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ground cover me, and wind your ashes take

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There are a few things York will admit to believing in; that a birthday isn’t a proper birthday without cake, people are generally good, (Santa, until he was nine, and his older cousin told him the truth), and that Agent Carolina cannot possibly be dead.

 -

“It’s not so bad,” he tells himself, sitting on the balcony with one leg hooked around the old bars, the other dangling over the edge. Late at night, he can see the sparkling lights of downtown Nairobi from their dilapidated apartment building. “Things could be worse.” He’s not sure he believes that.


“You do not,” Delta tells him.

“Yeah” he says, unnecessarily.

“Talking to yourself?” calls a new voice, and he jumps before he can steel himself against it. He hadn’t been expecting anyone else. Tipping his head back, North stands in the doorway, arms folded and shoulder tucked into the frame.

“Delta,” he says.

“Of course.” North offers a smile. It’s weak, tired.

“Couldn’t sleep?” he asks kindly, knows the answer.

“Theta,” North yawns, shrugging.

“Of course,” York and Delta say. They scratch at an eyebrow, turn back to the view.

North settles down beside him a moment later, legs bowed in so their thighs press together.

“South?” York asks.

“Left for work three hours ago.”

“Currently 3:34 local time,”  Delta informs him.

“Didn’t even say goodbye,” York snorts. “Wash?”

“Sleeping,” North and Delta say.

York knows. He would have heard otherwise. A breeze picks up, light and warm, but he shoves his hands stubbornly in the pocket of his sweater, curls his fingers into fists. It’s supposed to be winter, he thinks. Delta thinks he’s being over-dramatic about it. Connie liked winter, he remembers.

“You think they’re out there?” He’s not sure why he says it. He’s not sure who to. Delta answers in statistics, lines of code across his left eye.

“Who?” North asks. Then says, “Maybe.” Theta adds, “Unlikely.”

York thinks about the way North used to sink against him after a long mission, where even now it seems like their legs touching is too much. He notes the lines of tension across broad shoulders and how his usually twitchy, ever moving hands sit still in his lap.

Frayed wires, York thinks.

Misaligned, Delta says.

Neither think “incompatible.”

“It’s hard to sleep here,” North and Theta say. Admit. It’s soft, barely air on the wind, and York can’t help the way his fingers start creeping towards him. He’s not sure what it is, exactly, about the four of them. He takes North’s hand, strong and calloused and freezing cold, and Delta thinks, symmetry.

Theta smiles out the right side of North’s mouth.

Delta thinks about puzzle pieces. York wonders at having a conversation with two bodies and four participants.

None of them bring up what’s bothering them, not really. If Theta says something to North, he doesn’t relay it back. Conversation is light. York tries to point out constellations but it’s been a long time since he’s seen these stars, he can’t even remember. North still laughs, small and breathy and perhaps a little forced, but he nods along. North and South were colony kids, Delta remembers. Not everyone learned to ride a bicycle on Mars, York. He laughs. North laughs. They’re only a little sad.

York reckons no, it can’t possibly be so bad. They’re not ready to talk about things yet, he gets that. Delta doesn’t, really, but he doesn’t push it, and the quiet between them is one that’s only really achieved on those nights where Wash’s last glass of water is laced with pain killers and sleeping tablets.

Theta falls asleep first, and North follows shortly after, sagging down against York’s shoulder like he couldn’t belong anywhere else. York doesn’t mind. Delta thinks it’s bad for his back (but he doesn’t mind, either).

They stay like that for awhile. It’s nice, actually. North’s warm against him, arms folded up in a defensive posture that he’s taken to since their escape. Even upright, North sleeps like he’s trying to become smaller, hunches in on himself and tucking his nose into York’s shoulder. It reminds him of too many pelican rides.

“Do you think they’re out there, D?” He whispers. He doesn’t have to.

“I do not know, York,”  is his only response, and York thinks he sounds guilty.

“They’re out there,” he decides. “They are.”

York is watching the sun rise over the slums when he sees familiar blonde hair trudging up the path towards their building. It’s hard to miss her, really. Maybe they should think about getting hair dye. She sticks out like a sore thumb among the muddy roads and tin roofs.

He lets out a sharp whistle, mindful of the way North groans, flops from his shoulder to his lap.

South’s head snaps up, hand going automatically to her side, but she relaxes when she realizes it’s just him. Gives a faint wave.

 

He hears her banging around inside for a moment before she finds him on the balcony, and he’s familiar with the way he tips his head back to grin at her. She’s the exact mirror of North, though considerably less amused.

“You haven’t slept yet.” It’s not a question.

“No,” he says cheerfully.

There is something comfortingly condescending about the pull of her mouth, but it’s an illusion ruined when she sighs, shoulders falling too far. “Okay. Sure.”

“How was work?” he asks, because that tired slump isn’t befitting of someone so strong.

“Fine,” she says. Shrugs. “Fine. It was work. Got a new shipment from Seongnam, almost shit my pants when I saw the UNSC logo.” She picks idly at the door frame, white paint yellowing with age, wood rotting down to the core.

Freelancer, Delta thinks dramatically. Teammates, York mourns. “Did they see?”

South sneers. “No, of course fucking not. I’m not an idiot.”

No, Delta thinks, with a hint of something that tastes like fear on York’s tongue. “I know,” York says. His hand falls heavy into North’s hair but all he gets is a passive grunt so he rumples it worse than before.

South watches them for a second, doesn’t look like she cares. She’s very good at that. York wishes it had rubbed off on North more. “Caught Odinga on the way down,” she finally says, in order to keep up this ridiculous charade. A joke, York thinks. A means to an end, Delta supplies. Nobody laughs.

He nods along. “You pay the rent?”

“Yeah. He looked surprised.”

“He always looks surprised when you don’t shoot him on sight.”

“I take offense to that. At least he thanked me. Also says you’ve been messing with the electical panel again.”

York cannot deny that. But he’s bored, he needs to do something. He tells this to South.

“Get a job,” she retorts.

“I’m babysitting,” York argues. Guarding, Delta corrects.

South continues to be unimpressed. Her nails are bitten to the quick. She chips at the paint. “Sure.”

Technically, North is supposed to be babysitting him and Wash. Wash shakes and doesn’t look at them. York loses track of time. Delta remembers.

6:52, Delta reminds him.

“We’re fine,” he says. He doesn’t believe it. Delta might.

“North can barely remember to tie his own shoes,” South says. She is tired. She is bitter. York agrees with this sentiment.

“Babysitting,” he says. He is aware of the pistol sitting heavy on South’s thigh. She won’t shoot him. Delta lights their nerves on fire at the thought.

South stares at her brother, slouched in his lap and muttering soft Russian into his thigh. Delta acknowledges numbers. South looks sad. “Get him to bed,” she says. She goes back inside. Wash wakes from a nightmare two minutes later.

York wonders if dying might be easier than this. Delta does not provide a counterpoint.