiss his cheek. “Love you Daddy.” He whispered quietly before taking off again.

Tucker stood there bent over and frozen in place for a moment. Tears pricked the corners of his eyes at what just happened. He cleared his throat, straightened and palmed the counter as he leaned over it. “Love you too bud.” He whispered to himself, a tear escaping and sliding down his cheek.

In the five short months since he gained custody of his kid, never once had Junior signed, let alone said out loud: I love you. Tucker tried to get him to open up. Took Junior to child therapy every friday, showered the kid with much needed affection. But that was the first time Junior told him 'I love you’.

Rolling his shoulders Tucker wiped the stray tear away and busied I himself putting together Junior's lunch. Pulling down Junior’s favorite lunch pale, stuffing the thing with fruit snacks, the boy’s favorite candy treats, his sandwich, a juice box, an apple, a snack cake, more fruit snacks, and an extra candy bar. He had a hard time closing it when he was done.

After finishing his lunch he dumped the breakfast items in the sink to wash later. He ran up the stairs checking in on Junior as he passed the door to the kid’s room, sure enough Junior was loading up a light blue backpack with colored pencils, holding close his stuffed alien toy. Tucker continued on to the master bedroom, bypassing his messy bed, dodging the piles of discarded clothing and jaunting into the ensuite bathroom to get to his massive walk-in closet. Seriously, the room he had as a kid was smaller than the closet he now used for clothes and other miscellaneous shit.

He grabbed his solid aqua and black security uniform off the hanger, wrestled into the kevlar vest, cinched the belt around his waist, military tucked his shirt, and turned to the opposite wall to get in his gun locker.

Placing his palm on the panel the door clicked open after scanning is hand. Tucker swung the door open and quickly loaded up his belt. Starting with his pistol, loading the clip, cocking it, placing the safety, and holstering it. Following he went around his belt filling the empty pouches. Putting extra clips in the dual mag holder, clipping his keys to the key ring, holstering his chemical agent, handcuffs, high powered flashlight, and his electric stun batton. Actually it wasn't really a batton at all really. The handheld device took on more of a sword like shape when turned on. It was something he accidentally stumbled across a few years ago when overseas. He'd been separated from his squad and fell into a decaying building. The metal object was gust sitting there in the rubble. After a while Tucker figure out it could not only cut through steel but also electrocute people at different voltages. Needless to say Tucker kept the badass device.

Once done, Tucker closed the gun locker, ran out of his room and slid into Junior's at the end of the hall. “You ready to go bud?”

Junior’s head snapped up from where he was trying to stuff his alien in his bag.

“You can just carry that little dude. Com’on,” Tucker reached over picking up the bag and peeking inside to make sure there wasn't a ridiculous amount of things in it. There wasn't, just a few cars, a coloring book, some colored pencils, a picture book, and a old tablet Tucker gave him to play some pre downloaded movies. Perfect.

Tucker helped Junior put on his backpack then picked the kid up, settling him above his hip so Junior wasn't on any of his utility belt shit and made his way down both flights of stairs. He stopped at the coat closet before entering the garage to slip on his and Juniors shoes, then left.

Usually he took the subway to work, but since he was running late he would have to take his car instead. He threw open the back door to his beat up aqua sedan and helped Junior into his car seat. After double checking his son was secure in the seat Tucker placed Junior’s backpack on the ground under the boy's feet.

He made his way around to the driver side and slipped in, turning the key in the ignition. He reached up to buckle himself in when Junior made a distressed noise.

“What? Is the buckle too tight?” Tucker asked turning in his seat to look at his kid.

'No Daddy, you forgot our lunches.’ Junior signed back.

“Fuck!” He cursed turning the car back off, he pushed his way out of the car, in the house, ran up the stairs, snatched the lunches off the counter, ran back down the stairs, and back into the car.

Tucker tossed his own lunch carelessly on the passenger seat but leaned back to hand Junior his. “I'm not forgetting anything else, right?”

Junior looked up in thought before shaking his head no.

“Okay, here we go!” Tucker said as he turned back on the car, buckled up and remotely opened the garage door.


 

It was going on six thirty when Tucker finally arrived at work, traffic wasn't terrible but it was still pretty bad, then with a stroke of some kind of luck his code wouldn't give him access to the company parking garage. After his third try he had to call the front desk so they could give him remote access.

“About time you showed up.” Grif sounded just as Tucker walked in the front with Junior in tow.

“Excuse me for getting locked out of the garage, and having to take care of my kid.” Tucker grumbled back. “Ya’know ya could've given me a ride, you do live right next door.”

Grif shrugged, “Why would I give a shit, besides Simmons woke me at ass-o’clock in the morning ‘cause he needed to be an hour early for some stupid reason.”

Tucker rose an eyebrow. “Uh, maybe 'cause you two are working a detail and ya’gotta be briefed by Kimball before you head out -BowChikaBowWow-, and you fucking gave Caboose a ride over! Caboose man!”

Grif stared at Tucker blankly, then shrugged. “Hey, I was down at the company mess getting the breakfast I was so rudely denied earlier. And Caboose was the one sitting in our goddamn driveway this morning because he couldn't get into your house, he apparently lost the keys.”

“Pf, I never gave him keys, and Chruch better not have either. Simmons, on the other hand, is gonna be pissed, and Kimball is gonna skin you alive.”

“Meh, I don't give a shit.” Grif shrugged, “Simmions’ll fill me in later.”

Tucker's cheeks puffed out as he snorted in failed attempt to keep his laughter in. “Pft, I’m sure he will!” Laughing too hard to properly say his catchphrase.

“Gross.”

“Naw, I think it's perfect. Finally admitting to the two of getting it on. I always knew you two were secretly married. Ever since Basic.”

“We didn't know you in Basic, dumbass.”

“My point still stands.”

“Shut the fuck up and go do your job.”

Tucker started laughing once again. “You got it bad dude, now you're starting to sound like him too!”

“Whatever man.” And with that he walked off leaving Tucker cackling in his wake.

Junior tugged on his father's pant leg and Tucker took big gulp in order to calm himself.

“Yeah bud?”

'I thought I was gonna go see Jensen.’ Junior asked clutching his stuffed toy closer.

“Oh, right. Yup we are, she's right there.” Tucker gestured the young woman sitting behind the front desk. Grabbing his son's free hand, Tucker walked them over to her.

“Hey Jensen.”

The eighteen year old sat up straighter and maneuvered a few papers around. “Yesh, Shir?” She slurred.

“Did Kimball tell you about Junior yet?”

Jensen adjusted the thick red glasses sitting on her nose before answering. “Yesh Shir, she did. Ish he here?”

“Yup! Right here.” Tucker motioned to the little boy currently tracing the big letters that spelled out the company name ‘ Chorus Security Firm’ that was embossed on the front of Jensen’s desk.

“Awe, hi there Junior.” Jensen cooed leaning over her desk to get a look at the kid who she couldn't see while seated.

Junior startled a bit clutching onto his father's pant leg and hiding his face into it.

Tucker rubbed the back of his head with one hand while patting Junior’s in comfort with the other. “Eh, he's a bit shy.”

“That'sh okay. We’ll have fun don't’cshu worry!” Jensen lisped with excitement. She abandoned her desk to come around and kneel before Junior. With a big smile she offered her hand. “Katie Jenshen at your shervice.”

Junior glanced at her, looked to his father for confirmation. Only after receiving a nod of encouragement did Junior shyly take Jensen's hand.

“Sho nice to meet you Junior!”

“He doesn't talk much, you don't happen to know sign, do you?” Tucker asked her as he tried gently prying Junior's tight fist from his leg.

“Nope! But that'sh okay. I'll figure it out. Pointing is univershal and I can ashk yesh or no queshtionsh.” Jensen alighted just as Tucker finally removed his son's death grip.

“Okay bud, I gotta go up stairs but I'll check on you every hour, promise. You know what to do if you need me right?”

Junior nodded solemnly then turned to Jensen and signed out 'Father’.

“Yep, Jensen just come get me right away if he starts signing or, you know, if he actually says anything.”

Jensen gave Tucker a slightly alarmed look but nodded nevertheless. “Okay.”

“Good,” Turning to kneel in front of Junior Tucker kissed the boys forehead. “Love you kiddo, be good. But not too good.” He winked, then stood and power walked to the elevators.

Tucker couldn't stop himself from glancing back to check on Junior. The boy was watching him go sadly until Jensen gently tugged him away, behind the desk and out of sight.

Tucker turned the corner into the hall of elevators, clicked one of the buttons to summon the thing, and waited.


 

“Boring!” Tucker exclaimed aloud slamming his head down on his cubicle desk. “Bored, bored, boring. God!” With each word he smacked his head once more until he shot up straight. “Why the fuck does a security firm have cubicles in the first fucking place!”

“That would be because CSF dabbles in many different security jobs. As a large independent firm we secure private customers; large companies, single persons, a government official, whomever hires us. We could be working out, being a physical presence or here in the office taking care of cyber security.”

Tucker groaned, “No one asked you Andersmith. It was rhetorical.”

“I like to record things too!” Caboose chimed in from his cubicle across from Tucker's.

Tucker smacked his forehead, this time with his palm.

“Great point Sir,” Andersmith praised. “Recording everything down makes everything run smoothly and we should enjoy it.”

Caboose nodded in what he assumed to be a thoughtful way, as if he really understood what Andersmith was allocating.

“About that, when are we going to be done with these?” Palomo whined as he leaned out of his own cubicle.

“Shut the fuck up Palomo. It's your fault the four of us have to fill these out in the first place.” Tucker snapped.

Palomo made a distressed noise through his nose. “It wasn't my fault Captain! Th-the dude had a gun drawn!”

“Well duh! He was being threatened by someone, most people in this day and age carry a sidearm. He was our client; you don't shoot your fucking client you idiot! And don't call me Captain we aren't in the army, or the police.” Tucker nearly screamed. “I'm just lucky you can't shoot worth shit and only got him in the foot.”

Palomo pouted. “But-”

“Nope, nu-uh, I don't wanna hear it!” Tucker shouted covering his ears for extra measure. Then his comm-bracelet vibrated signaling an incoming call.

Tucker opened his hand to look at who was calling. It was Jensen, voice only from the desk phone. He quickly answered hoping Junior was alright. “Y’ello?”

“Capitan, there are two men here from the PFL Recovery One division looking to speak with General Kimball.” Jensen spoke on the other end, her lisp making it nearly impossible to understand.

Tucker rolled his eyes at the fake titles these kids liked to give out, the whole thing was an inside joke before Tucker even got the job but somehow he and his friends got pulled into it as soon as they got a promotion. “Yeah okay, I'll be down in a moment to take them up.” Then he cut the call and stood to make his way down to the front desk.

What Tucker wanted to know is what the fuck the Freelancers wanted with some stupid security firm. The last time he ran into one was Tex back when he was still in the military, and she almost got them all killed on her little adventure. Though Tucker did get a sweet foreign weapon out of it, all in all Freelancers mean trouble and the question still stood, why were they here?

“Guess I'll find out in a minute.” Tucker mumbled under his breath as he hit the elevator button.

“Find out what!?” Palomo asked as he seemingly popped out of nowhere.

“What the fuck? Get back to writing those reports Palomo! And while you're at it, finish mine!” Tucker nearly screeched at the kid before entering the elevator and punching the damn button that closed the doors.

Chapter Text

Many Years Ago…

17 November, 2019

 

“Connie, hey! Slow down!” Washington called once more. “I wanna talk to you!”

Connecticut slowed but didn't stop in her journey away from the medical bay. “What do you need Agent Washington? I'm a little busy.”

Finally overtaking the shorter woman Wash spun to face her, keeping pace as he walked backwards. “We can walk and talk.” He grinned.

CT rolled her eyes skyward. “Alright, what is it?”

Washington's smile dropped as he took on a more serious tone. “What's up with you? Usually you have no problems voicing your opinions. But just now… You were acting strange. Are you okay?”

Connie’s eyes widened a bit and she turned her head away from Wash letting her fringe curtain her features. “I'd rather not talk about this with you. Not right now… I'm, okay.”

Wash’s brow pulled together. “That doesn't sound okay to me.”

Connecticut clicked her tongue off the roof of her mouth. “Wash, do you remember signing your contract in when you joined Freelancer ?” She asked suddenly, hazel eyes boring into gray with intensity that had Wash flinching.

“Well, yeah… I guess… Why?”

Connecticut stopped so suddenly Wash nearly fell backwards on his ass in surprise. “Do you really Wash? Did you actually read through the containment clause? Do you know exactly what you signed up for? Because if you did we wouldn't  be having this conversation.” Connie challenged, her voice low and oddly void of emotion.

Washington visibly gulped. “I mean, most people skim over that stuff, right?”

Connie shook her head, her eyebrows pulling upwards and together. “Yeah Wash… They do. And that's the problem. Almost everyone here has no clue about what they stepped into. The things the PFL is doing… Its wrong. And no one can stop them from doing it.”

The two Agents stood facing each other for a few more heartbeats before Connie gave him a sad simile and walked off without another word spoken.

Washington couldn't follow after her this time, his feet felt glued to the floor, and his heart was beating in his throat.


 

Over the course of the next three weeks Wash tried to stick closely to Connie. She was worrying him on a level he couldn't explain with words. That worry only intensified after he and CT came back from a failed mission. None of their objective were completed and failure never went over well with the Director.

“L.Z. in sight, I can't land so get ready to drop in.” Four-Seven-Niner’s static infused voice sounded over their combined frequency.

Seconds later the pelican drop ship glided into position, hovering forty feet in the air. CT adjusted her helmet as the back opened up. Turning slightly she gestured for the rest of the team to follow her out as she jumped unaided out of the craft.

Wyoming followed her without hesitation dropping over the edge with what he thought was a witty remark. Maine on the other hand hesitated as he reached the bay door.

“Com’on big guy, it's only forty feet.” Wash said as he reached up to pat the larger man’s shoulder. “Our boots have amazing shock absorbers, you won't even feel the landing, like jumping down the last two steps of a staircase.”

Maine's face was covered completely by orange visor of his helmet, just like the rest of them, but Wash swore he knew exactly what face Maine was making.

“I'll jump with you.” Washington affirmed, squeezing Maine's shoulder, though Wash knew the man wouldn't be able to feel it though the armor plating. “On three.”

“One, two--” Wash nudged Maine over the edge before he voiced three.

“Three!” He finished with a half giggle as soon as they both landed.

“Wasn’t on three.” Maine huffed sulkily as soon as he pulled himself together.

Washington chuckled lightly, a cheesy grin lighting his face even though no one could see it. “Sorry, but hey! I did jump with you.”

“What the hell?” CT's voice sounded from a few feet away, nearly drowned out by the hum of the pelican leaving.

Washington knocked his knuckles against Maine’s chest plate before adjusting the grip on his rifle and jogging over to Connecticut.

“What's wrong Connie?” He asked while taking a knee beside her.

“I can’t find the rally point on the map.”

Washington's brow pulled together as he brought up his own map. Sure enough, the rally point was nowhere to be found. “Did you expand the radius? Maybe there's a glitch.”

“No, Wash, I didn't think of that.” Connecticut scoffed, “I have it set to two hundred yards. It shouldn't be farther than that.”

“Protocol.” Wash nodded in agreement. “Maybe it was a mistake? Hold on.” Wash fiddled with the settings on his HUD then clicked on the projected map map in his helmet. A three dimensional map filtered in front of the two. Colored dots indicated their position in the middle, but the objective indicators were missing.

“Huh…” Wash sounded in confusion. “That's weird.”

Connie shifted uncomfortably. “Something isn't right here.” She whispered mostly to herself before raising her voice. “Everyone set your comm frequency. Maine, Wyoming, secure our perimeter while Wash and I figure out what is going on. Sync?”

Maine nodded whilst Wyoming spoke: “Righty-o, we'll get right to it CT, my dear.” Before the two of them disappeared into the surrounding brush.

“They're supposed to say it back.” Connie muttered turning her attention to Washington.

While CT had been otherwise occupied Wash had took the liberty of cross-referencing the physical map he pulled from a compartment in his chest plate with the holographic one on display. He was uncharacteristically quiet which put Connecticut on edge.

“What’d you find?” She asked cautiously.

“Nothing good.” Wash sighed. “The maps don't match.”

Connie shuffled closer to him so she could peer at the map in his hands. “What do you mean?”

Wash flicked the parchment with the back of his other hand. “I mean, the maps don't match up. Look here:” Washington gestured to the holographic display, “Where did that cliff come from? And the river is completely missing.” He indicated showing Connie the river on the physical map in his hands.

“According to this, the rendezvous sould be right here.” He pointed at the display, to a spot where there was a clearing. “But there are supposed to be buildings in that area. Our display shows nothing.”

Connecticut’s eyes bounced from the display to the map and back again. “Okay, meaning….?”

“Meaning, they either dropped us off in the completely wrong spot or--”

Connie stared at the side of Washington's helmet in wonder as his focus was still on the display. “Someone is messing with our sensors.” She finished for him.

Wash nodded once, “Someone has messed with our feedback.”

“How exactly do you know this? We really could have just been dropped in the wrong area.” Connie pointed out.

However Wash was already shaking his head before she finished. “Look,” he pointed a bit to their left through the tree line. “Our display doesn't show that river. According to our map--” Wash handed the paper to CT and circled a spot about fifty yards from the river and one hundred yards from the building they were supposed to rally at. “We are about here judging by landmarks in the surrounding area.”

Connecticut studied the map a little longer. Coping Wash she looked around at their surroundings. He was, of course, correct. The display was feeding bulshit information, they were exactly where they were supposed to be at. “Okay… So do we know if the interference is external or inter-- Wash?”

Washington's head had snapped up suddenly, chin tilted ever so slightly up and to the right in rapt attention. It looked like he was listening to something completely unheard.

Connie shivered a little at his actions. “Uh, Wash, you ok--”

“INCOMING ARTILLERY STRIKE!” Washington sounded suddenly milliseconds before the high pitched whistling sounded meters to their right. “GET DOWN!”

Wash didn't even finish his sentence before launching himself upward, catching Connie in the midsection with both arms, and using all his weight to throw the two of them three yards away from where they were crouched at.

His hold never broke, even as they hit a fallen tree trunk, tumbled over it and rolled once before stopping.

The whistling got closer along with the sound of exploding tree bark. Debris was raining down everywhere making CT and Wash scramble to get pressed closer to the fallen tree.

Without much thought Wash made sure to cover Connie having half his torso over hers as they braced themselves.

Cracks and whistles filled the air with deafening sound. The undergrowth flying up and cascading around them. The artillery went over them and after a few moments everything was silent.

“What the fuck was that!? There aren't supposed to be enemies in the area” Connie yelled in rage, pushing herself up, causing Wash to back off her.

The man grunted painfully, he must have hit his side when throwing them over the log. “I don't know. Good thing they suck at sending them off though, or I wouldn't have heard the first strike in time for us to get out of the way.”

“Amateurs then? Not military, or at least not organized.” Connecticut thought allowed. “How the fuck did you hear that? I didn't hear anything.”

Washington shrugged. “We should warn Maine and Wyoming. They could be in trouble.”

Connecticut flipped herself around so she could lean against the trunk. “Maine, Wyoming come in.” She started into the comms. “Get back here now we have a problem.”

A few heartbeats later the static came back through their end with a gruff word.

“Can't”

Connie gaped, “What do you mean 'can't’  Maine? Just get back here.”

“Pinned down.” Came Maine's immediate reply.

“Shit.” Wash growled, already standing up. “We have to go help them.”

Connie stood as well. “Alright, common.”

The two jogged through the fallen debris around them as they made their way to Maine and Wyoming's last known position. Dodging fallen branches and jumping over logs or roots were the least of their problems when bullets started zipping past their heads.

“Fuck, our motion trackers are down too? What is going on?” Connecticut cursed making a lunge for the nearest tree for cover.

Washington did a base slide to avoid incoming fire, ending up a few feet in front of Connie, crouched behind a tree himself.

“Alright, everyone do a system reboot. Nothing is working, we are running blind.” CT command as Wash laid down some covering fire.

“On it.” Wash acknowledged, hitting a series of buttons on the lip of his helmet.

Washington's visor went black for a few moments before clearing giving him an unaided view off his surroundings. Then the reboot started, system analysis appearing follow slowly by all the read outs.

“I've got motion back.” Washington called as soon as his comms we're back online. “There are eight combatants. Four are between us getting to Wyoming and Maine.”

“They know where we are?” Connecticut asked from her hiding spot. No one was shooting at the moment so it was hard to tell.

“Hold on,” Wash said as he leaned around the tree his back was against. He scanned the area ahead, nothing. “No,” He answered flipping back around, “They don't. Stray bullets earlier.”

“Alright, you go left I'll go right. We need to get to the others. Sync?”

Wash grinned, “Sync.”

“Go… Now!” Connie shouted as she took off to the right.

Washington launched from his place running parallel to Connecticut until he lost visual on her. Keeping an eye on his trackers he saw the four enemies moving in on Maine and Wyoming, further cutting them off. But not for long.

Wash slowed his run, treading carefully as he got closer in. Through the undergrowth he caught sight of his targets, bunched up like idiots. Just as he noticed them they noticed Connie ducking around on the other side and started to aim at her.

Without missing a beat Wash fired off four bursts of five shots each. His targets didn't know what hit them as they fell.

“Good job Wash, now let's see who these guys are.” CT sounded over the radio, moving in to check the fallen.

“You made it easy on me.” Wash commented as he moved in.

“Take their weapons just in case.”

Wash complied going around and removing the rifles, placing them against a tree out of reach.

Connie crouched down flipping one of the bodies over to take a look. “Insurrection.” She mumbled. “They aren't supposed to be here. We were only supposed to trade packages with the UNEC.”

“If they found us they may have gotten to the UNEC too.”

Nodding, Connecticut stood. “That's what I am afraid of.” She said standing. “We need to get to the others and figure out what is going on.” She looked over at Washington before gasping suddenly and lurching toward him. She grabbed his supper left arm. “You got hit!”

Wash looked down at her hand. Sure enough, his undersuit was ripped and red was leaking from the tear. “I'm alright. It's just a graze. Like you said, we need to make sure Maine and Wyoming are okay. Then we need to book it to the rendezvous.”

Connie watched him for a moment longer before sighing. “If you're sure.”

“I am.”

“Okay. Maine, Wyoming; we are on our way hold on.” CT called into the comms.


 

“This building is crumbling beneath us!” Wash warned as he narrowly avoided falling with the loose plank that cracked under his weight.

Maine’s hand came down on Washington's shoulder, guiding the shorter man to the side in order to walk ahead.

“I don't think that's a good idea.” Wash tried to stop him.

“He's the heaviest, Wash. Let him scout out where it is safe to walk.” CT commanded, carrying an unconscious Wyoming over her shoulder.

As soon as CT and Washington got to Maine and Wyoming, another artillery strike hit. Then the four of them were surrounded again. Connecticut tried to direct them out but on the way Wyoming took a misstep when attempting to cover Maine’s back. His trip lead to his unconscious state due to a thick root meeting his head.

“Connie, it doesn't work like that. He could just weaken the path and you or I could fall thinking it was safe.”

Connie let out a breath of frustration. “I know Wash, but you are being too cautious. They are gaining on us and we need back up. The UNEC has us covered but only after we get close enough for their strike. So just go! Please.”

With a huff Washington compiled, following Maine through the run down building.

At first everything was looking fine. They were making great time, Maine was powering through the building as they continue upward. Wash switched places with Connie so he could watch their backs. Which was a good idea since he had to take out a few pursuers.

Then CT let out a startled gasp, followed by ominous cracking.

“Connie!” Wash called out just as the floor gave out beneath her and Wyoming's combined weight. “Shit.”

Wash made a haphazard dive for them, discarding his rifle in the process. He was a mere breath to late as Connie fell through the floor.

“Maine, Connie fell through the floor.” Wash’s voice cracked with panic. “I knew this was a bad idea. Come help me.”

Heavy footfalls sounded nearby as Maine approached.

“Connie! Connie? Can you hear me?” Wash called down, flicking on his torch light in order to scan the dark abyss below.

Boards and brick lay cluttered around what looked like a mid sized room, dust was kicked up in the air by the disturbance making Washington's light bounce back at him. He spotted Connie in a slightly awkward angle, having landed on her back with Wyoming sprawled across her midsection.

“I- I'm alright. Just, embarrassed.” She called back. “There's no way I'm getting back through the waiting I fell though.”

“We’ll come get you.”

“No,” Connie replied sternly. “You and Maine continue on. Get to the rally point. Make contact with the UNEC. I'll figure a way out of text messages I put myself into.”

Wash looked to Maine who shrugged, stood, and started back down the hall. “Connie, what about Wyoming?”

“He’ll be fine with me. I don't want to slow you guys down farther. We’ve already taken up twice the amount of time this mission was supposed to last.”

Washington sighed. “We need an early pickup. There's no point continuing the mission when we are a man down. I don't think we are going to make it.”

“Are you saying we just give up?” Connie seethed.

Wash shook his head. “No, I'm saying we were completely unprepared for everything that's happened. We are all injured and we need to realize we bit off more than we can chew.”

“Fine. Call in the pick up…” Connie muttered in defeat. “Let's get up to the roof.”


 

The result after the mission? Agent Connecticut and Agent Washington had argument. A bad one.

Wash was only trying to comfort her, everyone made mistakes, hell he was on that mission too, CT wasn't the only one to blame. He had fucked up as well. They all did. Everyone just needed to learn from it. However, his words of encouragement were quickly turned against him.

Connie, no; CT --as she so venomously asked to be called from now on-- had took a whole different meaning out of the entire situation.

Her words brought the first fingers of doubt into Wash’s mind, tainting what he knew with conspiracy and foreboding tidings about not only Freelancer , but also about everyone he was working with.

Did they know something they weren't telling him?

Washington was starting to wonder if Connecticut was right. The mission had been relatively pointless from all angles. They had been dropped in with malfunctioning equipment that should have been detected long before they were just left there. And, Wash still didn't know why the were deployed, other than to pick up a package.

“Hey York?” Wash voiced as he took a seat next to the older man at a lunch table.

“What's up Wash?” York asked back turning his chin slightly in acknowledgement.

Washington fiddled with his lunch tray, pushing the mashed potatoes around, mixing it with the corn. “I was just wondering… When you signed up for the project did you happen to read the paperwork you were signing?” Wash looked up at the end of his question, childish hope shining in his eyes.

York rose a brow, placing his fork down. “Uh… I sorta did I think. I dunno, it was like five years ago so my memory of it isn't all that great.” He rubbed at his chin thoughtfully. “Did you ask North? Or Carolina? She has a great memory, I'm sure she’d know!”

Wash scoffed, “I'm not asking your girlfriend.”

York spat up the mouth full of potatoes he just placed in his mouth causing the person across from him to shriek. “C-carolina’s not my girl… My girlfriend. She's my boss. I mean that--”

It was Washington's turn to raise a brow. “Really? Because you're not fooling anyone.”

York’s nose wrinkled. Then he let out a defeated sigh. “How’d you find out?”

Washington gave York an evil grin as he gathered up his half eaten tray of food in haste. “You just told me!” He cackled trying to retreat as quick as possible.

“You fucking brat!” York howled tossing his potato loaded spoon in Wash’s direction. “Uhg.” He whined pitifully, “‘Lina’s gonna murder me!”

“I won't tell!” Wash laughed after dodging the poorly aimed spoon.

“I might.” The man who got spat on earlier piped up.

“Fuck you Wyoming.” York cussed slamming his head down on the table to wallow in self pity.

Wyoming just laughed in response.

Washington's smile faded the farther he trekked away from the mess hall. He was missing something major here, but no one seemed to know anything. Yet CT seemed to believe something dark was going on in Project Freelancer . Conspiracies, but if it was in their contact it couldn't be that bad, right?

Connecticut talked about the leaderboard like it was a threat. Not just to their jobs -Freelancers had gone missing without explanation before- but to their lives as well.

Somehow Wash needed to figure out what exactly was on the contracts. Maybe talking to Carolina was a good idea. Not only was she on the top of the leaderboard, but she was also daughter of the director. If anyone knew anything, I'd be Agent Carolina.

Chapter Text

Present Day…

24 June, 2029

 

Maine let loose a guttural sound of distress that had Wash snapping his attention from fiddling with his comm-bracelet and instead to his left where squealing tires suddenly sounded.

“A CARRR!?” Wash screeched in alarm as he jumped backwards.

The movement saved him from getting his legs snapped on impact but he still got nailed in the midsection head on by the vibrant, nearly gold, orange Jeep.

Washington was more than winded, collapsed most of the way on the hood as he tried to catch his breath. He was thankful for remembering to put on the Freelancer commissioned mesh second-skin under his clothes this morning, because while it did nothing to protect him from broken limbs it had shock-resistance and therefore took away some of the blunt force momentum. It also helped that Wash had body enhancements -both external and internal- of his own, but he’d still bruise really bad, maybe even have a few cracked ribs.

Placing his hands on the hood Wash tried pushing himself up only to grunt in pain and flop back down. Why the fuck did cars hate him so much? Though he had to admit as he looked up to see an actual driver behind the wheel, that it was usually the autonomous cars that were set out to kill him despite their safety protocols.

“Holy shit, Grif look what you did! You actually hit someone!” A man shrieked at a decibel that shouldn't have been humanly possible.

Looking over to the passenger side of the Jeep, Washington saw a lanky man in a security guard uniform hop out; his shirt being a deep maroon color, while his pants were black. At a car door slamming Wash turned his attention to the other side where a marginally shorter, heavyset man in a matching uniform except in orange had just climbed out.

“Sir, are you alright?” The first man asked frantically, his hands hovering not sure if he wanted to help the guy they hit off the hood or if it was best to just leave him where he was.

“Of course he’s alright Simmons, he only got hit by a fucking car. He’ll just walk it off. No big deal.” The man in orange, who the first called Grif, huffed sarcastically. The heavier man didn't know how corrected he actually was.

Washington made another attempt at standing, this time it worked even though his ribs protested and his stomach heaved uncomfortably. “I'm fine.” He replied breathlessly. “Just watch where you're going next time. Most people aren't built like me.”

The maroon guard, Simmons if Wash remembered correctly, gave him an incredulous look with his mouth hanging open in shock. “A-are you sure? Because Grif is right; unfortunately. People don't just walk away after getting hit by a vehicle going at least thirty-five, even if they did put on the breaks at  the last second.”

Maine slid in next to Washington and did a quick once-over with his eyes before patting Wash gently on the stomach causing him to wince.

“No Maine I hadn't noticed the bruising. Thanks.” Wash hissed clutching his stomach.

Maine grunted impressively.

“Yes, my ribs are probably cracked too. But going to the doctor isn't going to help. They can't do anything about it, I should know I've cracked and bruised my ribs more times than I can count. I'll just have to ice them when we get home.” Wash answered the unspoken question, his nose wrinkling and his brow dropping to showcase his annoyance.

“Actually he is right about that.” Simmons piped up. “All you can really do for broken or bruised ribs is take painkillers, ice them, rest periodically, keep mobile, hug a pillow against the chest if and when he needs to cough, and carry out regular breathing exercises.”

“What, did you recite that right out of a book or something?” Grif scoffed, his arms crossed over his chest.

“Well, almost…” Simmons said sheepishly holding up his hand to reveal his comm-bracelet. “It's actually just the National Health Service website.”

“Fucking Nerd.”

Washington rose a brow at the two before shaking his head. “I knew that already. Are you two from Chorus Security Firm ?” He asked noticing the acronym on their badges.

Simmons snapped to attention, “Yes Sir we are. Uh… Do you want to file a complaint?”

Wash’s eye twitched irritably. “No. Just, could you give us directions to your office? We got turned around.”

“Oh!” Simmons’ face brightened. “In that case sure, you are really close. Just continue down this road, six blocks down take a left it'll be the third building on your right.”

“Thank you.” Wash mumbled half-heartedly.

“No problem. I aim to please.”

“Ya’ also aim to be a kissass.”

“Shut up fatass! Nobody asked you!”

“Do I look like I giv’a fuck?”

Washington cleared his throat loudly to get the bickering couple’s attention. Once he had it he glared at them. “I wasn't kidding earlier, be more careful. Next time you could hit a child.”

Simmions’ eyes went wide in alarm while Grif continued to look bored.

“Right, we'll be sure to do that.” Grif snorted before clambering back into the Jeep. “Com’on bootlicker, we don' got all day. The sooner we get this done the sooner I can take a nap.”

Simmons startled into action and also climbed back in the vehicle almost missing his ride as Grif shifted into reverse, spun the Jeep around -almost clipping Wash again- and burning rubber as he took off, ignoring what had to have been five traffic laws. Simmons could be heard screeching again form the retreating orange blur.

Maine growled.

Wash nodded. “Yes I believe they will hit someone else in the near future.” He shook his head, “We've got work to do, let's get moving.”


 

The Chorus Security Firm ’s building was actually quite impressive. It was a five story brownstone building with garage access below nestled in-between two high-rises which made it stand out. The sign on the building front was big enough to catch the eye but subtle enough to not draw too much unwanted attention. The front doors where a nice contrasting dark wood with large windows displaying the foyer.

Washington pushed his way into the building, holding the door for Maine. “Excuse me,” He voiced as he stepped forward. “My friend and I are looking fo--”

A jubilant wordless cry erupted from the large front desk as a familiar little boy signed 'WASH!’ with exaggerated enthusiasm.

Not but a half second later the four year old was running at Wash much to the alarm of the young woman in a maroon striped, tan uniform, who called Junior's name in distress as he ran away from her. She was halfway across the room in pursuit of the boy when Junior took a running leap at Washington.

Not able to let the boy crash Wash quickly dropped a few inches and caught Junior impressively, hoisting him up easily in his arms despite the bruised ribs and stomach.

'You found me again!’ Junior signed him with a huge grin, showing off all his pearly whites.

Washington's stomach dropped. The thought of Junior’s father losing the boy again so early the next day had unadulterated rage boil up inside him. What was his father thinking? This had to stop, now.

“You're lost? Again?” Wash asked trying to keep from grinding his teeth. He didn't bother signing this time because he learned yesterday that the boy was only mute, since his dad never signed to the boy and Junior had been able to respond even while not looking at his father. Besides, Washington couldn't exactly sign while holding the child anyway.

Junior shook his head negatively. 'Daddy works here. He brought me because he was mad at Church for losing me yesterday.’

Relief flooded Wash’s system at the news. So it was Epsilon’s fault for Junior getting lost. Well, Washington couldn't say he was surprised. The asshole was good at fucking things up.

“Is that so? Well I guess that's a good thing. Are you doing alright?” Wash asked, surprising himself with the sincerity of his concern. A corner of his mind was asking why he was so invested in a child he’d only meet the day before, but the thought was quickly discarded as Junior continued their conversation.

'Yup! Jensen is fun to be with, even though she talks kinda funny.’

Wash was unable to contain the small chuckle at the child’s honesty. “What have you been doing?”

'Playing with my cars and coloring in my color book. Jensen can stay in the lines really good.’

The soft smile on Washington's lips grew the longer he watched Junior talk to him. He was glad the boy seemed happier today, yesterday he was unwilling to hold much of a conversation because of how scared he was.

Suddenly Junior stilled as he caught sight of Maine coming up behind Wash. The boy’s brown eyes widened frightfully and he took safety in Wash’s arms by burying his head under the man’s chin as he started to shiver.

“Ack-” Washington breathed as the sudden movement had Junior kneeing him in the ribs by accident. Wash took a painfully deep breath before speaking. “Hey buddy, that's just Maine. He's a big softy and mute because of a trauma, just like you.” He tried consoling, which Wash had to admit was not his strong suit, in fact he couldn't remember the last time he’d even cared enough to try.

After a few seconds Junior turned his head to face Maine without lifting it off Washington's collar, keeping his hands tucked in between them one hand clutching Wash’s gray shirt, the other bawled in a tiny fist pressed to his own chest.

Maine gave the small boy an apologetic smile and signed: 'Sorry.’

It took a while longer before Junior unclenched his fist in order to point at Maine's scared up throat in a question.

Maine's right hand fingered the strange star like blemishes before nodding. 'Yes, I got hurt bad.’

That answer had Junior sitting up in Wash’s arms properly. 'Me too, but here.’ Junior finished the sentence placing a hand over his heart.

The meaning was instantly clear to both men and Washington growled under his breath at the implications. Someone had hurt this innocent child enough to emotionally scar him for life and the boy wasn't even five yet. Wash couldn't stop himself from shaking, and didn't even want to know what expression he was wearing. Probably one of murder, he was good at that one in recent years.

He was only able to snap out of it when Junior threw his arms around Wash’s neck and pressed his forehead to the thick part of the man's shoulder. Similar to the way Junior hugged his father yesterday after being reunited, except this time the young boy was trying to give comfort not receive it.

‘Daddy gets mad too.’ was the almost non-existent whisper that had Washington hugging Junior back fiercely, burying his nose in the child's curly hair. Wash was caught off guard when the years of built up tension just slipped away. The amazing part was, how the tight curl of muscle and the ache in his bones didn't return, even after the woman in the room cleared her throat obnoxiously. Followed by her hand flying to her neck as she choked, gagged, fell on the floor, writhed for a few seconds, and then flew back to her feet again at near attention.

“Shorry 'bout that, choked on my shpit.” Jensen said, completely unabashed as if it happened all the time, that dramatically. And after a few seconds of unwavering eye contact Wash was convinced it did.

“Excushe me Shirs, but can I help you?” She asked politely with a lisp on her tongue.

“Uh, right.” Washington snapped out of his stupor and straightened from his slightly protective hunch over Junior. He let the boy stay where he was as Wash adorned his professional tone. “Agent Maine and I are from Project Freelancer: Recovery One. We have credentials if you’d like to see them.”

Jensen stared dumbstruck back at them so Washington took initiative and motioned for Maine to take out his badge and ID. While Wash juggled Junior in order to pull out his own Maine flashed his to the female. Showing her the the leather case portrait for the badge then landscape for his picture identification.

Once Maine was finished Washington finally got his own badge free and copied is partner’s action.

“Oh, my, God!” Jensen exclaimed. “You’re really Freelancersh? Ohmygosh! I can't wait to tell the othersh!!” She shouted excitedly bouncing on her heals.

“Calm down. We don't want you to choke again, now do we?” Washington asked rhetorically.

“No, Shir!”

Wash refrained from rolling his eyes skyward. “Anyway, we'd like to speak with your boss about a hacking incident that happened to one of your clients a few days ago.”

Jensen nodded feverishly, almost losing her glasses off her face. “Yesh, of courshe, right away. Just one shecond, I'll call shomeone down to take you up.”

The young woman rushed away and slipped around the desk picking up the desk phone and dialing a number with expert speed. It didn't take long  for whomever she called to pick up.

“Capitan, there are two men here from the PFL: Recovery One divishion looking to shpeak with General Kimball.”

Washington rose a brow the military titles but thought it best not to ask. For all he knew their company used titles of rank to distinguish between levels of superiority to make it easier for everyone.

The call was ended quickly after and Jensen’s attention was back on the men.

“I've messhaged Msh. Kimball about your arrival; she should be ready for you when you get upstairsh.”

“Thank you Jensen.” Wash answered.

There was only a few precious seconds of silence before the woman started up again.

“I'm shorry Shirs, but I jusht… it's jusht an honor to meet you, really. PFL did more than the FBI, CIA and the DHS combined in effortsh againsht the war on terror! I mean, they almosht shingle handedly took down the Insurrectionists ! You guysh are herosh!”

Washington shifted uncomfortably as did Maine. The were far from heros. “The UNEC and the DHS did most of the groundwork.” He clarified. “You shouldn't read into the news reports so much.”

It didn't seem to matter what Wash had to say, Jensen's eyes still sparkled in wonder as she admired their presence.

Thankfully their escort turned the corner moments later. The person rounding the corner was a slightly shorter than average, dark skinned man, with familiar deep brown eyes, and a military buzz cut that Wash recognized instantaneously.

Tucker was smoothing down his pants when his gait faulted as his eyes meet Wash’s steel-gray. And for some reason Washington swore his heart skipped a beat, and he knew it wasn't because of the anger that filtered across the younger man’s face.


 

Tucker spent five minutes wrestling Palomo out of the elevator before he got Caboose convinced they were playing a game. The result was predictable; the giant man-child carried Palomo away like a sack of potatoes with way too much cheer.

“Fucking Palomo!” Tucker grumbled as he fixed his wrinkled uniform.

The door to the elevator chimed and slid open as it hit ground floor. Tucker took a second to straighten his collar before walking out and down the hall. He had to look presentable just in case, since the only Freelancer he’d ever meet was Texas. Who knew, maybe Freelancers were all sexy as fuck, badass chicks that could beat the living shit out of him for dipping a line. Damn, maybe he had a type?

Nothing, however, could have prepared the freshly discharged military man for the scene he walked into once he turned the corner.

The scary-as-fuck man from yesterday had Tucker's  baby boy wrapped around him like the man had the fucking right to touch his kid!

Sexy as fuck? Maybe. Badass? Sure. Chick? Definitely not. Could beat the shit out of him? Tucker could bet on it.

A look of horror crossed with rage lit on Tucker's face as he tripped over himself in effort to get to his son, even though his legs were shaking worse than after mind blowing sex. All he could think of was getting his child away from the, in all likelihood: murderer. However two things stopped him short on his journey.

One was a fucking near seven foot tall gigantic, pale bald man with scarring across his throat, face and arms. The same man that took a threatening step forward as soon as he saw Tucker's charge.

Two being Tucker's son; Junior was clutching at the shoulder of Wash’s shirt, smiling in a way Tucker has only seen a precious handful of times before.

That smile is what ultimately halted Tucker's advance, making his right hand stop ghosting over the hilt of his sword.

“Junior?” Tucker called out cautiously.

Junior fidgeted at his father's call causing a flash of nauseated pain to filter across Wash’s face. For a moment Tucker could have sworn the man would puke, but as soon as the look appeared it vanished again, and Junior's movement stilled.

'Daddy! Look it's Wash!’ Junior signed, the huge smile still on his lips.

Tucker side-eyed the giant whom had relaxed minorly as soon as Junior signed 'daddy’.

“That's, uh, great kiddo. What’re you doin’?” He asked slowly moving closer to the three while trying very hard not to freak out. Or scream, or cuss Wash out for having his son, or shooting the fucking mountain for glaring at him, or pass out like a pussy because he was honestly scared shitless.

'Talking to Wash, he’s really cool! And he has a mute friend! Mr. Maine!’ Junior gestured to the bald man beside them. 'They’re my new friends!’

Tucker nearly scoffed, “Are they now? Okay, come ‘ere time to stop bothering Wash.” He finished with open arms, having finally closed the gap, desperate to get his son back.

Junior pouted at his father but Tucker was more focused on Wash’s reaction. Because instead of how the man had readily helped get Junior in his arms yesterday, this time a look of loss settled on the blonde’s face and his grip tightened reverently around Junior. It was as if Wash was afraid to relinquish hold of the boy for fear something terrible would happen if he did. An uncomfortable weight settled in the pit of Tucker's stomach at seeing the killer Freelancer looking so depressed just because Tucker wanted his kid back.

Clearing his voice Tucker crossed his arms with a huff. “Fine, I see how it is.” He said with forced bravado. “Abandon your dear ol’ da’ for the badass freelancer.”

Junior giggled, not only bringing a smile to Tucker's lips but also  lighting up Wash and Maine's expressions to a degree.

With a defeated sigh Tucker turned. “Com’on, I'll take you to Kimball.” He gestured over his shoulder. “But Junior doesn't get to go in.” He warned, throwing a glared over his shoulder, still miffed that his own son wanted to stay with a guy he meet only yesterday. Especially since it took more than a month for Junior to open up to his own dad. Tucker supposed that should tell him something about Agent Washington and his friend. Unfortunately, Tucker was content to ignoring that notion in favor of, totally manly, pouting.

Chapter Text

Present Day…

24 July, 2029

 

“Hello Ms. Kimball. My name's Agent Washington, and this is my partner Agent Maine.” Wash introduced after, regretfully, handing  Junior back over to his father and entering Vanessa Kimball's office.

“Good morning Agents. How is it I can help you?” Kimball replied rather stiffly.

Washington glanced over his shoulder to make sure Tucker had left and closed the door behind him. Once sure the three of them were alone Wash started.

“We’ve been informed of a hacking attempt to one of your customers last week. We need access to any and all information revolving around the attack.”

Kimball rested her elbows on her desk as she leaned forward. “Customer confidentiality is a law Agents. I can't freely hand over those kinds of logs.”

Washington walked forward flicking on his comm-bracelet as he went. Documents lit up his palm as he displayed them for Kimball to see. “We have a warrant. The details are delicate and the issue needs to be addressed immediately.”

Kimball eyed the documents with suspicion. “Can you transfer these to me?”

“Of course.” Wash replied curtly as he wired them to Kimball's desktop.

The digital documents illuminated the surface of her desk seconds later. Kimball's eyes darted back and forth as she quickly scanned the warrant. She flipped through the pages with a wave of the hand every now and again.

Maine patiently stood by the door while Washington not so patiently tapped his foot on the ground. “Ma’am, this really is a time sensitive operation.” He voiced with gritted teeth, the tension in his shoulders returning with a vengeance.

“Don't call me 'ma’am’.” Kimball replied shortly. “You Freelancers work fast. It usually takes weeks to get this kind of warrant.”

Washington took a deep breath in through his nose and out through his teeth. It did absolutely nothing to calm him. “Ms. Kimball I'd really appreciate it if you would cooperate here. All we want is information, we can take care of the rest ourselves.”

Kimball eyed the two men in her office a moment longer before sighing. “Very well. I’ll transfer you our logs. You may want to talk to the guys on the job though, it wasn't just a hacking incident. There was a break in at the same time.”

“Really?” Wash asked with a raised brow, only half listening as he sifted through the logs Kimball was in the process of sending. “Do you think they'll have valuable information?”

Kimball interlaced her fingers as she leaned over her desk. “That depends on what exactly you are looking for Agent.”

Irked Wash replied with a short, “Fine, who are these guys of yours.”

“You meet one of them already.”

Knowing Kimball couldn't have known he ran into, or rather they ran into him, two of her men earlier Washington assumed she was talking about Tucker. He voiced as much.

“Yes, Tucker was senior guard on that job. He'll be able to answer any questions you have.” Kimball replied.

“Great.” Wash sighed sarcastically. He's already on bad terms with the younger man.

“If that's all you need? I am not exactly free all day gentlemen.”

Washington nodded in agreement. “Thank you for the logs.”

After bidding farewell Maine and Wash left the room and headed back for the elevator.

'Are we going to talk to that man?’

Wash rubbed his temples. “We might as well. It wouldn't hurt to get as much information as possible. The more we know the easier it will be to get York.”

Maine nodded noncommittally as he pressed the button to call the elevator.

“We'll ask that young woman at the front to call him back for us so we can exchange contact info. Tonight we can run through the logs. Any questions we have after we can run by Tucker.”

Luckily when the two men reached the ground floor they ended up not having to ask Jensen to get Tucker. Because the man had taken Jensen’s place at the front desk and was eating lunch with his son.

Maine started for the door as Washington veered off to approach the front desk.

Tucker and Junior were absorbed in what they were doing that they didn't notice Wash’s presence until he cleared his throat.

Junior instantly brightened, waving a hello.

“I need your number.” Wash stated to Tucker after he acknowledged Junior's greeting.

A playful smile lit up Tucker's face. “Is it because you lost yours?”

Taken aback Wash spluttered, “What? No. I need your contact information in case any questions come up about the hacking incident last week. Ms. Kimball said you were working the job and would be able to answer any other questions we have about the case.”

Tucker gave the taller man a lude eyebrow wiggle. “Are you sure you aren’t trying to work my case? Bow-chika-bow-wow.”

“That. Doesn't even make sense.” Wash sighed, trying very hard to keep his cool.

“Sure it does. You just have to think about it.”

Washington's nose wrinkled as he pinched the bridge with his thumb and forefinger. “I’d rather not. Can I please just get your number.”

Tucker opened up his mouth and Wash quickly cut him off before the younger man could speak. “Knock it off and cooperate.”

A huge grin spread across Tucker's lips. “I don't know about knocking it off, but I could knock one out. Bow-chika-bow-wow.” He finished his sentence with an obscene jerk of the fist.

Wash started to growl under his breath.

“Nice, I'd wait 'till the bedroom for all that though. Unless you're an exobitionist. In which case; damn babe, where’ve you been all my life.” Tucker finished with a slurry smile, chin in hand, as he batted his eyelashes in a ridiculous fashion.

Wash was saved from further embarrassment by Junior.

'Will you visit me again?’ The boy signed as he stood in his chair.

“Uh…” Washington's attention may have been brought to Junior but the older man was still unsure of how to reply.

Movement caught Wash’s eye as Tucker started to sign haltingly from behind Junior. The signs were sloppy but the meaning was clear, as was the sudden serious look that fell on Tucker's face.

'Don’t make him any promises you don't intend to keep.’

There was a burning need in Tucker's eyes, a mix of desperation and anger as he conveyed his words silently.

Washington nodded just barely before his gaze flicked back to Junior. “Probably not, I'm very busy with work. Sorry Junior.”

The downcast look that overtook Junior was devastating. Tucker patted his son softly on the back, a relieved slump to his shoulders.

A few seconds passed before Wash realized he had a way to make the situation better for both him and the young boy. A smirk played on his lips as he spoke up, getting the father-son duo’s attention. “Though.” He paused dramatically, basking in the weary look Tucker was giving him. “If you could convince your father to give me his number… I would be able to visit at least one more time.”

'Really?’

Wash nodded honestly. He'd just make sure to call Tucker at least once after he was done looking through the logs. Besides, there were sure to be questions afterward.

Junior's attention immediately snapped to his father as he started signing rapidly. 'Please, Daddy. Please, Daddy. Please, please, please!’ Over and over again until Tucker grabbed the boy’s hands to get him to stop. Which only made Junior stick out his lower lip and give his father the biggest puppy dog eyes Wash had ever seen.

“Okay, okay! Cool yer jets kiddo.” Tucker sighed in defeat, switching is focus to the Freelancer at hand. “Using the kid was a low blow dude.” He ripped off a piece of paper from a notebook on the desk and jotted down his contact information.

“Anything to get the job done.” Washington stated, a heavy weight settling in his stomach at the truth of his words. Realizing he probably would do anything to get the job done. It wasn't exactly a comforting thought.

“Here.” Tucker handed Wash the slip of paper. “Don't forget to call.”

“I don't forget.” Wash said with a furrowed brow.

Tucker rose an eyebrow. “Okay. Sure.”


 

It was just under an hour before Tucker's day was over when Simmons and Grif walked back into the office. They were bickering about running someone over with Grif’s Jeep when the passed Tucker with his head down on his desk.

“What the fucks wrong with you?” Grif stalled at Tucker's cubicle.

Rolling his head to the side so his check was pressed to the desk Tucker whined. “My son likes a dumb Freelancer asshole more than me!”

Simmons’ step faulted. “Wait. A Freelancer was here? Like in this building?”

“Yeah. Two of them. One mountain of a man, I mean huge! I thought Caboose was the only guy that big. The other a sick on the mud, asshole that stole my son!”

There was a short silence after Tucker finished where Grif shifted uncomfortably and Simmons stared at Tucker with wide eyes. The maroon guard spluttered stalled, gaped then spluttered again before he was able to gather his thoughts. “Was one of them bald? The other blonde? Kinda off-putting?”

Tucker sat up in his chair. “Yeah… Why? You know them?”

Grif snorted as Simmons went deathly silent.

“We hit one of them with the Jeep this morning.” Grif finally said.

Simmons turned to Grif, fuming slightly. “ We didn't do shit. You were driving and you ran him over!”

“Wait. You ran one of them over? But they both looked fine-urr, they looked okay, I mean neither of them looked hurt.”

“Well, Grif ran into him. He was nailed in the midsection but he wasn't like ran over, ran over. He'd be dead if that was the case. Though he did say something about broken ribs? And a lot of bruising. In fact I'm surprised his face wasn't busted up. He did slam into the hood.”

“No shit? Which one did’ya hit?” Tucker asked, thinking back to how uncomfortable Agent Washington looked every time Junior wiggled in his arms.

“The annoying blonde one.” Grif inputted.

Tucker leaned back in his chair. “Shit. And he walked away? Who does that?”

“Someone who; 'Isn't built like a normal person.’ apparently.” Grif snarked. “Dunno, I pretty much tuned him out the whole time.”

“You would.” Simmons muttered.

“Dayum. Well nice going Grif.” Tucker bemoaned. “You hit one of the scariest motherfuckers to live. How’d you walk away from that one?”

“You said you hit Agent Washingtub too Tucker.” Caboose made his presence known by leaning over the walls of the cubicle. “That's why you were pouting! See, cause you told me so!”

Tucker shot out of his chair like a rocket. “Holy shit! Shut the fuck up Caboose! I didn't tell you shit, and I never hit Agent Washington, that would've been suicide you fucking idiot.”

Caboose put a finger to his chin and looked up at the ceiling. “Yes. Yes you did. You were saying about Junior liking Mr. Washingtub more, then about how you hit him. Because you said those weird hang up lines. Stupid Tucker, not remembering right.”

“I'm pretty sure you mean, 'hit on’, and 'pick up’. And it's Washing ton not tub. ” Simmons interjected.

“Wait!” Grif said pushing Simmons aside to take up the opening of Tucker's cubical. “You hit on a Freelancer? You-- ha! You used those lame-ass pickup lines on a DUDE ? What the fuck? I thought you were straight. Jesus this is great.” Grif slapped Simmons on the arm a few times before whipping away imaginary tears. “And you wanted to know how we walked away? Again, how’d you?”

“You are wrinkling my shirt! Stop!” Simmons whined, shoving Grif’s hand away.

“Who cares? Tucker's issues are way more entertaining.” Grif retorted.

“Uhg! Shut the fuck up! First: Yeah, sure, whatever, I flirted with the asshole. So what? I flirt with a lot of people. It doesn't mean anything. Stop making a big deal outta it! And B: When did I ever say I was straight? Not that it's your guys’ business or anything but I'm bi. And three: why do you care?” Tucker fumed, crossing his arms and flopping back down on his chair.

“Uh, I'm pretty sure you are supposed to stick with one way of numbering shit off, not all three. And, I don't care. I just think it's hilarious.” Grif said with a half shrug. “We're gonna head home for the night. Today has been a walking nightmare and I deserve a nap. Good luck with your new crush.”

Before Tucker had time to come up with a comeback Grif had already started dragging Simmons off.

“It's not a crush!” Tucker yelled after the pair.

“Keep telling yourself that man, I'm sure it'll come true.” Grif shouted back causing Simmons to laugh.

“Fucking reds.” Tucker grumbled.

“Are we going home too Tucker? My ride left me.” Caboose pouted looking back down at Tucker.

“Yeah, yeah. We’ll go home. Just gotta grab Junior on the way.”

“I don't want to ride in your car. But I like Junior so…”

Tucker rolled his eyes. “Whatever moron. Just get your stuff so we can leave.”


 

As soon as Washington and Maine made it back to their apartment Wash went straight for the bathroom. The door barely latched behind him before he was bent of the toilet spilling the contents of his stomach in the porcelain bowl.

The exaggerated heaving put extra pressure on Washington's ribs causing stinging tears to wet his eyes.

A few minutes passed before Wash got himself back under control, picking himself up off the seat of the toilet. Grimacing at the acidic taste on his tongue Washington flushed the toilet and went to the sink to rinse the taste out of his mouth.

Washington thought he'd be able to ignore the pain, but after carrying Junior around, and walking back to the apartment. It was just a little too much.

Looking up from the sink Wash studied his face for a moment. The dark purple circles under his eyes were getting worse. A combination of insomnia and nightmares never helped. Stress build up from the past years was causing his golden blonde hair to gray at the sides.He was paler than normal, which wasn't all that surprising since he had spent the past five minutes puking in the toilet, and he did get hot but a vehicle. There was a purple and yellow bruise starting to form on his temple, courtesy of the Grif’s Jeep.

Gritting his teeth Wash peeled off his jacket. When he’d finished setting the jacket aside Wash carefully pulled up the Hem of his shirt, lifting the garment with great difficulty. Once the top was discarded he reached up to his collar for the undersuit’s catch and zipper. He pulled down the zipper and shrugged the suit off his shoulders until he found the mess of bruising on his ribs.

His whole chest and sides were covered in marbled, blue, yellow, purple, and almost black. It looked atrocious, and it was swelling. Wash grimaced as he lowered his shirt. He should have iced his ris as soon as possible, not wait hours afterward.

Washington turned to leave the bathroom and was meet with Main on the other side of the door.

The giant was holding a few ice packs and a thin towel. As soon as Wash exited the bathroom, Maine was all but dragging the shorter man down the hall and into his room. In too much pain to argue, Wash followed quietly.

Once in his room Wash propped himself up with some pillows on the bed. Maine placed the towel over the worst of the bruising so he could strategically place the ice packs down.

Washington hissed as the first ice pack was placed on a particularly sore bruise.

'Are you going to be okay?’ Maine asked once his hands were empty.

“I heal fast. I'll be fine.” Wash answered through his teeth. “I'm going to look through the logs Kimball gave us. I'll send them to you if you'd like.”

Maine waved a hand in dismissal.

“That's fine. I shouldn't move for a while anyway so…”

'I’ll bring you something to eat.’

Washington forced a small smile. “Thanks Maine.”


 

The logs were quite impressive. The detail in them; from written reports, head cams, to video surveillance, and eye witness accounts. Washington quickly realized it would take him hours, maybe even days to sift through all of them. Which was both good and bad.

Good because Wash really should not be moving around too much for awhile so his ribs could heal.

Bad because the longer they waited to go after York, the more chance the man had to cover his tracks and hide again.

Washington was at a stand still.

With a heavy sigh Wash removed his communication bracelet, placing the device on his nightstand. He'd been lounging on his bed for a few hours and needed to move, it might hurt like a bitch but he knew staying in the same position would do more harm than good.

After taking a few deep, pinneedle, breaths, Wash swung his legs over the edge of his bed. Once his feet touched ground Wash braced himself. Standing hurt more than he thought it would when using muscles that you normally don't think about.

The urge to take shallow breaths was almost too strong to ignore.

Wash was trembling by the time he reached his wardrobe. He pulled out some sleepwear, ones with a button up top, so he wouldn't have to stretch too far.

His goal was to take a cool shower, but glancing at the door to his room made his resolve crumble.

“Just a short walk down the hall Wash, no big deal.” He muttered to himself as he made his way to the door.

“Maine? Hey, uh, there is a lot of files to go through so I did end up sending some to you.” Wash called down the hall. “I'm taking a break for a few.”

A grunt from the living room was all Wash needed before he continued into the bathroom for is shower.

Peeling off the rest of the undersuit was more than a chore, and left Wash panting leaned over the lip of the tub. Needless to say we was not looking forward to the next week.

Once the steady stream of water was cascading down his shoulders and chest, Washington was able to breath a little easier.

His mind wandered to the logs he'd already gone over.

York's hacking job was sloppy. Like he'd been in a rush, he'd left way too much behind. And apparently someone had been at the scene as well. If York had used Delta then he wouldn't have got caught. Which meant one of two things. Delta was no longer with York, or York decided not to inform Delta of what he was up to.

The problem with those theories was that there were two people recorded being at the building.

Wash tightened a fist against the tiled wall.

If Delta was with York, he wouldn't have let the lockpick hack in the way he did. Delta would have come up with a better plan. So Delta could not have been in the building with York. Which begged the question: Who else was with York?

It wasn't only about what York was up to anymore. It was down to who he was working with.

Wash slammed his knuckles into the shower wall. A crack echoed in the small space, spiderweb cracks radiating out from where his fist made contact. When he pulled his hand from the crumbling tiles Wash noticed the watery red seeping from broken skin, running down his forearm and dripping off his elbow.

Clenching his fist made the blood well up more.

“Shit. Pull yourself together Wash. You are too close to fall apart now.” With another deep, grounding breath, Wash leaned over and grasped the shower dial, switching it off. After drip drying for a moment he stepped out of the shower and toweled off quicker than he probably should have.

“After we go through the rest of the logs, we really will need to talk to Tucker.” Wash sighed, running his uninjured hand through his damp hair. “The sooner the better.”

Chapter Text

Many Years Ago…

15 December 2019

 

Washington quickly realized that catching Carolina alone was nearly impossible. Not because she was constantly with someone, but because unless they were training or she was with York, Agent Carolina may as well have disappeared off of the MOI.

Which is why when Wash accidentally ran across her in the hall he jumped at the chance. Probably with too much gusto.

“Carolina!” Wash yelled, jumping in the woman's path. “I, uh, well I have a question. Actually a few. I asked York but he didn't know. So…”

“Get to the point Wash.” She interrupted. “Not everyone has an abundance of free time, as you clearly seem to.”

“Right, sorry.” Wash said sheepishly. “I didn't mean… If you’re busy I can --”

Carolina removed her fists from her hips. “Wash, it’s fine. Just say what you need to, I'm all ears.”

“Kay, uh.” The younger man glanced down the hall to where a few soldiers were making their way toward the two Agents. The small group was loud and talking rapidly to each other on loud voices. “Can we maybe move location? If rather not be overheard…”

Carolina followed Wash’s line of sight and sighed. “Sure, come with me.”

She directed Wash through the hall until Carolina slipped in an empty room set up like a university classroom. “Alright, shoot.”

“Right. So, I was talking with… some others?” Wash paused, unsure of how to approach the topic. He thought it was probably better not to tell Carolina exactly who he’d been talking to. Fibbing wasn't going to hurt anyone. “And, I realized I kinda didn't read what was on the paperwork that we were required to fill out. I was just wondering if you'd fill in the blanks?”

Carolina held Washington's gaze for a moment before nodding. “A lot of people skim those things.”

Wash’s shoulders sagged and he let out a defeated sigh. “Yeah, I know. That's what everyone keeps telling me. But I really like to know a bit more of the specifics? I'm curious.”

“You think I'm going to refuse?” Carolina asked him with a short laugh. “I'm not that mean. How much do you know?”

Wash couldn't help but think of Connie when Carolina asked that question. “Well, other than the obvious; we are here to be better, more specialized, soldiers. Nothing really.”

Carolina snorted. “How'd you figure the project was going to do that?”

Shifting in embarrassment Wash thought about the question. “The leaderboard? Maybe? I mean, we are working toward a goal. All the intense training.”

“So you completely ignored an entire section of what you signed up for.” The older Agent pointed out.

Washington's brow pulled together. “Did I?”

“Yes, yes you did. The leaderboard is a factor. A test in a way, to make sure you are ready for the… There is no real way to break this to you softly… invasive surgeries. First we physically get better, then we are pretty much test subjects for experimental hardware, bioware, cybernetics, weapons. Really anything that our scientists decided is ready and safe enough to legally test on a human.” Carolina finished with a wave of the hand.

Wash’s jaw unhinged. “So, we are experiments?”

“No, we are testing experimental equipment. Which now that I say it out loud, doesn't sound much better.” She admonished.

“Okay. And when is all this going to be put into play?”

“It already has Wash.” Carolina turned a little, flipping her red hair up and out of the way. “Remember this requirement?” She showed off the implants at the back of her neck. “What did you think they were for?”

Wash ran a and over his own neck, remembering how vulnerable he felt for the first few months. In fact, he still hated having them there. “To better run our equipment.”

“Exactly. And our equipment is about to be upgraded.”

With that statement Carolina took her leave. Pausing only briefly to smile at Wash while she slid the door open. “Don't worry too much about it Wash. You are doing fine.”


 

6 January 2020

 

“Agent Washington.” The Director’s cold voice caused Wash to fidget.

“Yes Director Church?”

“Do you know why I have called you here Agent?” Director Church asked, not bothering to face Washington. Instead the man was looking upon the landscape beyond the bay windows of the MOI.

Wash shifted uncomfortably. “No Sir, not really.”

“I see. Washington, have you noticed any anomalies? Strange behavior, perhaps, among your peers?”

The fact that the Director kept his back to Wash, unnerved the young Agent. As did Aiden Price, the councilor, sitting silently in a corner of the room. His eyes trained on Wash as if he were a caged animal out on display. “I’m not exactly sure what you mean, Sir.”

Finally Director Church turned, leveling Agent Washington with a steady gaze behind his glasses. “Do not play dumb Agent Washington, it is most unbecoming.”

Wash tightened his fists at his side. “I didn't mean-- um, I haven't really noticed anything?”

Director Church strode forward with confident, even steps. “I hope that was not a question, Washington.”

“Sorry Sir.” Wash took a calming breath. “I believe everything is rather normal, honestly. Um, Conni-- Agent Connecticut, she seems stressed but I would say we all are. Agent North, he’s still recovering so that is hard on everyone closer to him. Agent South, for example,believes it is her fault, about her brother.”

“In other words; there is nothing that should seek further attention?” Director Church hummed, turning back to face the windows.

Washington grimaced a little. His heart rate picking up, hoping that the Director wouldn't catch him in a lie, even though he didn't think he was actually lying. “That would be correct, Sir.”

“And what of your most recent mission? Many things went wrong, Agent, what is your take on these, failures.”

“Most of it was out of our control. We were dropped in with faulty equipment and had to figure a way around it.”

The Director hummed. “Are you blaming me for your failed mission?”

Wash quickly backpedaled his words. “No, I--”

“No matter. There are other more important issues at hand. Are you aware of the rise in Insurrection activity?”

“Well, yes of course. Most of us are, Sir. It's why Project Freelancer has been called out onto the field more often in the last couple’a months.” Washington was able to say with confidence.

With a nod the Director continued. “Yes, and do you know why?”

Washington rose an eyebrow. “Uh, they’re terrorists? So they must be unhappy about something?”

“The reason, Agent, is that someone is feeding them information. Mission dates for example.”

It was like someone turned on a light in Washington's head. “Someone sabotaged us, our mission. They knew where we were, what equipment we were using. How to jam it. That would mean--”

“We have a mole. Yes Agent Washington. Transmissions have been found leaving the Mother of Invention.”

Wash shifted as he found himself at a loss for words. “I didn’t realize… But that would make sense, considering everything that happened.”

There was a pregnant pause before Director Church spoke again. During the pause Wash had a hard time stilling his fingers from drumming nervously on his thighs.

“That will be all Washington. You are dismissed.”

Washington snapped to attention. “Yes Sir.”


 

17 January 2020

 

“I hate team training.” Wash grumbled.

“Why? I thought you liked working together.” York asked dodging a stun shot aimed at his head.

Wash dived for cover, adjusting his grip on the training rifle. He leaned around the post he was hiding behind to check his targets.

“That's not it.” Wash answered taking two shots at their opponents before Maine started to flank them. “On your right! York move!”

York was a moment too late as he tried maneuvering out of Maine’s line of fire. His right foot slid first as York tried pivoting. However his lunge was a hair too slow, instead of finding cover three stun rounds found a home in his shoulder, chest and hip.

“Fuck! That hurts!” York gritted out through his teeth after he fell to the ground. The three rounds successful in their temporary paralysis.

Wash stifled a laugh. “That's why I hate team training.” He kept his center of mass low to the ground as he darted around the pillars, strategically place throughout the room. Washington got into position behind Maine and shot a few rounds, not waiting for retaliation before he moving again.

The shots missed Maine, who turned to return fire.

Washington smirked at his distraction, able to sneak up behind Maine and shoot the giant five times in the back. The reason for the extra rounds being that the stun rounds worked different according to weight, strength, immunity, and where the shots landed on person.

For example, one shot to the head or heart would immediately stun someone. However, a leg or arm shot would only render that limb useless. Torso shots depended on the person. York, North, South, Wyoming, and Connie only needed to be shot once or twice. Three was a little Overkill. Carolina, on the other hand, had to be shot at least three times before she went down. Maine was someone who had to be shot five or more times for any lasting effects to take place.

Maine’s hand shot out and grasped Wash’s ankle. The young man yelped as he hit the ground, but the grip he had on his rifle never faltered.

Scrambling Wash shot Maine twice more, finally freezing the man. A sigh of relief left Wash’s lips. Now all he had to do was find South.

The thought barely entered Wash’s head before a purple booted foot came down on heavily on his chest, the click of a rifle sounded as it was aimed at his gut.

“Shit.” He cursed at the same time South crowed: “Gottcha bitch!”

Then seven shots rang out, echoing in the training room.

Wash groaned in pain. He wished he could curl into the fetal position but instead he was hit with a succession of electric shocks that robbed him of control over his muscles. Each felt like getting zapped by a faulty outlet all over your body. Then the numbness set in and Wash went slack against the concrete slabs, losing grip on his rifle.

“Jesus South, you could've just shot him in the head.” York admonished her from his downed position stuck on his left side facing the other three.

“Or you know. You didn't have to shoot me two extra times!” Wash complained still feeling the shocks vibrate through his skin.

“Bull shit Wash. You are almost as hard to stun as Maine is. If I was going to shoot you extra times I would have shot ten stun rounds into your ass instead of just seven.” South huffed, removing her boot from Wash’s chest.

“Well, she does have a point there.” York said thoughtful.

“Agreed.” Maine grunted from his face down position at Wash’s feet.

Wash whined. “You three are terrible people! I think I want a new teammate. Maybe CT, or North, hell I’d even take Florida or Wyoming.” His nose wrinkled, luckily the stun rounds only paralyzed the neck down. “Actually no, not Wyoming. I don't think I'd be able to handle another of his knock knock jokes.”

That got the other three laughing, which cause a huge grin to light Washington face.

It took a few minutes for the stun to wear off but slowly, York, Maine and Wash were able to move again. Not surprising anyone, Wash and Maine struggled to their feet a whole two minutes before York could roll over.

“So, did you guys hear? They are giving some new equipment to Agents on the top of the leaderboard.” York asked, once the four started setting up for the next round. The training session was two out of three and they were currently tied up.

South snorted. “Figures, little miss perfect had to be first in line.”

York's hands stalled in reloading his clip. Wash side eyed him as the man rolled his shoulders before replying. “Now, now South. No need to get hostile.” York eventually replied in a good natured tone.

Washington was always impressed at how he could act and sound so civil despite being angry at who he was talking to.

“Besides,” York continued. “I’m actually going first. So it doesn't have everything to do with the leaderboard.”

Another scoff sounded from South. “More like Daddy doesn't want his baby girl to get hurt with experimental toys, so he's having you go first as a guinea pig.”

“Actually.” Wash interjected. “It is most likely a combination of our physical attributes, dictated by the leaderboard, and our mental and/or emotional balance, dictated by the councilor, that are the reasons someone is chosen.”

“York is very emotionally stable compared to Carolina who still has competitive and compulsive tendencies. So it would make sense to choose someone calmer to test out their equipment first. Though I'm surprised they didn't choose North first.” Wash finished, pondering quietly. About his own revelation.

“He used equipment that he wasn't cleared to use in the field, what did you expect?” York asked rhetorically.

Wash nodded, “Oh yeah. I forgot about that.”

“Hey, assholes! Are you gonna gab all day or are we going to see who’s gonna win this session?” South yelled out across the training room.

York and Wash smirked at each other as they finished loading their rifles.

“You're going down South!” Wash called across the room.

A laugh rang back, “I'd like to see you bitches try!” South cackled.

 

Chapter Text

Present Day...

27 July 2029

 

Fridays had to be Tucker's favorite day of the week. Always had been. When he was younger and still in school he was always excited for the weekend, the parties, the hang outs, the hookups. Friday marked the weekend, and the weekend meant fun. Later, when he joined the United Nation Earth Command Tucker held on to his love of Fridays. Not all of them were good, in fact most of them fucking bombed. He still held hope though, for better Fridays, filled with parties, drinking and good sex.

Junior ran into the kitchen immediately gaining his father's attention. 'Movie?’

“Sure bud, what would you like to watch?” Tucker asked knowing full well what ancient movie his son was going to pick.

'Totoro!’ Junior signed bouncing on the balls of his feet.

With a roll of his eyes Tucker answer with an okay.

Junior took off passed the dining room and into the living room, plopping himself on a blanket he must have placed on the ground. Tucker followed behind, setting up the old television he had to play the movie when he reached the front room. Once it was set up he handed Junior the remote.

“You remember how to play it?”

Junior nodded and pressed the play button.

When Tucker finally got his Fridays back it wasn't like he expected. Fridays of drinking with his friends, taking a girl home for the night, parties, and hangovers were gone before they even really started. But that was, oddly enough, okay with Tucker. Did it suck that he hadn't got laid in almost six months? Fuck yeah. Did he regret taking on the source of his lack of one night stands? Fuck no!

Junior was probably the best thing that had ever happened to the man. Right up with his, admittedly, awesome job. His job gave him his Fridays back. He worked Mondays through Fridays, ten hour shifts, save for Friday, which he only had to work five hours minimum. Sometimes he even got Friday off, since a separate shift worked the weekends. The only time his hours changed were for extended jobs.

The man patted Junior softly on the head. The boy was already engrossed by the long as fuck opening theme to the movie. Shrugging, he returned to the kitchen.

Tucker figured the hours he worked would be fairly easy to juggle around when Junior started school next year. The only problem currently was getting him sitter in the middle of the day. Usually he bounced Junior around between Church, Tex, and Donut. But his plans fell through starting when Tex disappeared a few weeks ago. Church became a whiny bitch, more so than normal due to Tex’s absence. Then Donut up and got job, ironically at a coffee shop bakery, making it so he could only rely on the bubbly man Thursdays and Fridays.

Thankfully he had gotten the day off because of all the shit that went down in the last week. With the break in, the hacking, and the shoot-out all on the same job. Pairing the setbacks with the appearance of the PFL, it was hardly a surprise.

The only thing Tucker was pissed about was that Church kept avoiding him. Which was a partial lie since he was also pissed that Agent Fucking Frecklelancer Washington hadn't called him yet, It'd been three whole days and Junior wouldn't stop signing about the man. The kid wanted to know when they could meet again, but Tucker couldn't give him an answer.

Tucker also refused to admit that he was kinda bummed out himself that the guy wouldn't call. Usually when Tucker gave out his number the person wouldn't wait more than twenty-four hours before they at least messaged him. Not that exchanging numbers with the Freelancer was a hookup. Far from it. Tucker wasn't interested. Besides the fact that Tucker usually only handed his number out to hot chicks looking for a quick lay, not some high and mighty straight guy with issues.

The sound of his front door slamming open caused Tucker to jump, dropping the pan that he was absently scrubbing at into the sink with a loud clang. His heartbeat pounded on his ears as he looked up from the sink, leaning to his left to look through the dining room in order to see who the fuck decided it was cool to just enter his locked house.

Church stomped through the entryway, skipping some steps up into the main part of the room as he headed straight for Tucker. His lips pressed thin and set in a deep scowl, brow dipped and knotted together, dark green eyes ablaze.

“You gave Washington your contact information? What the fuck Tucker? Are you an idiot?” Church nearly screamed.

Tucker's eyes darted to his son at the other end of the house, thankfully the volume was up on his movie and didn't seem to notice Church's outburst.

“Why is what I do yer business? Also, why the fuck didn't you tell me he was a Freelancer! And when were you going to tell me you were a freelancer too? Huh? I mean I knew Tex was one but I thought the all had State code names! Washington called you Epsilon? What the fuck is that all about?”

Church's eye twitched. “I'm not goin’ to fucking go into this with you. What made you think it was good idea to give that sotra shit out?”

With a sardonic laugh Tucker fixed Church with a steady gaze. “You've been fucking avoiding this conversation since Monday! You can bet your pasty white ass that we are gonna talk about it! I need answers! Why do you know Agent Washington? Why did he say you tried to get him killed!?”

“I didn't! I never tried to fucking kill him, though he sure as hell tried to kill me!” Church's voice cracked as his volume raised. “It was an accident, you weren't there.”

Tucker huffed, “No shit. So explain it to me.”

Church sighed lengthily as he moved to take a seat at Tucker's island bar. The man ran a hand through his dark hair, removing his glasses to wipe a hand down his face. “It's a long story.”

Tucker threw his hands in the air. “So you've said!” He exclaimed with a underlying, hysteric laugh.  “Last time I asked. We've got time bro, lay it on me. I wanna know what the fuck is going on!”

“Look, Project Freelancer is bad news Tucker.”

“Yeaha-haa! No kidding! We kinda learned that back in operation Blood Gultch when Tex came to 'help’ us and fucked everything up instead!” Tucker moved around the kitchen to plop himself down at the other bar stool.

“Yeah well the PFL was fucking with things they shouldn't’ve be fucking with.” Church laymented.

“And what does this have to do with you being a part of the PFL and why Agent Washington hates your guts?” Tucker asked incredulously.

“Shut up asshole, I'm getting to it.”

“Well, get to it faster.”

Church pinned Tucker with a glare. “What part of 'it’s a long fucking story’ did you not get?”

“The part where you are talking about shit I don't care about? Dude, all I wanna know is why PFL is here, why Washington hates you, and why you didn't tell me you were a Freelancer!”

“I wasn't a Freelancer.” Church snapped back. “Just ‘cause I was a part of the project doesn't mean I was one of those assholes.”

“So you were apart of Project Freelancer, but you weren't a freelancer? How the fuck it that possible?”

“I wasn't an agent. I was a, uh… informant, I guess?” Church shrugged. “I don't know. A few of us were paired up with top agents. We helped evaluate them for equipment, and helped them run and test the equipment they had. I was partnered with Wash. Tex was with Omega for awhile, but they didn't get along. There were others.”

“So what? Agents were code named States and informants after Greek numbers?”

“Letters. But yeah, that's the gist of it.” Church stood, walking over to Tucker's fridge an rummaging around inside of it. “As for Washington hating me… I cleared him for some tech that didn't work the way I thought it would. When we tried to use it on... Something... It backfired. Fried his brain, made him go nuts. I thought the after effects killed him, I mean they should've. I guess I underestimated his will to live or some shit like that.”

Church sat back down with a can of soda.

“Okaaay… And now what? He's after Tex and some other guys? Why?” Tucker asked snatching the soda out of Church's and. “And don't fucking steal my shit.”

“How the fuck should I know why he's here? Obviously he's after everyone who defected from PFL. I was the only one who was let go, under proper channels. Everyone else who left did so illegally. Tex, York, Delta, North, and Theta blew up the goddamn MOI, our base of operation. Blew it right out of the sky. So I'd assume Wash is trying to bring them in.”

“Shit.”

“Yeah.” Church swiped the soda Tucker just opened back and took a swig. It earned him a punch in the shoulder but it was worth it. “That's all I know.”

“Great. So we’re fucked. In the worst way possible.”

“Pretty much, yeah.”

Silence stretched between them. The only sound in the house was from the television, where Junior was copying the little girls on screen as they did a strange plant growing dance.

Tucker's bracelet ended up going off quite suddenly, startling him into bumping Church.

“What the fuck man?” Church screeched angrily inspecting the dark liquid spilt all over his chest and lap.

Tucker didn't have time to answer before Junior came running.

'Is it Mr. Wash?’ The child asked, bouncing up and down.

Tucker glanced at the holographic display. The number wasn't one he had in his contacts. “Maybe. Hold on kiddo.” With a short weary glance over at Church, Tucker sighed and prepared to answer his call.

Putting a cheesy smile on and tilting his wrist at the right angle, he opened the call feed. “Lavernius Tucker here, what can I do a hot babe like you for? Bow-chika-bow-wow.”

Church groaned at the ridiculous phrase. Only giving Tucker a raised brow and an unhinged jaw when he realized the other man used the pickup lone knowing the person on the other end was mostly the Freelancer. Which immediately weirded the man out after he got over his initial shock.


 

Maine had disappeared again. Washington didn't have a clue as to where the bigger man was running off to but it gave Wash the chills. He was used to being out of the loop. He usually was the last one to know important details and every time it happened he got more paranoid. Why wouldn't they just tell him?

It started on the MOI with York and North. Tex, and Carolina. Connecticut. Now Maine was starting the same shit.

Washington's fists tightened at his sides. This was getting ridiculous. He’d tried calling Maine, messaging him, even looking for the man around the city. It was like he’d disappeared. Wash couldn't even track him because his GPS was disabled. Which meant someone else was involved since Wash knew Maine didn't know anything about technology that complicated.

Sighing, Washington rubbed at the persistent bruise still on the left side of his ribs. They had finally finished sifting through the logs Kimball gave them and Wash wanted to run a few things by Tucker.

Maine was supposed to be with him for the questions, but it looked like Wash was going it solo. Again.

Wash unlocked his apartment door and moved into the living area. Better to call Tucker now to get it all over with than to wait anymore. He’d only just been able to change his clothes without doubling over in pain. It was now or never, and Washington actually missed Junior. The kid was a sweetheart. His father on the other hand? Wash still was getting an opinion on the man. So far he was a minor annoyance.

Washington ran a hand through his hair, mussing it up causing spiky strands of dusty blonde to stick up all over the place. He settled for a serious expression. Brow drawn and dipped, dull gray eyes focused but tired, lips pressed thin, and jaw clenched. In all honesty it was is default expression lately.

The call rang five times before Tucker's face appeared on the holographic display.

“Lavernius Tucker here, what can I do a hot babe like you for? Bow-chika-bow-wow.” The younger man answered cheerily, a huge toothy grin presented. There was an almost indiscernible groan in the background.

Wash’s brow twitched. “Do you always answer the phone in such a crass way?”

Tucker winked, the toothy smile replaced with a self pleased smirk that pulled higher on the right. “Only when the caller is someone I can rile up. Usually the interaction ends on me getting laid, is it working yet?”

“Not even close.” Wash nearly choked, his face and ears heating up. “I called for a reason, you know.”

With a wave of the hand Tucker answered swiftly smirk still in place. “Yeah, yeah. I get it you’re just shy. I can warm you up to the idea. If you catch my drift, Bow-chika-bow-wow.”

Off screen a male voice cracked. “Are you fucking flirting with him!? What the fuck Tucker?”

The holographic display went fuzzy as Tucker shifted hastily. “No! I'm not, why does everyone keep saying that?” The man whined to the disembodied voice.

“Mr. Tucker.” Washington prompted gaining Tucker's attention once again. “It turns out I do need your, professional , assistance. There are some questions about your job last week I need answers to. Is there a time and place we can meet? Preferably sooner than later.”

Tucker's smile had been wiped from his face but the man nodded anyway. “Uh, yeah sure. Junior and I haven't eaten dinner yet so maybe a family restaurant? You know one with a lot of people around? Just in case.”

Washington snorted, raising a brow in question. “Are you afraid I'll murder you?”

“Kinda, yeah. I don't exactly have a good track record with Freelancers.” Tucker said shifting. “Hold up, Junior wants to say hi.”

The display went fuzzy again while Tucker lifted his son up on his hip. When the image cleared again Junior's face was projected next to his father's. Wash couldn't help but notice how much Junior looked like a mini version of Tucker. The only differences were Junior's complexion being a cooler almost tan-bronze, where Tucker had a deeper more gold tone. Junior's eyes were a darker chocolate, while Tucker's eyes were more honey. Tucker had coarse, tightly curled hair still shaved in a military cut, while Junior's hair was softer and more bouncy in it's length. However their underlying features were the same, same wide nose, same soft cheekbones, same full lips, same expressive eyes.

'Mr. Wash! You are going to visit us?’ Junior signed, carefully keeping his hands in front of his face.

Wash’s eyes softened almost immediately. “Yeah buddy. Just for a little bit though. I have to ask your dad some questions.”

Junior pouted a bit. 'Oh. But we can talk too right?’

A sympathetic smile pulled on Washington's lips. “Of course kiddo.”

The words seemed to brighten the boy’s mood marginally. 'Okay! I'll bring CrunchBite!’

“Uh, okay?” Washington questioned uncertainly, one eyebrow dipped and nose wrinkled.

Junior fidgeted until Tucker put him down. “CrunchBite is his stuffed alien toy he brings everywhere with him.” Tucker informed Wash after the hologram settled.

“I see… So that restaurant? Where are we meeting?”

“Oh yeah! Uh it is on the corner of First and Canyon. A place called Valhalla. It’s the gangs’ favorite place to eat, really good food. Meet you at six?”

Washington pulled up a mental map of Armonia, First and Canyon was only four miles away. There was also a subway stop really close by. He nodded to himself before remembering Tucker could see him.

Wash coughed into his fist, regretting it when his ribs twinged. “That will be fine. I'll see you in a half hour.”

“Sure thing dude.”

The call was ended swiftly on Tucker's end and Wash sighed in relief as he flopped back onto the couch. At least something was going his way today. Even if the conversation started out uncomfortably.Progress was all Washington was after.

Soon He’d be able to ask Tucker the questions that had been running around in his head for the past few days. Then as soon as he had them, he'd be able to track down York.

A snorted huff found its way through Wash’s nose, causing his chest to ache with the quick movement. “Finally, one step closer to getting what I’m here for.” Wash fingered the blade of the combat knife he’d pulled out subconsciously. “No more hiding York. I'm coming for you.”

 

Chapter Text

Present Day…

27 July 2029

 

Tucker ended up squashed in the back of Grif’s Jeep. On one side his son’s booster seat pressed into his arm and hip. On the other side Church's elbow was digging into his ribs. He was absolutely fuming. Not even Grif and Simmons’ bickering from the front seat could cheer him up.

“Remind me again why the three of you are tagging along?” Tucker growled.

Grif glanced at him through the rearview mirror, brow raised and lazy smirk present. “Because Freelancers are bad fucking news, duh.”

“Since when do you give a fuck?” Tucker huffed.

“I'm appalled.” Grif bemoaned. “Friends don't let friends meet psycho murder killers all by themselves. A bro needs back up.”

Simmons scoffed. “You heard they were going to Valhalla and just wanted free food you fatass.”

“Perks of being a good friend. Maybe you should try it sometime Simmons.” Grif explained away.

“I never asked for your help! I was prepared to go alone. That why I made sure the place was public. Agent Washington is going to be pissed. And what about you Church? You hate the guy, and he hates you more. What makes you think he’s going to ask the questions he wants to ask if you are there with me?” Tucker exclaimed jabbing Church in the gut with his vigorous movements.

“Watch it!” Church seethed. “And chill the fuck out man. I’ll sit at the bar. Jesus.”

“Like he won't notice you sitting there? He's a fucking Freelancer not and idiot!” Tucker flailed nearly knocking Church's glasses off his face.

Church reseated his thick frames on his nose. “You’re just sour because we're crashing your date.”

“It's not a fucking date! It's a meeting!”

Grif snorted from the front seat. “You always ask who you are 'meeting’ to a restaurant for dinner? If I'd known that was a thing I would’ve attended a shit ton of meetings.”

Simmons dragged a hand down his face, glancing over at Grif with a withered look. “Of course you would. You know, you still have to pay attention in a meeting whether or not there is food.”

“Oh, well fuck that then.” Grif grumbled. “Parking is a bitch in the city. Why'd we drive again?”

“I don't know Grif, why are we?” Simmons asked sarcastically. “The only one that complains about the stairs down to the subway is you.”

In answer Grif swerved around the next corner throwing everyone to the right and causing Simmons’ head to crack on the window.

“Watch it Grif! You have my son in your fuckin car!” Tucker fumed, shoving Church off his lap in order to twist in his seat. The safety belt hampered the movement but Tucker was still able to swivel enough to check Junior's harness and head. Thankfully the headrest of the seat saved the kid from getting hurt but his eyes were wide and he was breathing rapidly.

“Hey J, you alright there bud?”

Junior looked over at his father, stuffed toy held tight to his chest and nodded.

“You sure?”

'Yes, Daddy.’ The boy shakely signed back with a roll of the eyes.

Tucker snorted then kissed Junior's forehead. “If you say so.”

Simmons was pouting, forehead cradled in hand as he rested his elbow on the door. “You missed the turn.”

“I know how to get to Valhalla Simmons. Don't be a back seat driver.”

“I'm in the front seat, thank you very much.” Simmons admonished without moving from his protective position.

Grif grumbled 'smartass’ under his breath.

A few turns later Grif cut off a minivan as he pulled recklessly into a parking spot. An angry honk was an answer. After kicking his door open Grif flipped the car off as he lumbered out.

“Remind me not to take rides from Grif ever again.” Church groaned looking green in the face.

Tucker clambered over his son to get out of the Jeep. “You tell me that every time we catch a ride with them.”

Church took his time getting out of the car.

After unlatching the door and dropping out of the car Tucker worked on unbuckling his son. Two clicks later the man hoisted Junior out of his seat and into his arms.

Junior blinked owlishly at Church, one fist clutched to the back of his father's shirt while the other held CrunchBite against his chest. Church had yet to open his door, leaning forward with his elbows propped up on his raised knees, face covered in his hands, and glasses slid up on top of his head.

“Uh, you alright dude?” Tucker asked ready to bolt if Church decided to get sick all over the carpet.

“Fine, I'll just hang back for awhile. I'm not sitting with you guys, remember?”

“Not like I give a fuck.” Tucker replied slamming the door shut. He turned to find Grif and Simmons gone. Figured.


 

Tucker was tempted to just ditch Simmons and Grif to get his own table but decided he didn't want to listen to them whine later, or lose his ride if they decide to get some payback. So he made his way through the tables to where the pair had been seated at a large booth.

“Scoot in Fucker, Washington will want to be on the edge and I'll need to be across from him.” Tucker grumbled shoving Grif's shoulder with his palm.

When Grif finally scooted in Tucker deposited Junior on the opposite side. The boy crawled in, and kept invading Simmons’ space until the lanky man was nearly pressed against Grif's side. Once Simmons refused to move again -mostly because Grif was a stubborn wall with his nose in the menu- Junior plopped down happily swinging his legs off the booth.

Tucker just laughed at Simmons' discomfort. “That's my boy!” He cheered as he sat down where he had placed his son.

It didn't take long for a waitress to walk over. The young woman placed extra utensils, introduced herself as Megan, then asked what everyone would like to drink.

“I could go for a tall glass of water.” Tucker winked lewdly. “Fruit Juice for my kid.”

Megan rolled her eyes irritably but nodded.

“An Oreo milkshake, and a Coke for the nerd.” Grif spoke up jabbing a thumb at Simmons who was spluttering to answer her simple question. The taller man deflated and nodded after Grif was done.

“I'll be right back.”

Tucker held up a hand to stop her. “Wait, we are waiting on someone. If a tall, hot blonde guy walks in looking lost, send him our way will you sweet cheeks?”

“Of course, Sir.” Megan muttered as she walked off.

Tucker grinned, turning his attention to his son who was coaxing Simmons into playing some of the games on the kid’s color menu. “Don't go easy on him J.”

“You brought company.” A new voice stated flatly.

Junior hopped up so he was standing on the bench. 'Mr. Wash!’

Washington was standing rigid and stiff. His shoulders squared and feet planted firmly, his eyes roamed over the small group pausing shortly only to acknowledge Junior's greeting.

Tucker made a dismissing gesture. “Wasn't my choice dude. They wouldn't leave me alone, and just trust me when I say it's better to go along with most of their shit than to fight it.”

Wash hesitated.

“Dude, just sit down. Grif and Simmons work at the same company, they may not have been on the job, but they know just as much as I do.”

Hefting a sigh Washington took two steps over to sit down across from Tucker. He shuffled a little to get comfortable before taking scope of the restaurant. Tucker noticed how Washington's eyes lingered on all the exits a heartbeat longer than was necessary. However, the man seemed to settle soon enough and rearranged the placing of the napkin wrapped utensils.

A tapping on the table drew Wash’s attention to Junior. 'Look!’ The boy gestured raising the piece of paper up to display the roughly, half colored restaurant mascot.

“Very nice.” Wash pointed out, a hint of uncertainty lacing his tone.

Thankfully Junior didn't seem to notice and quickly went back to coloring the strange armored figure with angel wings. Tucker glanced over to get a glimpse of the gray and yellow streaked armor. He snorted as Junior started color the wings black.

“You know, valkyries are supposed to be girls right J?” Tucker tapped the picture of the mascot.

'This one is a boy.’  Junior signed back stubbornly.

Tucker lost it after that, not able to stop laughing.

Simmons leaned over Junior to take a peek at the drawing. There was nothing about the drawing to indicate it was anything but a slightly androgynous line art of a person in armor with wings. The only weird part Simmons could pick out is the three colors Junior chose, kids usually went for bright colors.

“How did you-- Oh. Is that?” The maroon guard’s eyes darted to Washington who was wearing a black shirt and a gray jacket with yellow streaks. Suddenly he started snorting too. “Okay, I get it.”

Wash’s brow furrowed but before he could ask the CSF guards what was so funny about Junior's picture the waitress reappeared.

“Here are your drinks.” She said politely, setting each drink in front of their respective owners. She wasted no time turning to Wash, smiling sweetly. “Is there anything I can get you Sir?”

“Um, yes. A coffee and a glass of water please.”

“Right away. And is anyone ready to order or do you need more time?”

Tucker started to ask for a little more time but Grif’s voice overtook him. “I want a order of onion rings, mozzarella sticks and your Buffalo wings.”

“Seriously?” Simmons admonished.

“Yes Simmons, I haven't eaten in over two hours. Are you trying to kill me?” Grif shot back before looking back at the waitress. “Also, why don't you start my meal too. I want the half pound Valhallan cheese burger, extra cheese and extra fries.”

“Grif.”

“Shut it Simmons. Add a chicken salad to that. Make sure you put extra vegetables on it, and uh…” Grif glanced at Simmons briefly before settling back into action. “No cheese or cucumbers on the salad. Put the dressing on the side. Italian.”

Simmons looked disgruntled. “I don't want chicken.”

“You’re too fuckin' skinny not t' have meat. Keep the chicken on the fucking salad.” He added to their waitress.

Tucker shrugged. “I'll take your grilled salmon, fries instead of the baked potato. What about you buddy?”

Junior glanced at the kids menu and pointed at the chicken strips, fries, and steamed broccoli. He paused a while before pointing to the ice cream sunday.

“Sure, just bring the ice cream after we’re done.” Tucker winked at the waitress.

Washington mostly ignored the group while they ordered and took the chance to look at the menu. When Tucker finished Wash spoke up. “I’ll have a Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich on multigrain bread. But if you could replace the lettuce with spinach it would be appreciated.”

“Did you just call a BLT a fucking bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich? And you don't even want a BLT at all. That's a fucking BST. W-T-Fuck is wrong with you?” Tucker cried his voice wavering between hysterics and amusement.

The Freelancer’s cheeks tinged pink, Tucker was sure, before he answered with a wave of the hand. “Spinach is better for you, and I don't like lettuce.”

The waitress cleared her throat. “Would you like fries with that Sir?”

“He does.” Tucker answered. Then as a way of explanation he continued, “Valhalla's fries are bombin’, seriously like the best shit ever, almost as good as sex.”

“Tucker, Junior is sitting right there!” Wash hissed, blush rising as he gestured furiously at the boy who in all honesty was completely ignoring the adults in favor of coloring his menu.

“He's fine, calm down.” Tucker placated.

The waitress seemed just as distressed as Wash and took her chance to hurry away with a quick, “Just wave me over if you need anything else”.

“So, what was it you needed to talk about?” Tucker prompted.

Wash cleared his throat, choosing to to push aside his personal thoughts on Tucker's choice of words with his child present.

“Mostly I need to clarify a few discrepancies in the video logs, compared to the written reports. There are a few pieces missing, starting with the wiped files. Obviously the intruder, or Intruders messed with the building security cameras. There are thirty minutes where the surveillance went down. I understand there was a blackout?” Wash started strong, adopting a flat tone.

“Well yeah. So the job was for a week, twenty-four seven protection services. Basically the company was hired as bodyguards. Grif, Simmons, Bitters and Jensen were assigned Sunday through Wednesday six to eighteen hundred. My crew, Caboose, Smith and Palomo had the rest of the week same hours. The night crew took the other half of the day. Thursday was shit. All started at thirteen hundred on the nineteenth with a blackout in the building.”

Tucker fiddled with his fork while Washington contemplated the information. “That's what the logs said. Your team moved your employer out of the building at that point, yes?”

Tucker nodded, setting aside the fork. He snatched an onion ring from the plate the waitress had just set down before Grif was able to catch him. The larger man snarled at his friend, but freely handed Junior a mozzarella stick when the boy pointed in question.

Simmons also stole an onion ring and was in the process of peeling the fried crust off, depositing the pieces on Grif's plate, before popping the naked onion, ranch dipped, in his mouth.

When the waitress left Tucker answered Wash's question. “Yeah. Protocol and all that shit.”

“I was alerted immediately after the blackout.” Simmons interjected. “Also protocol, when the threat level raises head cams are activated. I was on duty to be third person surveillance, and had the live feed streamed to my work computer.” Which the lanky man then produced out of his book bag. “I also had access to the building security. As you know, it was down because of the blackout. I, uh… well.”

Simmons stuttered to a stop after he opened the laptop. He glanced nervously at Agent Washington then at Tucker.

“Simmons hacked into the surrounding security feeds, street cams and adjacent buildings. It's not exactly legal so he couldn't put the vids with our records, probably why you found some mismatched shit in the logs.” Tucker finished.

Shifting uncomfortably Simmons’ voice cracked as he rushed to explain. “I needed to have an aerial view on our guys. I couldn't do much to help with only first person feeds. I didn't really tell Kimball either.”

“Can I see them?” Wash asked.

“That's why I brought the computer.” Simmons answered handing the device over. “I was able to remotely access the recordings, so I have surveillance of just before the blackout.”

Wash pulled the laptop to him staring intently on at the screen. He was still watching the videos when the waitress returned with their meals.

Tucker had already watched the surveillance, curious about what went wrong and how they’d be able to do better next time. Though the shooting outside the building was completely unrelated to the break-in.

The building’s power was cut from the meter, causing the backup generator to kick in. However there was a five minute delay. In those five minutes a man and a woman in civilian clothes and covered faces broke in through the utility entrance. Tucker and his group ran into the woman while leaving the building, but the man was absent in the short exchange. It was assumed that he headed to the main servers in the building since information was taken shortly after the backup generator kicked in.

Wash paused and replayed several parts in the footage. His eyes were trained solely on the screen as they darted back and forth, narrowing occasionally. The fingers on Wash’s left hand drummed absently on the table.

“Simmons, do you know how to enhance these images?” Washington asked suddenly piercing the man addressed with a steely gaze.

Simmons fidgeted a little but nodded. “Yeah, it won't be too hard all. Actually most people don't realize how easy it is to depixelate an image and enhance its resolution. I could show you!”

“No thanks. Just do it for me, please.” Was answered through his teeth.

“Oh, uh. Alright.” Simmons mumbled, shoulders slumped as he took back the computer.

While he was working on the computer Junior popped up unexpectedly, standing on the bench again. The boy slid his half eaten plate across the table until it clicked against Wash’s. The boy then dropped down, slipping under the table.

“Woah, buddy. Where are you going?” Tucker called, his hand missing the back of Junior tee-shirt when he tried to grab him.

Junior hit into Washington's legs, startling the agent into sitting back on the bench. Seizing the opportunity, Junior climbed into the newly vacant spot between Wash’s knees and wiggled to get situated on the man's lap.

“Um.” Was all Wash could voice giving Tucker a wide eyed look of horror.

Humming softly Junior pulled his plate next to Wash’s and continued to munch on his fries. Completely oblivious to Washington's discomfort.

“Junior found a new best friend. Man, Donut’s gonna throw a fit.” Grif snickered pointing a fry at the pair.

Tucker had to admit the scene directly in front of him was adorable. Junior snuggled back into Wash, humming happily and swaying. Wash’s panicked look, hovering hands and locked jaw. Tucker had a feeling the man wasn't used to having things out of his control, and a kid was always a surprise. Nevertheless, it was still heartwarming to watch them interact. Only some of Tucker's war buddies were able to get close to Junior without the kid freaking out.


 

Washington's suspicions were confirmed when Simmons finished with the images. Though the figures crouched at the back entrance had their faces covered, Wash knew who they were. Spending more than five years working with people, in close quarters, did wonders for recognizing the small details. And even with Wash’s memories not being what they used to, he knew right away that the man was York and the woman was Texas. York's left eye was a dead giveaway, as was Texas’ height, posture, and build.

Wash still wanted to know where Delta was. Last he’d known the man had ran away with York. The two were close ever since they were partnered up in the project, it was logical that Delta would leave with York.

One step closer.

Junior tapped his leg and Wash hummed in answer, using Maine’s go-to way of communication. Washington must have been spending way too much time with the other agent.

Then there was a spoon of ice cream in his face.

“You don't have to share.” Washington tried to explain.

The spoon stayed where it was.

Form his slightly twisted position Junior used his free hand, raising his horizontal hand up with a small shake of the head. It was only half the sign but Wash got it.

“Too much? I guess I can help.”

Junior smiled handing Wash the full spoon and turning back around to retrieve a different one. Wash was three small bites in when he noticed Tucker staring at them. His chin was in one palm, lips  quirked upward, and his dark honey eyes sparkling.

Washington wouldn't have been surprised if Tucker was just watching his son. But he was clearly watching the both of them. It made Wash want to hide, regretting that he couldn't be in his power armor while in public. The helmet was especially great in times you'd rather people not see the expression on your face. It had came in handy quite often in the last few years, with Wash valuing his privacy more and more. Besides the fact that he was flushed from ears to collar at the moment, spoon sticking out of his mouth like lollipop.

He felt like an idiot.

No one should not have this much of an effect on Washington, least of all Tucker. Wash was a Freelancer, he was supposed to be professional. He was supposed to be unfazed by everything, not pinning after a hot guy like an over eager teen with a crush. Tucker was supposed to be just part of the job, a way to get information.

Though Wash didn't want to admit it, he'd miss Junior, and Tucker. They were different.

 

Chapter Text

Many Years Ago…

26 January 2020

 

Agent Washington was wandering aimlessly down the halls of the MOI. Mostly the young man was lost in thought trying to make sense of everything that was happening lately. The past month had been more hectic than usual.

Incerection activity continued to rise. Despite Project Freelancer’s heavy push back. Efforts against the war were starting to crumble on multiple fronts and if something didn't change quickly the United Nation was going to fall. Civilian life would no longer be possible.

Another worry was the possible mole in their ranks. Someone who had access to the PFL’s missions was sending the information out to their enemies. Which meant more interrogations from the Director and the Councilor.

“Hey Wash, wait up.” North called pushing off the wall he was leaning against. The older man had a friendly smile on his face as he reached forward to get Wash’s attention.

“Hi North.” Wash replied still partially distracted.

“So, heard you had a meeting with internals.”

“Hmm,” Wash gave a half shrug. “You did? A lot of us have been called in.”

“Mind if I ask you what it was about?” North tried to sound uninterested but the way his gaze was focused on the side of Washington's head told otherwise.

“I'm not really supposed to talk about it. Besides, shouldn't you have been called in too?” Wash glanced over as the two continued down the hall.

“Right, well I just got out of recovery because of my last mission.” North stopped walking as he shrugged away the reasoning.

Wash also stopped finally facing North full on. “For using equipment in the field without a pipeline back to the command servers. I know. That was a big risk you took.” The excitement it the younger's voice was hard to hide, even with his chastising word choice.

North displayed his palms with a half assed grin plastered on his lips. “I had to improvise. We had a problem.”

Wash cocked his head toward North with a raised brow. “Let me guess, are you related to the problem?”

North rose a hand to stop Wash in his tracks. “Okay, now I don't want to talk about it.” He sighed as he started forward down the hall once more.

“You know what happened to Utah during training, you're lucky it didn't kill you.” Wash berated as he followed after North.

“If I was lucky then I wouldn't have had to use it at all.” North pointed out.

“Well you can relax.” Wash placated, ignoring the few soldiers that started to run past the pair. “Internals didn't ask about you. They were more focused on my mission with CT. Something about transmissions leaving the MO-- Hey, what's going on?” Wash grunted as one Soldier bumped into him with a hasty 'sorry, sir’.

“Soldier, where is everyone running?” Wash asked a bit frustrated from being interrupted.

The Soldier pointed off in the direction he was headed. “New Agent is squaring off against Maine, Wyoming and York on the training room floor. We’re going to watch!” The soldier finished with a call out to his buddies as he rushed after them.

Confusion laced North’s tone. “Three on one?”

Wash smirked with a chuckle in his voice, “I gotta see this.”


 

When Washington and North got to the training room the match was already underway. The Freelancer Integrated Logistics and Security System hosted the spar. The female voice ringing out over the training room and observation deck as a new round was started up.

Outwardly it looked like a regular training session. The room was clear for the moment allowing for hand to hand combative training. The only difference was instead of two on two or even one on one, York, Maine and Wyoming stood in full power armor on one side while a person in pitch black armor stood opposite.

Carolina looked agitated as she paced the room while everyone else was lined up at the huge bay windows of the observation deck. To get a good view of the fight North and Wash joined CT and South alongside the windows.

By the time Wash reached the railing the newcomer had already disarmed Wyoming and York of their pugil sticks. The rookie made quick work of the other agents, with equal amounts of power and skill. Clearly already trained to some degree.

Wash grimaced as York bounced off the floor with a rather forceful blow to the back.

“There is no training scheduled for today. What is going on?” Carolina nearly hissed stopping shortly by the windows before starting to pace again.

South shrugged, “It’s impromptu. Obviously.”

Carolina side-eyed the other woman, crossing her arms tightly across her chest. “Who the hell is that?”

“A new recruit.” South answered once more, still completely absorbed with the match.

A new round had started. Wash noticed York trying to get Wyoming and Maine's attention but failing miserably.

Washington almost laughed; Wyoming and Maine had always had low marks in teamwork exercises. Considering the fact that they only listen to a few other agents’ orders. And York was not one of those people.

Wash held a small amount guilt at the thrill of self pride that went through his system. Agent Washington happened to be one of the agents Maine willfully listened to, despite the large man knowing York longer.

With the lack of teamwork it was embarrassing how quickly three agents fell at the new guy's hands.

Maine charged much to the grievance of York. The giant swung a heavy blow aimed at the new guy’s head.

The newcomer dodged with duck, countering quickly with a few hits to Maine’s middle.

The blows successful off balanced Maine.

Wasting no time the rookie kicked a deceptively heavy roundhouse kick to tell side of Maine’s helmet.

Whilst mid kick the new guy knocked Wyoming back with a quick jab with the end of the pugil.

York took the opportunity to charge himself, but was brought down with a hit to the side, a sweep of the legs, and an anchoring jab to the chest to pin him to the ground.

Wash shook his head in disbelief. “He sure doesn't move like he’s a recruit.”

South snorted. “Why do you assume it's a guy?” She gave Wash a look of disdain. “ She's a girl.”

Wash went red instantly, flustered as he tried to correct himself. Instead all he managed was a half sputtered, half incoherent mumblings. He couldn't settle on what to do with his hands either as he rubbed the back of his head, waved both hands side to side in dismissal and ran his fingers through his blonde hair accompanied by a nervous guffaw.

All he got in response was laughs from the twins and angry grumbling from Carolina.

“Looks like someone is a little concerned about their positioning. Afraid daddy might have a new favorite?” South jeered.

“Can it South. Maybe you would learn a few things if you'd stop running your mouth for a second.” Carolina snapped back.

Wash’s eyes went wide as he stepped closer to North.

“Com'on you two. No need for that.” North placated holding up both hands in a calming gesture.

While they were distracted it seemed the training round had escalated. Wash turned back to the windows just in time to see the new girl toss Wyoming over her shoulder.

The white armored man flew into York and Maine knocking all three to the ground.

The woman advanced with a cocky sway to her step.

Maine shoved Wyoming off his lap and stood swiftly. The man advanced with a lung, right fist thrust forward with all his weight thrown into the punch.

With a minor adjustment the new recruit altered her stance, bringing the pugil stick up to block.

Maine's fist made contact this the middle of the stick. It held for less than a second as the new girl’s feet slid back a few inches then it snapped in half.

Not missing a step his opponent flourished a twirl to the right, bringing her weight into the blow as she hit Maine twice in quick succession. First with the right half of the pugil stick, then the left.

Her flurry of hits didn't stop with the spin. A series of kicks and jabs followed leaving Maine with only blocking options.

A hit to the side of the head. A jab in the stomach, a snap kick to the chest. A double fisted strike to his middle.

It was all Maine could do to keep his balance. It was unbelievable how much she could push Maine back. By all appearances the man should have been much stronger physically than the woman.

Finally the newcomer kicked Maine down with a blow to his center of gravity. She walked off leaving the larger man struggling to get back to his feet.

FILSS spoke over the intercoms announcing the end of the round. Point to Texas for the pugil round.

“Texas huh?” Wash muttered nearly under his breath.

Carolina appeared by his side. “She shouldn't be that physically inclined. She has to have had enhancements of some kind. No one can push Maine around like that.”

“Nice moves though.” Wash pointed out.

Carolina didn't acknowledge his comment with a physical reaction. “It could be luck. We’ll see.”

The second round began. This time hand to hand combat.

At first Wash thought York would finally get the other two to follow his lead. Unfortunately Texas seemed just a good at hand to hand as Wyoming and Maine were at ignoring York.

The round ended quicker than the pugil round, which was appalling for the more seasoned agents.

Texas proved to be much better at hand combat. Never stalling, she stayed in motion, dodging and using her opponents’ weaknesses against them.

York seemed to fare better than Wyoming and Maine. Able to match Texas for a few blows, even dodge a few times before getting knocked down.

Maine's strategy of charging forward, only relying on his strength to carry him, kept making Wash wince. Texas was obviously matched in terms of physical strength with Maine. A feat Wash didn't really understand but still recognized, and Texas was smarter too.

As displayed when Texas grabbed Maine's wrist and elbow, reversed her step, swinging Maine fully over her body and launching the man, whom was nearly four hundred pounds in armor, at his team.

“Okay, that was impressive.” North whistled.

Wash could only nod his agreement, lost for words.

Another point was awarded to Texas as she downed the three agents. The new round started with the stun rounds. FILSS announced the reset of the arena. Standard pillars rose from the ground as cover when the four agents retreated to their weapon stations for ammo.

Wash groaned at the thought of the stun rounds. He'd mentioned it before but he hated those sessions. The rounds hurt like a bitch. He wondered how many times Texas would need to be shot in order to get fully stunned.

Carolina had always bragged about not getting hit, which was mostly true. It had been a long time since the woman had actually been shot during training. But everyone still knew how many times she had to be shot to take her down.

The round started.

It didn't take long to notice York's increasing frustration. He kept making simple mistakes that Wash knew he wasn't prone to making. Like getting distracted by Wyoming who was frozen on the ground and getting shot by Texas in the back of the head as a result.

York also continued to try and work as a team. Wash shook his head.

“Why doesn't he just give up? Wyoming and Maine aren't gonna listen to him. He might as well fly solo.” Wash muttered unhappily.

“York doesn't work that way Wash, you know that.” North patted the younger man on the shoulder.

Wash sighed. “I know. I know, but it's hard to watch.”

Texas’ points kept racking up as they continued. In one instance York almost had an advantage. He was able to disarm Texas, knocking her gun out of her hands. However, the weapon never made it to the ground as she kicked it instead, straight into York's visor.

Knocking York back Texas stole the man’s own weapon and shot him in the groin with it. Causing York to collapse on the ground holding his crotch as he shook, he wasn't even paralyzed.

Needless to say that round also ended after Texas shot Wyoming in the face when she found him hiding behind a pillar.

Texas was up eight points compared to the others’ zero.

FILSS started the next round once the stun shots wore off.

The new round started different from the rest. First with York hesitating at the reload station.

“What are they doing?” Wash asked rhetorically as Wyoming and Maine walked up.

They stood parallel to each other instead of rushing off or finding cover. In unison the pair of white armored agents raised their guns. York was standing between them, a bit slower on the uptake as he followed their lead.

Then they started shooting.

Live rounds.

York flinched, nearly dropping is gun.

Wash slammed his fists on the railing. “Are they using live rounds on the training floor?” His voice pitched with surprise and horror. He nearly missed South’s sarcastic 'Looks like it’ as he continued, outraged. “That's against protocol, They’re gonna kill her! Someone needs to go get the Director.”

Washington had almost turned to do so when CT laughed.

“Who do you think gave them the ammo?” Connecticut sneered.

Carolina rounded on the shorter brunette. “Watch your mouth CT.”

Things down in the training room got worse. First with York trying to stop Wyoming and Maine. Then with the man getting caught in the crossfire as he dodged both stun rounds and live ammunition, darting in and out of the pillars.

There were a few close calls that caused Wash’s breath to catch in his throat. Maine almost shot York too many times to count and Wyoming didn't seem to care if he was shooting at York or Texas as he wildly aimed across the arena.

Everything went down hill faster than one could blink as Wyoming  tossed something to Maine, then got into a better position atop one of the pillars.

Texas evaded shots sprayed her way and kicked York away from her. Maine tried to get close, ditching the guns for a more hands on approach as he fought with Agent Texas.

Texas is able to paralyze Maine’s left arm but Maine returned fire getting Texas back in the shoulder, causing her armor to spark.

Both were down use of an arm however it didn't stop Texas from knocking Maine back with a charge.

York tried to intervene once again by grabbing Texas’ shoulder, pulling her off of Maine but was shrugged off with an assumed glare.

Instead of stopping, Texas sprayed Wyoming, who tried approaching while she was distracted, with way more than necessary stun rounds to the chest. It caused the man to convulse, dropping his gun. Texas didn't stop at the excessive use of paralysis shots.

She grabbed Wyoming by the visor before he fell and smashed the back of his head into the pillar behind him as a last measure.

The pillar cracked with the force, sending chunks of cement falling to the ground along side an unconscious Wyoming.

Enraged, Maine found his feet again. Like a bull he charged toward Texas and York. Ramming shoulder first into the half destroyed pillar Wyoming was laying at the base of.

The contact made the top half crack, slidding with the momentum of Maine's body. Launching himself forward Maine threw a fist into the newly broken slab of concrete.

It shattered, debris flying everywhere.

Texas quickly dodged the pieces flying her way.

York wasn't as lucky.

A large chunk made contact with York's head, sending him sprawled out on the training room floor.

Texas recovered swiftly having took up York's dropped gun and hitting Maine with a barrage of shots to the chest.

Two. Four. Six. Eight. Ending in twelve total stun rounds to Maine’s chest.

Wash caught the glint of silver as Maine flicked the pin of a grenade off with a flick of the thumb. He was falling, had to be hurting like hell with all the rounds Texas put in him. But the giant managed to toss the grenade underhand at Texas.

The black armored Agent easily dodged the round object, following its arc with her visor.

It landed feet away from York as the man struggled to stay on his hands and knees.

“HEY!” Texas shouted trying to move her short circuiting arm. York was too dazed to react and Texas instead dived for Wyoming's pistol, landing on her side.

Once in her hand she emptied the clip into the pillar nearest York.

The cement crumbled under the rounds encasing York and the grenade under the rubble. Not even a second later did the grenade go off, blasting York and the fresh debris back.

The observation deck erupted in a volley of angry shouts.

South’s: “Shit.”

North’s: “What the fuck were they thinking!?”

Washington's own: “Damnit! Those maniacs!”

And Carolina's distressed: “FILSS! We need medical on the training room floor, STAT!”

Blue alarms started up as everyone rushed down to the training room.

Carolina was first on scene as she slid on her knees to York’s prone form. “York! York! Stay with me!” She cried afraid to hurt him by moving him but unable to keep her hands off his chest.

Wash fumbled with the helmet in his hands as he slotted it over his head, pulling York’s stats up on his HUD. There were too many alerts to keep track of and tears welled up in Wash’s eyes as he watched all of them drop to critical.

Carolina removed York's shattered helmet with care, inching closer to the laboring man. Her words were hushed, private, as Wash couldn't hear what she was saying as she carded her fingers through York’s blood stained hair.

Washington did pick up the: “You're gonna be okay.” As Carolina bend to place a tender kiss on his forehead.

Thankfully medical rushed in moments later. Followed by the Director.

Afterward, Washington was glad he had put back on his helmet because the words he'd exchanged with Dr. Church left him pissed. Almost as pissed as that time his superior in the UNEC had wanted to risk the lives of their team on a fucked up suicide mission.

He doubted the Director would be very happy with the piercing glare Washington was pinning him with under the visor. The way his jaw was grinding together. The inaudible growl at the back of his throat.

Wash couldn't hide his clenched fists, nor his rigid stance as the Director strode out of the training room. Wash hoped the man didn't notice, but he had a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach that Dr. Church knew.


 

10 February 2020

 

The top agents were all gathered in a room set up like a college  lecture hall, complete with stadium rows of desks. Washington was sitting in the front of the room next to North. York, who technically should not have been out of the hospital yet with his head still bandaged up, and Carolina were seated behind them. Connie and South on the other side of the aisle right behind Wyoming. Maine arrived a little late and decided to take a seat in the back. Even Agent Texas was in the room, though she was standing in the back as far away from everyone else as physically possible.

The Director was in the front of the room facing his agents, hands clasped behind his back in his usual stance. Piercing Green eyes roaming the room. The Councilor shadowing the other man as usual.

All the agents stayed stock still, most were straight backed and alert. The exception was York who was leaning back on the bench, one arm thrown behind Carolina's shoulders. And South, who was leaning forward on her desk, bored look on her face.

“You all may be wondering why I called you here today.” The Director’s voice rang out in the room. “Rumors have been going through the Mother of Invention . I will be putting to rest.”

“As you know, Project Freelancer is a government funded agency. In order to create new and innovative ways to stop war with the insurrection. We supply the UNEC with unique weaponry, however, we also create better soldiers. You, agents, are those soldiers. The pathway to ultimate victory.” The Director took a few steps to the side in order to project a display on the wall behind him.

“Moving forward with our plans, each of you will received more advanced gear. To continue our efforts against the Insurrection and initiate the next phase in our plan.”

Director Church waved a hand in front of the display, changing the screen to a diagram. In the middle of the diagram was a human outline. Specs were in an array around the outline. Most of them made no sense to Wash, though some happened to be self explanatory.

Wash’s brow furrowed at two particular words on the diagram.

Artificial Intelligence.

The diagram may have looked human but Wash had a feeling they were about to find out differently. He wanted to speak up, voice his questions but last time he had opened his mouth he'd pissed the Director off. Instead Wash fidgeted, wringing his hands in a struggle to keep his mouth shut.

“Some of our equipment is too complicated for simple human minds to operate. As seen with Agent North’s use of the overshield in the field. It could have ended much worse. As such, the Project has been working on a way to successfully run newer equipment without needing to have a pipeline to the Mother of Invention.”

“So computer programs? You are giving us a program to run our equipment for us? How the hell is that supposed to help?”  South admonished.

“Incorrect.” Aiden Price cut it. “AIs are hardly mere computer programs. Copied from a human brain, they are much more intelligent, and in some cases can seem almost… Sentient.”

Carolina raised one hand halfway in the air before speaking up. “In other words the new equipment we are getting is an AI?”

“That would be correct Agent Carolina.” Director Church answered in kind. “Agent York has been selected for the first AI partner, Delta. Who will be fully online in a week. As such, we have deemed it necessary for an AI Theory Course… Shall we begin?”

 

Chapter Text

Present Day…

29 July 2029

 

Junior was usually pretty independent when it came to bedtime. The boy put on his own pajamas, only needed minimal help brushing his teeth, and would crawl into his own bed on command. Tucker knew it had to do with the woman he refused to call his son's mother. The bitch didn't get that honor after all the shit she did. Nevertheless, Tucker couldn't help but be relieved when he never had to fight Junior to go to bed.

All Tucker did was tuck Junior into the covers, read him a story and kiss the boy’s head.

Simple.

What wasn't simple was waking up a two in the morning because of whimpering from the room across the hall. Or startling himself awake when his dreams where nothing but explosions, body parts and blood. Sometimes even waking because a tiny, warm body was wiggling himself in between the sheets and duvet. Rare as the last may have been.

Tucker never used to be a light sleeper, all through his school life it took his mother throwing shit at him from the doorway and her unholy screeching to get him up. Then he entered the military.

After spending a few nights back to back with a fellow soldier in a fucking trench, afraid if you closed your eyes for too long you'd get shot in the head. Not to mention Sarge's death threats from two trenches over, claiming enemies liked to kill dirty blues first. It wasn't really a surprise that Tucker was now a light sleeper.

At first it was nothing. Tucker's eyes snapped open, the haze of sleep still fogging up his brain. He was never able to figure out why he woke. Usually the house was dead silent. Sometimes there was never any sound. Tucker just woke randomly, only to find out later that his son was having a nightmare, or maybe Tucker just had to fucking pee. If it had been his own nightmare the military man would have known right away.

Tonight it was his son.

As soon as the whimper hit his ears Tucker launched himself out of bed. His feet caught in the covers in his haste and his chin made contact with the shag rug before his brain could tell his hands to catch himself. Tears stung his eyes as he pushed off the floor.

There was a muffled sob. Then Junior cried out, “Daddy!” in distress which had Tucker up and moving with renewed motivation.

Tucker tried not to burst through his son’s door. Not wanting to scare the kid more, but the wall was an unfortunate casualty as said door swung on it's hinges and crashed into the plaster.

“J, I'm here. It's alright bud.” Tucker called soothingly when he approached the small bed.

Junior was a curled up ball under the covers. The edges of the blanket folded under him in an imitation of a burrito.

In any other situation Tucker would have laughed.

Junior flinched at the sound of his father's voice and the bundle of blanket started to shiver.

Tucker’s shoulders dipped, a worried frown deep on his features. “Com’ere little man.”

Without waiting Tucker gathered his son, blanket and all, into his arms. The buddle wiggled as Tucker took a seat on the bed and a small sopping wet face poked out of the blanket.

“Bad dream kiddo?”

Junior nodded, ducking his head but pausing before he made contact with his father's neck. Mostly likely afraid to get snot and tears all over Tucker's barren chest. The hesitance was something Tucker wished would just disappear, unfortunately mental trauma wasn't that easy.

Tucker took to stroking Junior's back through the duvet. “You wanna sleep in my bed? We can bring CrunchBite.”

A broken sob sounded as Junior finally buried his face into Tucker with a nod.

“Okay.” Tucker's hand slid around blindly as he searched for Junior's stuffed toy. “Okay… Uh, Ah-ha.” His fingers made contact with the toy and he grabbed it up. “Let's go lay down. Want some warm milk?”

Tucker stood as he talked, placing his son's toy into the blanket bundle. Junior shook his head but took CrunchBite to his chest.

“So just cuddles.” Tucker confirmed, leaving the room without shutting the door. His bare feet slapping on wood flooring the only sound bouncing off the walls.

Making his way back to his bed Tucker deposited Junior gently on the stripped mattress. He retrieved his comforter from the floor, not bothering to actually make the bed as he crawled in.

“You wanna ditch your cocoon so we can actually cuddle? Or do I gotta settle with burrito-son?” Tucker teased lightly, poking at the bundle where he figured Junior's ribs were.

A wet giggled bubbled up from the covered lump. Tucker didn't have to wait long before Junior crawled out of his roll and into his father's waiting arms. CrunchBite was held tightly in the crook of Junior's elbow while he curled against Tucker.

With a content sigh Tucker rested his chin on Junior's head and held the boy close. He started humming a vague tune to calm Junior. Rubbing circles into the boy's back as they snuggled.

As Junior's breathing evened out, Tucker's humming slowed. He never even remembered passing out after.


 

Tucker was napping on the couch later in the day. One arm thrown across his eyes, a foot propped on the opposite chair arm, and the other hand inert on the floor. He’d meant to stay up all day, but being woke on the middle of the night left him listless.

A few feet away was Junior at the coffee table. Blank papers were strewn across the surface along with dozens of crayons.

Junior loved to draw.

Which was a good thing since according to Junior's therapist, it helped judge the child’s mental state. Tucker didn't understand all of it but he did get the jist of it.

Apparently Junior was also a level above the norm according to his age. He'd already moved from the scribble stage and on to drawing recognizable shapes. Tucker could clearly pick out what was a person and what was an animal, or a house. Junior only got better at his artwork when prompted to draw something specific.

“I like blue.” Caboose's voice sounded followed by a soft clatter.

Tucker slid his arm up his forehead to peek at the pair. Caboose had reached across the low table he was hunched over, knocking the box of crayons over as he gave Junior a blue crayon.

Unperturbed, Junior took the offered crayon and started to color with it instead of the red one he’d been using.

Tucker smirked.

“Oh! I drew Shelly! See!” Caboose enthusiastically shoved a crudely drawn turtle in Tucker's face when the larger man noticed Tucker had moved.

“God damnit Caboose get that shit outta my face. I can't even see it.” Tucker groaned rolling over on his side to face his son and former military buddy.

Caboose backed off, minorly, still holding the page out for Tucker to look at. “She’s green. Because turtles are green. But I like blue better, turtles should be blue.”

Tucker shook his head. “Whatever Caboose. Why don't you hang that up for Church, you know, in your house.”

Caboose's blue eyes went wide. “Tucker! That is a great idea! It would have been better if I said it though.”

Tucker scoffed. “Whatever moron. Where is Church? I thought he came over with you.”

“He did.” Caboose confirmed, going back to drawing.

Tucker watched the giant idiot for a moment before he realized that was all he’d get without further prompting.

“Okay, so where is he?”

Caboose didn't even look up from his new picture. “Where is who?”

“Church!” Tucker nearly yelled.

“Where!?” Caboose asked head snapping up to look around the room.

“That's what I'm asking you!”

Confusion marred Caboose's features. “What questions are you asking? I don't think they are the right ones.”

Tucker slammed the heel of  his palm into his forehead. “Oh my God, nevermind. I don't care.”

Just then Church decided to appear, walking up the stairs from the ground floor. “What’s up motherfuckers?” He greeted, tossing a plastic bag and a key ring at Tucker.

Tucker caught the bag but the keys flew over his head and landed all the way by the windows. “Did you fucking take my car to drive to the store?”

“Yeah, and?” Church questioned rhetorically as he made his way over to Tucker's couch.

“Dude, you didn't ask!”

Church snorted. “That surprises you?” He asked again as he shoved Tucker's feet off the end of the couch so he could take a seat.

“No, but I keep hoping. Where did you go?” Tucker asked opening the bag to speak inside. There was a bottle of soda, a bottle of juice, a bag of chips and a candy bar inside.

“Needed a snack. Was bored and thought we could rent  a movie. Junior still sensitive about certain shit?”

“Uh yeah. Childhood trauma doesn't just disappear asshole. I have to check all the movies beforehand, which is fucking hard since almost everything is considered a trigger.” Tucker grumbled taking out the juice and sliding off the couch to offer the bottle to his son.

“Oh. Right.”

“Why don't you go over and watch it with Grif or something?” Tucker asked while helping Junior open his drink.

Church leaned back into the couch. “Sarge is over there bitching about something, I'm not gonna step into that fucking mess.”

“Oh, oh!” Caboose bounced up with a hand waving erratically in the air. “Mr. Muffin Man and I can take little Tucker to the park! We can swing on swings and slide on slides!”

Tucker weighed his options. He hadn't really talked to Church after the dinner Friday night. Which Tucker wasn't even sure Church had left Grif's Jeep. Since the man had been sitting where they left him when the four got back, after Agent Washington took off. Tucker also didn't see Church at the bar during the whole meeting.

“J, you wanna go to the park with Uncle Donut and Uncle Caboose?”

Junior set down the juice by his artwork. Tucker's eyes were drawn to the colorful page. A classic that Junior drew a lot. It was simple two brown figures with scribbled black hair and blocky aqua clothing standing in a dark blue box with a triangle roof, one figure smaller than the other. The stick people were holding hands which was good, it meant Tucker was doing something right. Sometimes Junior added to the picture, it was actually really easy to figure out how Junior felt about certain things or people by just looking at his signature drawing.

The one Junior was working on had a third person in the house, drawn in a lighter color with scribbled brown hair and big blue circle eyes with matching blue block clothes. This figure was a little smaller than the other two and wasn't holding hands, but like the aqua figures, had a big smile.

Then there was the fourth figure. It was kicked out of the house, instead standing outside. Drawn with a lighter color, smaller than all other figures with straight black lines for hair and green dots with black boxes around them for eyes.

Tucker couldn't help but snort. Junior was definitely still pissed at Church if his little stick version was now being drawn outside the house. Tucker noticed other drawings too. Some of a figure with round orange clothes next to a figure with red scribbled hair and maroon box clothes. There was even a pale figure with yellow and gray clothes on a paper, Junior even added the freckles on the figure’s face.

'Can I have ice cream?’ Junior signed to his father.

Tucker almost missed the movement but recovered quickly. “Sure, if you can talk Uncle Donut into it, which shouldn't be hard he's into everything, bow-chika-bow-wow.”

“Private Biskit likes ice cream too! We will get along great.” Caboose interjected.

“You fucking already get along with Donut, Caboose.” Church hollered.

“Yes, well now we will gET ALONG EVEN BETTER!” Caboose shouted at the end of his sentence standing. “Mini Tucker let's go get ice cream and slide on slides!”

“Fuck.” Tucker stood quickly to follow after Caboose and his son would was being half dragged to the door. “Caboose! Gentle, be fucking gentle, don't hurt my kid! And don't forget to grab Donut, you aren't taking him alone!”

“Chill out Tucker, Jesus.” Church muttered moving to put grab the remote so he could pull up the digital movies for rent.

“Chill out? Fuck you Church. I ain't gonna let him get dragged off to the park without at least a partially responsible adult around. Donut at least won't lose him like some people! He loves my kid almost as much as I do.”

Tucker got out the front door just as Caboose was banging on the second door over to the left. Thankfully the large man child had stopped dragging Junior and instead placed the boy up on his shoulders.

He was able to relax when the red door swung open and a platinum blonde male appeared with a cheerful greeting. Then Donut had to ruin the relief as soon as he answered Caboose's request to the park trip.

“You’re inviting me on an outing to the park? How sweet of you guys! I'll just go get my lotion and lube up right away, you can never have too much protection!”

Of course Caboose and Junior didn't understand the double entendre, but by this point Tucker wasn't sure Donut knew how to filter them.

Tucker just shook his head and returned to his home. A few hours of relaxing with his best friend couldn't hurt.


 

Tracking down Maine was not the man hunt Washington was expecting that weekend. In fact the agent was fully prepared to track York back to his hideout at bring him in. Problem was, Wash’s partner fucked off to who knew where.

Sure the larger man had been more closed off in recent years. They all had. Things changed in the project, and most of it was for the worst. Wash didn't trust the PFL anymore, he barely trusted Maine and South, he was almost positive Wyoming was up to something, and the Director had issues. But agent Washington still remained mostly loyal.

Even after he lost most of his friends.

Even after he was sent to hunt them down with kill or capture orders.

Even when Maine started getting killer migraines while working closely with Sigma.

Even though Wash was left for dead by his partner, and fellow agents.

“Screw it. I have everything I need, I know how to find him. I'll just do it myself.” Wash grumbled as he field stripped his pistol for the tenth time that afternoon. The process of working through his stress without punching something led to meticulous repetition, showcased in the pistol guts on the small dining table.

Sighing Washington started to reassemble the pistol. Once put together Wash racked the slide, checking to make sure it slid back into battery. Satisfied Wash flipped the pistol sideways to check that it was unloaded before he tested the trigger. It clicked and Wash cocked it once more just as an alarm sounded on his comms.

With a clatter Washington placed the clean gun on the table and whipped out his wrist to check the alarm.

It was a recovery beacon. A Freelancer recovery beacon. Which was odd since Delta had disabled York's when York went AWOL so the project couldn't find them. 

Wash brought up the beacon’s location, status and recovery code with a few swipes at the holographic screen.

Sure enough, it was York's personal beacon. The one attached to the power armor he stole. The one that was deactivated years ago. Now it was telling Wash that whoever was wearing was not only dead, but also that he was ten miles away on Peer Twenty-four at the East side docks.

Wash blinked a few times in disbelief at the information. The PFL agent was fully prepared to fight York, to kill him if necessary. Anything to complete the job. But this? Having tracked York's movement for months only for his beacon to be reactivated because of his death.

Agent Washington took a deep breath then stood. Calmly, he reached over to grab his pistol and clip. After inserting the clip Wash readied the chamber, then walked to his room to change.

Either Washington's job was made significantly easier b York getting himself killed, or Wash was about to walk into a trap.

He needed to suit up. This time in full power armor.

 

Chapter Text

Present Day…

29 July 2029

 

The difficulty of moving through a city without a car and dressed in full body armor was challenging. Wash knew he needed to be prepared for anything, but started regretting his choice as soon as he stepped out of the apartment. Now, if his suit was upgraded with active cameo like Agent Texas had, it wouldn't have been an issue. However, he was only able to use a few minor armor enhancements that didn't require AI support to run.

And it was in the middle of the day, so it was going to be impossible to sneak around on foot.

As it was, Wash had to figure out how he was going to get to the docks ten miles away without getting spotted. With his shitty luck someone would call the police on him. He'd end up in jail without Maine to bale him out.

He was a soldier, not a freaking ninja, even with advanced stealth training. So Wash sucked up his fear of automated vehicles and called an unmanned transport. Then crossed his fingers as he entered the vehicle when it arrived.

It took fifteen minutes for the car to reach the pier after picking Washington up. Thankfully, despite his track record with cars, Wash managed to make it to his destination without incident. If you call almost being clipped when it tried to parallel park in front of him, 'without incident’.

The whole dock was abandoned. By the looks of it, for years.

Storage containers were scattered across the place mostly broken or laying on their side. The pavement was cracked and missing chunks. There was also garbage illegally dumped in piles randomly throughout the place.

Washington carefully picked his way through the messy maze. He had his pistol out, leaving his rifle attached to his armor. Hopefully he wouldn't need them but he still wasn't positive this was not a set up.

The Heads Up Display in his visor told him there was no movement in the area. The golden dot on the map that marked York's beacon blinked alone a few meters out. It looked to be near the end of the pier, out over the water.

Wash cautiously made his way toward it.

Evidence of a battle became more clear the closer Washington got to the beacon. Bullet holes sprayed across the side of a storage container. Blood splatter on the ground. When Wash found the first body propped up against the side of a partial wall a picture of what happened started to paint in his mind.

Moving forward Washington holstered his pistol and ran a scan of the armored body that was sitting in a pool of blood.

No life signs. The scan results told him the person died about an hour ago.

Wash reached for the body's helmet and released the seals. A middle aged woman was revealed, with a short cropped Bob. Wash was more or less indifferent to the revolution, being intent on figuring out what armor she had on, and where she got it, rather than caring who was in the armor itself.

Turning the helmet in his hands he realized it was UNEC sanctioned. One of the power armor suits that Project Freelancer created and sold to the military. However, as Wash set down the helmet and searched the woman's body he found no indicators of her identity. She had no ID, her armor didn't have the UNEC painted on any of its plating, and a facial scan came up empty. It was like she didn't exist.

Washington stood. He’d need more information. Abandoning the body Wash turned a few degrees to his right to scan over the area. His view of the pier was obstructed, but he could already spot a few more bodies scattered around the dock. All of them in matching armor to the woman.

“Well, this just got a lot more interesting.” Wash muttered under his breath.

Reaching to his hip Washington pulled out his pistol again. He skirted around the bodies, scanning them as he went. By the time he neared the end of the pier Wash counted six dead.

Two figures where at the beacon’s location. Both in PFL armor.

The first was laying on his back, inert, still fitted in dull gold power armor. The second figure was crouched by the first sitting on both knees, gloved hands splayed on the other’s chest plate. Their dark green armor was pipelined with a lighter glowing green that pulsed at intervals but otherwise the figure sat just as stagnant as their companion.

Washington approached with caution. Pistol pointed at the green helmet. “Identify yourself.”

The figure didn't startle, just tilted their head in Washington's direction in an observant fashion.

“Affitive. I am intelligence program, designation: Delta.” The voice that answered was stiff, nearly robotic. “I have been assigned to Agent New York, who is currently dieing. I require assistance.”

Washington blinked, glancing between the two. “You activated the recovery beacon.” Wash stated.

“That would be correct.” Delta replied. “I am keeping Agent York alive with the healing unit but he requires medical attention or he will die.”

“And you expect me to just what? Disobey orders to bring you both in and help?” Washington nearly laughed.

“I was under the impression that you were once friends with Agent York, Agent Washington.” Delta stated firmly refusing to move from is position.

“We used to be.”

“Then I do not see the problem.”

Washington signed. “It's complicated. I have orders. Kill or capture orders, I really don't care what happens to York. It's easier to bring him in if he's dead, so if you'd just do what you were programed to do and follow orders we could get out of here quicker.”

Delta’s visor locked with Washington's. “No.”

“No?” Wash screeched, “You can't tell me no, I'm in charge.”

“I believe I just did. No. I refuse to leave Agent York's side. You may help me or not, but I will not leave. That would put us at what is called a: Stand Off, unless you decide to terminate my program.”

“I'm not going to destroy you.” Wash gritted out as he kneeled to take a scan of York's prone form.

The agent was critical across the board. Heart failure, blood loss, head trauma, it was a miracle the man was breathing at all. Wash supposed that was Delta's doing with the aid of his healing unit.

Wonders never cease.

“May I make an inquiry?” Delta sounded suddenly, throwing Wash off.

Washington eyes the AI warily. “Go ahead.”

“If protocol dictates Agent York and I are to be killed or captured, why do you hesitate to destroy me faced with resistance?”

Wash snorted in contempt. “I'm here to recover all technologies York stole from the PFL. He is expendable, you cost a lot of money, okay? It's cheaper to recover you than it is to delete you.”

Delta was silent a moment before speaking again. “Recovery carries risk. Would it not be better to prevent the possibility of an AI falling into enemy hands by destruction of said unit?”

“Are you complaining?”

“Not at all, merely noting a discrepancy.”

Washington groaned. “What do you want from me, guy? Go bitch to the project, I'm just doing my job.”

Delta looked as regretful as an AI in full body armor could look. “If I have offended you, I do apologise.”

Wash rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I'm all busted up about it. Now are you going to come quietly or am I gonna have to fight you?”

“We could compromise.”

“I don't think so.”

“Agent Washington, I know you as a reasonable man. Please. My suggestion may benefit the three of us.”

Wash wished his helmet was off so he could rub at his temples, a migraine was starting to build behind his eyes. “Look, Delta, I'm not going to pretend I understand your weird attachment to York. But I've got all day to sit here and wait for York to die so I can grab you. I'm sure our six dead buddies won't complain.”

“Five.” Delta cut in.

“Excuse me?”

“My sensors indicate only five unresponsive human forms.”

Confusion set in. “What? No. I checked as I walked in, they wer--”

Washington was cut off by rifle rounds aimed at his head.

“Seriously!?” Wash’s voice cracked as shouted, ducking into a lunge to find cover behind an overturned shipping container. “Thanks for warning me!” He called out sarcastically, busy switching to his rifle.

“I suggest you return fire.” Delta advised calmly while the container was being pelted by bullets.

“Oh, you think so?” Washington snarled, jumping up on top of the container as soon as there was a break in his opponent's volley.

Washington unloaded ten shots in the direction of his assailant. Which of course missed since the person had moved position.

His HUD showed no movement but the audible clang of a round object hitting the container he was on was unmistakable.

Looking down Wash found a grenade rolling to a stop by his foot.

“Son of a--!” Washington cursed jumping down off the shipping container. He landed in a tumble and rolled to his feet. Sprinting quickly away from the grenade.

The explosion was deafening and Wash stumbled in his run because of the shockwave, landing on his front.

“Holy crap! How do these guys have so much Freelancer tech!?” Washington groaned flipping over onto his back.

The problem with fighting tech just advanced as your own was that it was built to take stronger tech down. Which was the reason why shrapnel from the grenade had embedded into Wash’s armor plating and parts of his undersuit.

“Damnit!” Wash hissed as alarms in his helmet blared at him.

His enemy, dressed in white PFL power armor just like the other dead soldiers, started toward Delta and York. Their gun was raised but they’d yet taken a shot at the pair.

“Oh no you don't!”

Washington sprang to his feet firing at the soldier while advancing. Two shots hit their mark before the person reacted. Jumping back, running a few meters then throwing an object at his own feet.

The white soldier was engulfed in a bright light that caused Wash to turn cheek. Once the light dissipated the soldier was gone too.

“What the hell was that all about?” Wash shouted making his way back over to Delta.

“Perhaps he realized he was at a disadvantage.” Delta needlessly supplied.

Washington shook his head. “Sure. Now, are you ready?”

“I still believe my idea has the best outcome.”

“Fine!” Wash gritted out. “What is you big idea?”

“If you help me save Agent York, you can freely take all his equipment. Once he is in stable condition I will gladly accompany you to wherever you need take me.” Delta said in his usual tone.

“In other words I get all the PFL tech back and York gets to live?” Wash paused, thinking for a moment. “There is a problem with that. You activated the recovery beacon. Meaning command knows I'm here, if I don't kill him or bring him in then they know I let him go, I can't do that.”

“I see.” Delta said sounding almost sad, head dropping to look down at York.

Washington sighed lengthily. “Hold on. I have an idea.”

Delta’s head snapped back up. “What might that be?”

Washington looked around at the bodies. “We’ll have to fake some information.” He turned back to Delta. “Scan all the bodies and pick a male closest to York's height and weight. Then alter the readings in my helmet to show I scanned five bodies instead of six on the way in. Merge the sixth reading with York's to show I found him dead when I arrived.”

“You wish to fake Agent York’s death?”

Wash nodded. “Exactly. I need to make a call.”


 

“Holy shit! That was great!” Tucker laughed so hard tears were streaming down his face.

“It wasn't that funny.” Church rebuffed despite the huge grin he sported.

Tucker snorted. “Says the guy that fell off the couch halfway through the movie because he was laughing too hard.”

“I was laughing at you, because you snorted soda through your nose like a fucking idiot.”

Tucker stood to offer a rebuttal but was cut off by his ring tone. “Why is it I get called every time I'm in the middle of an argument with you?”

“Luck? Just ignore it.”

Tucker shook his head. “No way man, what if it's Junior?” He glanced down at his wrist.

The caller ID was Agent Washington. So, nothing was wrong with Junior, but the fact that Washington was calling him again when he’d said he wasn't going to was incentive enough to answer the call. Especially since it was voice only call.

“Hey hot shot, decided you didn't get enough of me? I'll gladly remedy that in bed. Bow-chika-bow-wow!” Tucker answered as soon as the call connected.

'No.’ Was the gruff answer he got back.

“Awe, com’on babe, don't go raining on my parade.”

There was a huff on the other end. 'Do you know of a doctor that won't ask questions and will check in a patient under John Doe?’

Tucker was taken aback at the statement. “What makes you think I’d know? Jesus, I thought that whole Black-Stereotyping shit stopped nearly a decade ago.”

'Wh-what!? Th-that isn't this! I don't know Armonia. I assume you’ve lived here for awhile, or your friends know of somebody. I don't know anyone else in the area, Tucker.” Washington sounded exasperated, but Tucker wasn't sure if the man had actually stuttered at the beginning or if the connection was bad.

“Oh, yeah... Are you alright? What happened?” Tucker asked, his mind suddenly playing all sorts of scenarios in his head.

Was the Agent hurt? Did he get shot? Hit by another car? Did someone attack him? Did he need a hospital that bad?

'I’m fine, only bleeding a little. I just need a discreet place to take someone, somewhere off the radar. Do you know someone or not?”

Only bleeding a little, he says. Tucker grinds his teeth. “Yeah, I guess I know someplace. I take Junior to a doctor with a private practice for therapy, but she has medical license coming out her ears and used to be a surgeon.”

'That works. I'll send you my coordinates, borrow your friend’s Jeep if possible. I need to load the back.’

“Wait, you need me to go get you?” Tucker spluttered.

'Is that a problem?’

“No, not really.”

'Good, be here as soon as possible. And don't bring Junior.’

“No fucking duh! And why can't you use acronyms like a normal person?”

'Goodbye Tucker.’ Washington said shortly before hanging up.

“Asshole.” Tucker muttered closing out of the call.

“Was that Wash? Again?” Church asked, still seated on the couch.

“Yup. He needs help.” Tucker replied as he made his way to the stairs.

Church watched him go, turning in his seat to follow Tucker's movement. “And you're just going to go help, no questions asked. Just like that?”

“I asked a shit ton of questions dude.” Tucker called over his shoulder as he went down the stairs. “This time you're not invited.”

“Wasn't planning on going asshole!” Church shouted to Tucker’s retreating form.

Tucker skipped every other step on the way down to the main floor. He opened the hall closet to pull out his shoes and slipped them on before remembering his keys were still on the floor in the living room. Groaning, he made his way back up the staircase, through the living room, flipped Church off as he grabbed his keys, then headed out the front door.

Once outside Tucker walked the few yards over to Grif's place, ran up the stairs to the man’s front door and banged on it's frame.

The door swung open to reveal Simmons in an apron. Typical house husband attire.

“Trying to learn how to cook again?” Tucker teased with a huge grin.

Simmons’ nose wrinkled and he scoffed. “I'm a great cook, don't be a dick.”

“Definitely wouldn't want to be you.” Tucker joked. “I need Grif's Jeep.”

Simmons folded his arms across his chest. “Why would I let a Blue take Grif’s Jeep?”

“Cus ya owe me for that time I took the fall for you two when Grif didn't finish his paperwork a month ago. Kimball was on my ass for weeks, and not in the good way.” Tucker stated shouldering passed Simmons.

Their place was a mirror image of his, identical to Church's. Besides the fact that Tucker had been in Grif's place before. He easily made his way down stairs and into the garage, Simmons hot on his heels.

“Keys?” Tucker asked holding out his hand.

“Why can't you take your car?” Simmons asked digging around in his pockets.

“I gotta haul some shit. Why do you have his Keys in your pocket?”

Simmons finally found what he was looking for and placed the key ring in Tucker's open palm. “Grif drank a shit ton of whiskey and decided he wanted more. I confiscated them because he tried to get in the car and drive.”

Tucker chuckled, “Nice, where is he now?”

“Passed out on the couch.” Simmons groaned. “I couldn't get him up the stairs.”

“Not surprising since he weighs twice as much as you do.” Tucker commented as he unlocked the door and climbed up into the Jeep. He quickly transferred the coordinates Washington sent into Grif's GPS. “Thanks for this.”

“Not like I had a choice.” Simmons replied hitting the button for the garage door.

Tucker gave the man a cocky two finger salute before backing out of the driveway and into the street.

 

Chapter Text

Present Time…

29 July 2029

 

“I have manipulated the data as you have requested, Agent Washington.” Delta spoke up.

Wash didn't bother answering as he was busy dragging one of the bodies over to where York was lying. “This the one?”

“Yes. This man is of similar height and mass as Agent York. As is his blood type, quite fortunately.”

“Good.” Washington started unclasping the white armor plates. As he removed them he set each piece aside in an organized pile.

He was just unsealing the dead man's helmet when a bright orange Jeep pulled up. The parking job was near perfectly parallel to an over turned shipping container. Vociferous music with a deep base rocked the vehicle until it was cut off abruptly when the door swung open.

Tucker was dressed in gray sweats with an oversized aqua tee. The moment his vans hit the pavement the young man's posture changed from laid back, and relaxed to alert, ready to jump back into the car if need be.

“Holy shit! What did you drag me into!? Are they dead! Oh my God they are! They’re dead!” Tucker hesitated by the Jeep keeping one hand on the handle. “What the fuck is going on!? You should have warned me! I would have brought my shit! I am completely underdressed man!”

Washington shook his head, but otherwise kept his focus on what he was doing. “Calm down. The danger is over, get over here and help me.”

“Right. Helping you with what exactly? ‘Cus I know it ain't something kinky, unless dead bodies are your thing, in which case, you're a sick motherfucker.”

“Would you just shut up and help.” Wash growled slamming the helmet he'd removed on the ground next to him. “Delta, move back. I need room. Tucker, open the back of the Jeep before you come over.”

“Affirmative.” Delta said as he stood and backed away to give Washington some room. Tucker eventually complied, releasing his death grip on the door handle and throwing open the back of the Jeep.

“Bow-chika-bow-wow…” Tucker muttered as he walked up to Wash as the Freelancer stood. “Who is that? And what's up with that guy?” Tucker added gesturing to York laying on the ground.

“Delta and York.” Washington nodded to the AI and man respectively. “York is in critical condition.”

“So this is the dude that needs the doctor? He looks like shit.” Tucker said even though York's face was covered. Wash figured the amount of blood pooling around the man's body was what Tucker was referring to.

“Yes. Grab his legs, we’re lying him in the back.” Washington instructed as he ditched the dead man in favor of hooking his elbows under York's armpits. “Delta? Is he going to be okay when we move him?”

Delta hummed a little. “There is a eighty-nine point six percent chance York will expire on the journey to the vehicle.”

Wash sighed dramatically. “Great. Tucker, are you ready?”

“To get handsy with a stranger? Always, though it's usually the ladies I go after.” Tucker’s resulting smirk was lopsided with nervous tension.

With an underlying growl Wash barked out, “Just grab his damn legs already!”

“Alright, alright! Touchy much?”

Tucker moved forward and kneel down. His hands hovered awhile, trying to figure out the best way to grab York's legs. “Wouldn't it be like, easier to, uh do a fireman carry or something?” Tucker asked looking up.

Wash took a deep breath. “Unless you can carry a full grown man in power armor without any assistance, then NO! I thought I told you I was injured! How the hell am going to carry him alone?”

Thankfully Tucker had the grace to look sheepishly. “Oh, yeah…”

“I suggest you face the same direction as Agent Washington. You can then hook your arms under Agent York's knees.” Delta spoke up from his new position beside the Jeep.

“Thanks green dude.”

“My name is Delta.”

Tucker shrugged as he turned to do as Delta suggested. “And you're wearing green armor.”

“I do not appreciate being labeled by the shad--”

“Delta, enough! Don't encourage him.” Wash snapped.

“Apologies.”

Washington and Tucker were able to maneuver York into the back of the Jeep quickly without incident as soon as everyone stopped arguing.

“Delta, you can get into the back with York. I have a few more things to do.” Wash turned away from the Jeep as he strode back to the body he was disarming.

“Need more help?” Tucker asked as he tailed Wash.

Washington gestured to the discarded armor pieces. “Just throw those into the back seat.”

“Okay, but why do you want some dead du--DUDE! What the fuck!?”

Tucker's volume hit a higher pitch as he screamed at Wash. Agent Washington who had just taken a rifle off the ground, reversed his grip on it so he held the barrel, then slammed the butt down as hard as possible into the corpse’s face. The resounding crack drowned out the ambiance of the waves crashing against the pier.

Tucker's hand flew to his mouth as he gagged, bug-eyed.

“York has to die. It's the mission.” Wash’s voice was cold as he turned to face Tucker. He still held the rifle, the end he’d smashed into the dead man dripping sluggish red liquid. “Faking his death is easier if we destroy the body. Dental records will now be harder to cross-reference, and PFL doesn't care that much to do the digging. Do you have a lighter?”

Tucker swallow thickly. “I… I-uh, don't smoke.”

“It's a bad habit.” Wash answered cryptically. “I'll just use a grenade.”

“You're going to blow him up too? Isn't that a little excessive!?”

“York has a very distinguishable face, I have to make the body unrecognizable.” Wash waved off searching one of the nearby bodies for extra grenades. “Go back to the Jeep.”

With a nod Tucker sprinted to the driver's door, fumbled with the door handle, then slammed himself inside just as Wash shot the corpse through the chest a few times.

“Delta, run through all the data in my helmet again. Make sure all the information lines up. York was incapacitated by blunt force trauma to the face, his helmet was beyond recovery. Once I got on scene I finished the job by removing his armor and shooting him in the chest. I then encountered an enemy combatant who threw two grenades. Both missed but one landed by York's body.” Wash called out as he pulled the pin and dropped the grenade beside 'York’.

“Rewriting data now.” Delta spoke mechanically.

Washington took once last look around the pier. The hairs on the back of his neck standing up, feeling as if someone was watching. Nothing came up on his scanners and Delta didn't seem to have noticed anything so Wash wrote it off as his paranoia acting up again.

“Let's get to that doctor friend of yours.” Wash said as soon as he got into the passenger side of the Jeep.


 

Tucker was uncharacteristically quiet the whole ride. Not making a sound even as Agent Washington tinkered with the white armor e’d looted from that body. Not even when Delta started getting as annoying as Church did as he asked questions about their 'plotted course’, if Tucker could speed up 'reasonably above the speed limit’, and if Tucker's doctor friend had 'the proper equipment to handle medical emergencies’.

Nope, Tucker refused to speak at all. He was man enough to admit sitting next to the guy who moments ago, beat up a dead guy, shot him, and then for extra measure, blew the fucking thing up, freaked the crap out of him. So much that his hands were still shaking as he white-knuckled the steering wheel.

It took an agonizing twenty-five minutes to reach Doctor Grey's Medical Private Practice. It was an ugly little building on the corner of a block with five stories. The building looked more like an abandoned hospital than a medical practice building.

“I'm going to park around back.” Tucker finally spoke up. “I’ll go in and ask for Dr. Grey, she’ll tell us what to do after that.”

Washington looked up from the chest plate in his lap. “Be quick.”

“Sure.” Tucker said hopping out of the Jeep and dashing into the building’s entrance.

He must have still looked freaked out because when he reached the front desk, rubbing his sweaty palms on his thighs, the woman there immediately picked up the phone and dialed.

“Doctor Grey's will be with you in just a moment Mr. Tucker.” She said as soon as she set the phone back on its receiver.

Tucker just nodded to the regular receptionist at the desk and chose to sit on the nearest chair.

Thankfully, the lobby seemed to be empty. It was a Sunday. And though Doctor practically lived at her private practice, Sundays held very little appointments, the building running with a skeleton crew.

“Mr. Tucker!” Came a shrill voice from the hall. “Is Junior alright?”

“Yeah, Junior is fine Doctor Grey. I have a bit of an emergency though.” Tucker said standing to meet the doctor halfway.

“How many times have I told you to call me Emily. What would your emergency be sweetie?” Dr. Grey announced pulling the young man in for a swift embrace.

Tucker scratched the back of his scalp after Dr. Grey released him. “Uh, I got a guy out in my car, dude’s kinda dying. And people want him dead so he needs a place to recover anonymously.”

“Oh! A John Doe! How exciting! Bring him on in through the emergency entrance, and we'll get a gurney.” Emily Grey squealed clapping her hands together in excitement.

“Thanks Docto--er, Emily.” He amended as Doctor Grey glared at him.


 

“Two days.” Wash informed Delta flatly as the AI stood reverently in the waiting room while York was  in surgery. “You can stay here until Tuesday. I won't be able to stall any longer than that.”

“I understand.” Delta replied, gaze not drifting from the lit up sign above the doors that informed everyone that surgery was in progress.

Tucker was leaning against a far wall of the room, watching in what Wash assumed he thought was cool. “You're leaving?”

“The mission is over.” Washington replied.

“Cryptic. What about your huge buddy?” Tucker asked as he pushed off the wall. “I haven't seen him, thought you two were attached at the hip.”

Washington narrowed his eyes and squeezed his helmet tighter against his side from its position under his arm. “Maine has his own agenda. I'm not his babysitter.”

Tucker shrugged with his whole body as he took a step forward. “I thought the two of you were working on the same job.”

“Mr. Tucker, the specifics of a PFL job is rarely open to the public. In all likelihood, Agent Washington has withheld information if he has told you anything at all.” Delta announced flatly, turning his attention briefly to Tucker.

“What the fuck are you man?” Tucker asked with a note of bewilderment. “You talk like a fucking computer.”

“Epsilon didn't tell you?” Wash asked in surprise.

Tucker crossed his arms. “You mean Church, Church didn't tell me what?”

Washington resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “Yes, Church didn't tell you about is involvement with Freelancer.”

Tucker huffed indignantly. “He told me some of it.”

With a smirk Wash chuckled, his voice laced with disdain. “Oh yeah? And what exactly did he tell you? Hm?”

“A lot!” Tucker's voice cracked like an adolescent boy and he pursed his lips before continuing. “He said your facts are fucked, since he never tried to kill you. He also said he was more like an informant to the PFL since he wasn't a fucking dickbag Agent like you and jackass partners. He also mentioned Delta.” Tucker flailed an arm in mentioned AI’s direction. “Along with some others that left Project Freelancer because the place is corrupt as fuck! So why are you trying to fuck over your former friends, huh , Agent Washington ? Are you really that much of an asshole?”

Washington slammed his fist into the wall behind him making Tucker jump. “You don't know what you are talking about.” Wash snarled bitterly taking a step with every word spoken until he was inches from Tucker. “You only have one side of the story, Mr. Tucker .” Wash punctuated the other’s name by shoving his helmet into Tucker's chest.

Tucker stumbled back at the force but quickly recovered. “Can you blame me? Church is my friend, Tex too. You are a fucking stranger, and a tight lipped one at that! It's not my fault you don't wanna tell me what's going on!”

“You want to know my side?” Wash snorted a sardonic huff. “My so called friends left me to rot! While I was in stuck in the hospital they all went AWOL.” Wash thrust his arm sideway to gesture at the surgery doors where York was. “When failed equipment put me in the psych ward my friends forgot about me! They left me in the hands of corrupt people all to save their own asses! At least I'm trying to make it right!”

“Giving them over to the bad guys is what you think will fix everything? That's like the exact opposite of fixing shit!” Tucker yelled placing both hands on Wash’s chest plate and shoving.

Wash didn't stagger, barely even wavered at Tucker's attempt. “I’m not explaining myself to you. It's none of your business nor is it your concern.”

“Really because it sure sounded to me like you were trying to bring in some of MY friends!”

“I already told you that I wasn't after Epsilon.”

Tucker threw his hands up. “It's Church you fucking asshole!”

“I don't have time for this.” Wash turned heading straight for the doors.

Tucker kicked at the ground before following Wash out. “Wait up! You can't walk around outside in all that armor. I'll give you a ride.”

Washington sighed as he looked back at the younger man. “Thank you.”

“Just know that I'm not happy about it!” Tucker growled giving Washington a glare.

What could almost be considered an affectionate smile pulled at the corner of Wash’s mouth, but he covered it by placing his helmet back over his head.

“I’ll keep that in mind.”