Actions

Work Header

Modern Bad Batch stories

Chapter Text

Crosshair had never in his life needed his big brother as much as he did now. Omega was curled up tightly on the passenger seat. Visibly and audibly shaking with tears. He had come to pick her up after an especially urgent call from school that day. Working the night shift at a local library, he would have still been asleep at this time. He’d admit getting a bit bitchy when others interfered with his unusual sleeping cycles, but rest didn’t matter. Not when it was about those kinds of things.

The call had come unexpectedly. That was for sure. He was surprised to find that his phone number was even listed in her school files.

First of all, Hunter would have normally been the one to be contacted. He must have informed them to redirect, while he was on a business trip with Wrecker, because of course he would. Ever the control freak, Crosshair had thought whilst driving to Omega’s school.

Second, whenever she had a problem, was suddenly getting sick or needed a ride home, she would usually call them herself. But today, on the other end of the line, had been the concerned, pressed voice of her teacher. She’d spoken a bit too much and a bit too fast for Crosshairs liking but following where the conversation exactly headed hadn’t been possible for his sleepy state of existence anyway. After a few rustles of fabric, she had ended up giving the phone to Omega’s furious principal.

Through bleary eyes and a cloudy consciousness that was just coming out of sweet rem sleep, Crosshair hadn’t really understood what the commotion was about. The only thing he heard repeatedly was, that it concerned his sister and that it seemed to be urgent.

As soon as his sleep-stricken self had been arriving at school, Omega’s teacher pulled him from the parking lot into one of the empty classrooms. He had hoped to never set a foot into a classroom ever again. Yet, since they had Omega living with them, there he fucking was.

The nervous sweating teacher had explained to Crosshair that his sister had damaged school property as an emotional outlet, after a nasty word fight with another classmate.

Crosshair had honestly hoped for something more dramatic to be shooed out of bed at this hour. But apparently teachers were as disproportionately concerned as anyone else in his damn household.

He had trouble keeping a straight face, given the absurdity of the situation. Omega never had shown any violent outbursts. Quite the opposite. Whenever she had been upset about something, she at most got a good cry and afterwards seek bodily affection from one of them. (Usually Hunter, if he had been honest)

Crosshair soon realized that this hadn’t been fault to too much sadness or fear. It had been to aggression. This didn’t fit her at all. With a shaky hand and a clenched throat, Crosshair had accepted the bill for the damaged school property, as well as a letter over Omega’s suspension. He knew that, given Hunter’s overly protective parenting style, none of that really mattered as long as she was fine. Everything else could be handled later. So, he tucked it away in his back pocket, only ready to pull it back out again if he got his hands on one of his other brothers.

His head snapped over as the door to the classroom opened, something blonde with her gaze strict to the floor trotting in. For a moment, Crosshair was at a loss if he had enough decency to scold her. If so, what the hell should he say?

I am very disappointed with you?

How can you be so irrational?

No, no, his eyebrows furrowed. That might have been Echo's style, but it certainly wasn't his. He didn't think much of that parenting crap.

"Omega-" he reluctantly noticed her disheveled hair and the tears that had brimmed her eyes red. She barreled face first in his stomach area and clutched at his sweatshirt. She sniffled a stuffy-sounding noise into his jacket. Reaching for her shoulders, he pushed her away a little to look at her more closely. She wiped her nose with the back of her hand, still avoiding direct eye contact. He shook his head. 

Sensing his growing frustration, she finally raised her head and mouthed an 'I'm so sorry', stifled by more tears. "It's…okay. Come on, let's go home-" He waved goodbye to the teacher, the other hand still grasped at Omega’s shoulder.  

Walking out of the school building, she had searched for his hand and gripped it tightly. Crosshair being startled for two reasons. One being that she never did that, the other that he’d never offered it to anyone before either. But if she needed that today, she should have it, no matter his stupid insecurities.

He opened the backdoor of his graying old Mercedes and gently tossed the backpack inside. A book tumbled out of protest from her bag into the footwell. He looked after it, contemplating to grab it, eventually coming to the conclusion it didn't matter. Later, he thought to himself. Later.

With a huff she let herself fall on the passenger seat. Crosshair slid behind the steering wheel, hands on the ignition key, as he recognized something out of the corner of his eye. She had her hands crossed under her jacket, leaving the front unzipped. There, right over her belly button. He spotted a little speckle of blood. His vet brain didn’t hesitate.

“Show it to me.’’ He scoffed, probably more roughly than intended. Omega didn’t meet his gaze and most importantly, didn’t respond at all. He had enough of this nonsense. “Omega- show me your hand.” He reiterated, voice dangerously close to growling. She let out a frustrated angry sob but with a flinch and breath drawn hard through her lips, placed her hand into his.

He opened his eyes in horror. How could he be so fucking blind? Her hand looked terrible. Marbled purple bruises surrounded the cracked skin on her knuckles. Blood trickled from the last two knuckles down the back of her hand, smearing over the discolored parts.

Soldier instincts started kicking, Crosshairs fingers deliberately but gingerly began to feel around for any broken bones. She flinched violently under his grip. Shushing her, he continued to palpate the swollen hand. Tears spilled out of her eyes, begging him to stop. Maybe it had been the shock of the situation, his untrained sensation, or her whimpering, but he didn’t exactly know what he felt. He thought to have come across something at the metacarpal bone. He again trickled his fingers across each one of her joints, but indeed, something was up with her two outer fingers. Damn. He didn’t expect for his sister to have a punch like that.

“Sorry Omega, but we have to go to the ER.” He turned, meeting her frightened gaze. Letting her hand loose, she retracted it immediately.

“No-“ she croaked, swallowing thickly. “I jus’ wanna g-go h-home please.” She begged but he couldn’t give in. Not this time. Out of experience he knew how dangerous an undetected break of any bone could be to the body.

“Omega, No. None of that.” He said pulling the car key from the outlet, stepping outside to the back door. He fumbled under the driver’s seat, quietly muttering nasty profanities. Just as he thought his past dumbass-self must have gotten rid of it, his fingertips finally brushed against the nylon fabric. He sighed in relief and pulled the first aid kit out of its hiding spot, taking it with him to the front.

He laid it on his lap and unzipped the bag, revealing its expired contents. Most of the stuff in there had been out of date, even as ninety-nine had still been around, but the drive to the hospital was anything but short and (most importantly) he wanted to feel helpful someway.

Crosshair’s trained fingers ripped gauze bandage pack open and reached for the disinfectant. He doused couple of bandages in the pungent smelling liquid and held his left hand palm-up, an indication that Omega should place her hand in his.

She cried loudly as the cloth contacted her skin. For self-protection she tried to pull her hand out of his, but Crosshair's grip was stronger. He paused for a second, allowing her body to regain its composure. He had been an angry child; he remembered the biting feeling of disinfectant on open wounds. “I’m really sorry that it hurts, but that’s necessary.”

Not entirely convinced, Omega stirred in her seat. Twisting her body whenever he moved from one knuckle to the other to clean her hand. He tried his best to be quick about it. Now with all the blood gone, Crosshair could clearly see the amount of bruising coming to life. Something heavy turned over in his stomach, making him feel as if he was going to be sick any second. He shook his head. “We’re definitely going to the hospital.”

“I don’t understand why we can’t just go home.” Her pained sobbing turned into a frustrated, defiant pout. “You seem to be able to take care of my hand.” He didn’t miss the rising frustration in her tone and didn’t even bother hiding his own.

Because-“ he emphasized “I am not a doctor and you clearly need medical assistance.”

He couldn’t allow any of her feeble negotiations. Even if it was against her wishes. If Hunter found out she wasn't getting the medical care she desperately needed, Crosshair was sure he had to find a new shared house to live in. But enduring other people than his family had never been his strong suit.

He put an additional pack of bandages behind his dashboard, ready for Omega to grab them should she need them. "Just don't bleed in my car." His voice was laced with more venom than he had anticipated. Maybe he indeed was a little disappointed about Omega. Most definitely, the disappointment stemmed from his own failure. After all, Omega had never shown any outburst without prior warning signs. Had it been their fault for thinking she made such good progress when she hadn't? Shouldn't they have allowed her to stop taking her medication so early? Soon his head was filled with more self-doubt and worry than he was used to. God damn it, being the mother hen was Hunter's job.

But now, Hunter was off limits. He worked across the states for a few days with Wrecker on some big project for the construction company. Cid, the pain in the ass, if he remembered correctly, had been pestering them for weeks to represent the company in another subcontracting business.

At first Hunter had been reluctant to let Omega alone with the rest of their brothers. The control freak he was, he thought they would accidently get her killed or something. Just a shattered hand and maybe permanent mental illness…nothing to worry about… Crosshair snorted to himself, shaking his head.

Even if Hunter wasn’t available, Echo, being the mom of the group, had always come second. But Echo wasn’t available either. Nor was Tech. Now it had been up to Crosshair to decide what to do, and he was utterly lost

His stomach twisted briefly as he placed the first aid kit next to her backpack on the back seat. They all knew the reason why she detested doctors and other medical personnel so much. The hot burning feeling in his stomach reappeared as he turned the ignition key in the lock. They all were quite literally sons of a bitch…

The old engine hummed quietly as he pulled out of the parking space. “If you were brave enough to punch a dent into that poor locker, you should be brave enough for the doctors.” Finding his way back to reality, he slowly worked his jaw and didn’t miss the way she wiped at her eyes with the sleeve.

Omega’s voice was quieter and more anxious than he had ever heard her speak before. “Will you stay with me?” another sniffle followed.

Crosshair tried hard to make an assuring face; eyes pierced on the road. “Of course, I will.”

“Promise?”

“I promise. Don’t worry.” Being an experienced driver, he looked away for a sec. Placing a hand on the side of her face and wiping away a tear with his thumb. “I’ll never leave your side.”  

---

His car was just turning into the overcrowded parking lot of the hospital when she started sliding back and forth on the seat, her injured hand clutched tightly and pressed to her chest. “Do we really have to tell Hunter?” Her voice was so hopeful that he almost had to laugh. “Maybe he won't notice?”

Finding a spot near the entrance, he turned the engine off. “I think there is no way you and I can avoid this.” He scoffed, leaning over her small figure, pushing the car door on her side open, all the while being careful to avoid her protective stance.

----

He didn't even want to imagine what he would be hearing from Hunter when he would return home. Though he guessed, Hunter wouldn’t leave him that much time. He feared he had to explain himself long before his two brothers made their way back.

Leaning back he fumbled for her wallet in the schoolbag and pulled out the insurance card he needed for the front desk. The elderly woman sitting behind the glass front was kind. She handed him an icepack for Omega’s hand and redirected them towards a waiting area.

There they sat. Probably for more than an hour or two…or maybe even three and still waited. Time seemed to behave differently inside the hospital, that was for sure. As if they were stuck in a weird time loop. Leaning against his arm, Omega’s breathing was finally regular. Peeking down, he saw her closed eyelids twitch in a dream. He couldn’t help but smile. He knew the feeling of exertion after adrenaline wore off too well. Back in the army, he had barely been able to keep his eyes open on the way back after a dangerous mission or exercise.

He almost jumped as she moved her head away from his shoulder. Omega gave him a tiny yawn and rubbed her uninjured hand over the eyes. The injured one laid in her lap, still covered by the ice pack. He gave into the instinct to feel if it was still cold enough.

"Sleep Well?"  

She yawned and stretched her arm and legs. Judging by her eyes, puffy and with deep purple circles, that didn't seem to be the case. He slid further back in the chair to position himself more comfortable as a support.

"Come here, lie back down. It will probably take a while."

"Mhkay" She nodded back and turned on her chair in his direction, legs pulled tight to her body. Her weight was distributed irregularly on his chest. He shifted, putting one hand on her back. Omega scooched around, trying to position herself a bit more comfortably.

With his sister half asleep on his chest, he somehow felt more at ease than he ever would have thought. Still, his thoughts wandered back to all sorts of bad places.

“Can I ask you something?” Sickening feeling returning, he didn't even know himself if he wanted to know the answer. She nodded weakly. "What did that little bastard say to you?" He was surprised at his own difficulty to articulate the words in his mouth. In any other case, he was never at a loss for a stupid comment or two.

He heard a deep sigh and wasn’t quite sure if he should regret his request. “He said something really nasty about me - but that wasn’t the reason I-”

He made a feeble attempt a punching something in the air. She nodded. “Yeah. It was because he said something about you guys.”

Crosshair raised his eyebrow in surprise. “About us?” He stared aghast at the top of her head. Counting his own breaths as well as Omega's.  

Her breath hitched. “He said it was no wonder that no one wanted me and my crippled brothers.” Tears of anger began to rise again, and he was dead sure, if they hadn’t been in a public waiting room full of other people, she would let them out; accompanied with a curse or two.

Small needles of ice seemed to rattle down on his skin. If someone insulted himself, that was fine, but if someone slandered his family, he would see red. Crosshair knew if he had encountered this kid in his school days, he certainly wouldn't have aimed his fist past him.

„I’m so sorry.“ her voice was shy and brittle. He began to draw wide reassuring circles between her shoulder blades.

“For what?“ he flat out asked, letting his hand travel up and down along her spine.

“I know I should have been more in control-“ Something awful made its way through his chest. “I just couldn’t help myself.”

“Hey, no- I understand.” Her eyes widened in disbelief. He nodded. “I get angry sometimes. Trust me, I get it.”

“But I never saw you do something like that.”

Although he knew Hunter, ever in control, would kick him out if he told her, he thought to risk it anyway. “Well, redecorating lockers had never been my field of expertise- but I got into a couple of nasty fist fights back in school.”

A ridiculous understatement. He couldn’t count the number of times he and his brothers were sent to the principal’s office for such an occasion. In fact, he and his brothers had been so unmanageable in the past that it never took much to trigger an outbreak of violence. He knew it wasn't their fault. Technically they had their bad upbringing to thank. He wasn’t ashamed of his past. Though it was still difficult for him to talk about this part of his life.

Omega recognized his disgruntled look not to ask further and let it go. Instead, her head lowered ear down to his chest again.

“I am your brother. I’ll always understand.” Somehow a protective instinct, he certainly hadn’t experienced much of those, overcame him and for a moment all he wanted, was the tension to subside. He tilted his head forward and pressed his mouth into her mop of curls. She sighed. Thank God the people in the waiting room didn’t know who he was.

He felt the chest pocket of his jacket shaking. Omega complained with a yip. He rested her head further to the side and fumbled out the phone. The vibration was gone, but instead of the call display, he now saw the messages on his phone scrolling.

39 messages in the family group chat. Dozens of private messages from each Hunter, Tech, and Echo, and -fucking hell- 14 unanswered calls from Hunter. He hadn't realized how much time had passed since he'd picked her up. It seemed the school hadn't just informed him of the incident. He swallowed loudly against the tightness of his throat. So loudly that Omega took her head off his chest and met his gaze dumbfounded.

“Speaking of brothers-“ He showed her the cascade of text and voice messages. She gulped. Just then, a new one came in.

Call me back Cross. ASAP.

He thought for a moment, but then typed back a cheeky reply. Relax “dad”. She’s fine.

Hunter didn't even give him a chance to blink. Crosshair was expecting that. The cell phone almost fell out of his hand at the vibration of his brother’s next announced call. Crosshair didn’t want to take the call, especially considering where he was, but it looked like Hunter left him no other choice. He swiped right and held it to his ear. Winching as Hunter’s agitated voice blared through the speaker.

“What do you mean she’s fine? School called” Words toppled over each other as his nerves ran wild. Was his voice shaking?? “They said she's injured- she punched a kid?” Ill-informed Hunter kept shouting. “I must speak to her.” his high-pitched, nervous voice reached a momentum. “Give her the phone Cross.”

"First of all, cut the yelling.” He hissed quietly. “Second of all, she didn’t punch anyone.” Judging by what he knew about that kid, would be gladder if she had.

He was sure that Omega, at least by the looks of it, had heard every goddamn word Hunter just said. He didn’t know if she looked more terrified of Hunter or the nurses that kept calling people into the assigned rooms. He could hear his older brother breathe heavily on the other end.

“What do you mean? Echo said the principle called him and he couldn’t reach you.” Even though he knew it had been just as much his fault for being absent, he cursed his one limbed bastard of a brother at that moment.

“I forgot-“ He admitted. “She didn’t punch a kid.” He paused, letting the silence wash over him. “She punched a locker.” He whispered, his other hand cupping at the microphone. “Apparently some asshole kid said something nasty, and she thought she had to protect our family honor.” He could clearly hear Wreckers loud and raspy laugh. At least one of them had fun with their situation. Hunter snapped at him.

“Cross-” he began to ask with pressing urgency. “Do you want me to come home?” 

Oh, for fucks sake. Hunter couldn’t help himself, could he? Although Crosshair couldn’t deny how nice it would be to pass this responsibility back to Hunter, he also didn’t want to look like a complete incompetent fool. He shook his head.

“No Hunter. We’re fine.” He doubted he would be satisfied by that answer. “She hurt her hand a little- but we’re already in the emergency room. She’ll be okay.” Hunters breathing at the mention of her injury and the ER became irregular again. Crosshair knew he had to reassure his brother quickly. “I’m not leaving her side. Don’t worry.”

His strained look changed into a tender smile. As much as he hated to admit it, it actually felt good talking to his brother. One could perhaps even say he missed- No, he wouldn’t let himself be that dramatic.

“Good to know.” Hunter seemed hesitant, mind probably running wild with self-proclaimed accusations. As usual. “Can you put Omega on the phone for me? I wanna check on her real quick.”

“Sure- Talk to you later.” He huffed.

“Thanks Cross, oh and next time: Check your damn phone.” Hunter said.

He rolled his eyes, tapping at Omega's shoulder and signaling her to take the phone. She hesitated. “Hi Hunter.” He could see tears rising in her eyes again. She sniffed. His brother on the other end sounded desperate. “Yah, ‘m fine.” She looked up at Cross. “ ‘M so sorry Hunter. I didn’t mean to-‘’ she started whimpering again. She listened intently as Hunters muffled voice continued to babble to her ear, making affirmative ‘Mhh’ sounds from time to time. “No, don’t come. It’s nothing really.”

Even Cross couldn’t be fooled by the obviously masked distress. Her head snapped as one of the nurses came into the waiting area.

"Omega Sé?” She called her name timidly into the crowd. Crosshair flinched but held his hand up, signaling their position. He hadn’t heard that last name since the custody hearing. He and his brothers preferred to use the surname of their father Jango. At least Jango, as uncaring and negligent as he was, had never been cruel.

Crosshair stood up, Omega already following. "I’m sorry, got to go.” She said, handing the phone back to her brother but at the last moment retracted her hand to press it once again onto her ear. “Yes” she bit at her lip. “Love you too.” She said quietly in what seemed like a little embarrassment and gave the phone back.

----

Once in the treatment room, Omega had done better than he ever thought. Perhaps she had known that if she was as behaved as possible, the procedure would be over quickly. Or maybe it was because the doctor who treated her was a distant cousin of theirs. Not that he looked particularly familiar to Crosshair, but he had seen him at several family gatherings, or at least that’s what he remembered.

Jango basically seemed to spread all his goddamn sperm around town. He mustered a dark chuckle. His numerous half-brothers and cousins were to be found almost everywhere. The city basically was flooded with golden skin and hazel eyes, wiping away any other genetic profile in the process.

Unfortunately, Crosshair was confirmed in the suspicion of his flippantly made diagnosis. Her two outer metacarpal bones were indeed broken. He heard the doctors get into a heated discussion about surgery considering her fractures. In the end, however, they opted for a cast. They must have seen how uncomfortable she was in their presence. Omega had been brave. Crosshair had reluctantly acknowledged to a certain warm feeling in his chest. Never once short of a word of affirmation if she had needed it. She held her Crosshair’s hand through the entire process, never once letting go.

---

Arriving back home, he carried her half-asleep, pain-ridden figure on the couch. One pillow under the head and one under her hand. She hadn’t even stayed awake long enough to see him tucking her in. He smiled to himself, gently smoothing over the pale blond hair, same as his. Falling asleep under the influence of painkillers had always been a blessing.

Hoping nothing else would come up, he left her there and went into the kitchen, to fetch her a glass of water. Afterward going upstairs and plucking the phone into his charger beside his bed. The screen light up with even more Text messages. He groaned, texting some of the more worried ones back.

Hunter had updated their family group chat, informing the others Crosshair took care of her.

Another one of Tech’s private message followed, asking him if he should leave early from work. No answer apparently meaning ‘No’ in his books; Tech hadn’t come.

As soon as that was done, he went to get showered and dressed for work. Though he sometimes missed the evenings with his brothers, he couldn’t deny being glad to get a short break after that particular day.

Unfastening the uppermost button, Crosshair made his way back downstairs. He caught a glimpse of Echo’s shoes at the doorstep drawing his gaze to Tech’s coat on their rack. Putting on his shoes and jacket, he went back into the dimly lit living room.

His short goodbye wave broke off, as Crosshair spied their three silhouettes on the sofa. He barely managed to stifle a laugh, getting shushed by Echo, who pointed at a still knocked out Omega. In further effort to comfort her, his two brothers had put her legs over Echo’s prostheses. Tech, sitting right next to Echo, held her feet, stroking repetitive patterns across the end of the blanket.

Crosshair couldn't really make out what his brothers were watching on the TV. Not that it mattered. The sound was turned down so low that he could barely hear more than a hiss.

He stood leaning against the doorframe, waving another goodbye to them. Tech pointed to his cell phone, indicating he had written him a message with further instructions. He nodded, only now remembering the papers Omega’s teacher had given him. He reached over the end of the sofa, handing them to Echo. His half-brothers glance fell a little as his eyes discovered the stamp of her school. He nodded, saluting him.

Crosshair turned around, and as quietly as possible, closed the front door behind him. Night air was fresh and breezy but pleasant. He closed his eyes, being thankful to finally be outside the sterile smell of the hospital.

Then something bright light up in front of his closed eyelids. He carefully opened them halfway, recognizing the headlights of the car that turned into their driveway immediately.

Somebody pinch me. That can’t be true, or could it? The smaller figure in the passenger seat quickly jumped out of the car.

“Hunter!” Crosshair said breathlessly staring dumbfounded ahead. “Couldn't help yourself, could you?”

His brother shot him a more-than-annoyed look, rushing over to Crosshair. He put one hand on Hunter’s chest, distancing him. “Where is she?” Hunter began the same nervous fumble with his hands Omega always did.

“Asleep on the couch.” He noticed his agitated eyes, staring eerily numb into his own. “I didn’t leave her alone. She’s with Echo and Tech now.” he quickly added in defense, waving back at the shadow behind Hunter. “Hi Wreck’ !”

A sharp intake of breath from Hunter made Crosshair's head jerk back.

“I- I know but as you mentioned the ER I just-” His raspy voice broke off. Under his firm grasp, he could feel the trembling of Hunters body. “I am her guardian Cross’- If anything happened-“  He tried to make an open gesture with his hands. Strength left him halfway and he dropped his hands.

Fuck.

He didn’t even know, that for someone with Hunter’s level of resilience, a break had even been in the realm of possibility. Usually, it was him or Wrecker who had to be comforted but today, Hunter seemed utterly distraught. Crosshair couldn’t help but to feel a little scared. For the second time that day, he was completely at a loss.

He felt his throat clench up. “I know. It’s okay really. She’s fine now.” He smoothed and tried to give a reassuring smile. His hand traveled up, cupping Hunter’s face and forcing him to look directly into Crosshair’s eyes.

After a few breaths, his brother seemed to regain his composure. He cleared his throat, pulling back and blinking into the darkness of their front lawn. “Where’ you even going?“

“To work!?” he glanced around in defense, palms up. “I’ve got to make money somehow.”

He saw that Hunter exhaled in relief and nodded, obviously thankful for the provided solace. The corners of his mouth finally drew upward in a smile, swiping the back of his hand over his eyes. “We’re not built the same.”

“Nope, We’re not.” He snorted, palming his pockets for the car keys and squeezing Hunter’s shoulder once more before he went to unlock his car. “Glad you’re back.”

---

“86,95 $” Echo said, handing Hunter the bill. He had been waiting for this part. Omega’s gaze fell embarrassed into her take out box of Chinese food Tech had ordered.

Hunter had been expecting this. Out of all the things that day he couldn’t gauge for, the bill about her incident had been certain. Schools never let you get away with anything. He scoffed; eyebrows raised. “For the Locker?”

Echo cleared his throat nodding, all the while side eyeing their little problem child. Suddenly Tech leaned forward, chiming in.

“Fuck they’re cheap…”

“TECH!” he thought he must have heard wrong. “Still the language? Even Crosshair has it under control now.” for the most part at least. But oh boy, getting his lovely bastards of brothers to stop the swearing in front of Omega had been a task for a lifetime.

Echo’s gaze seemed to find the same spot Omega stared at ever so intently.

Tech watching Hunter, readjusted his glasses. “Very sorry Hunter, Omega-“ She waved it off. “I meant they’re cheaper than had estimated them to be.”

A loud, dark chuckle thundered out of Wrecker’s chest. “For someone that makes you’re amount o’ money ‘M sure they are…”

Ever the notorious obstructionist, Tech shot Wrecker a short but meaningful look. “Wrecker, to be fair-“ he began, pausing, and Hunter knew nothing good followed after that. “If you would have taken that one math course in highschool- You could have made as much money as we do now.”

Hunter, not wanting to be part of that conversation, joined Omega’s and Echo’s glances to the floor.

“Pff- sure that would’a mad aaall the difference Dr. Smartass.” Wrecker snorted, earning a low growl from Hunter.

Tech stared at Wrecker as if he tried with all his might to hold his tongue, preventing another comment he had to apologize for afterward.

Omega's eyes danced between her brothers, only slightly amused that this fight wasn’t about her... yet. Hunter knew good parenting sometimes needed a strong lead to follow, but he wasn’t eager at all to pursue with something he didn’t a hundred percent stand behind.

“That’s enough-“ he sighed, running his hand through his dark curls.

“Well if Wrecker didn’t-“

Hunter emittet another dangerously low growl. “Shut it Tech-”

Noticing Hunter’s exasperation, Echo put his box of takeout on the living room table in front making a thud, that seemed to startle the aggravated silence. “Tell him the good news, Omega.”

Hunter knew that, judging by Echo’s testy tone, there were none. Omega shuffled in Wrecker’s half embrace, wiping her eyes with her left hand.

Hunter caught on before she could bother to say anything. “Detention?”

She nodded shyly, expression faltering. “A week…”

Hunter couldn’t stifle his aghast stare. Omega’s gaze deliberately didn’t look up to meet his.

Echo once again cleared his throat, leaning from behind Wrecker and nudging her shoulder. “And?”

Omega picked at a stray thread, hanging loosely off her sleeve. Now, that hand fumbling wasn’t an option anymore, she had to choose another coping mechanism. “Suspension.” 

Thoughts filled with records on her school files and court documents, he couldn’t suppress a groan. If someone took her because of his incompetence…He had to be the bad guy- even if she would hate him for it. Hunter couldn’t risk her getting taken away over a stupid incidence at school. He did his best to put on a disapproving paternal voice.

“Ughh great Omega-“ He reached around to tighten his coming apart bandana. “What a trick shot.”

Karma, being a bitch, as always, came to claim a part of Hunters soul, as he heard her swallow a sob. “I’m so sorry. I know I messed up.”

Did she though? Hunter remembered doing way worse things that just punching lockers…

“HEY!” Wrecker, being the giant softie he was, pulled Omega closer, holding his fork out at Hunter. “Don’t make the kid cry.”  He looked as if he wanted to throw fists. Eyebrows furrowed, face set in stone, Hunter knew Wrecker was in for it.

Thankfully, Echo managed to break any further altercation. “We have to talk about this Wrecker.” He sat back, prosthesis hurting after a prolonged period of crouched posture. “Don't let her tears fool you. You're too soft.”

Hunter didn’t know if he would agree with that kind of sentiment. Echo had been full army vet. Understanding, if the situation required it, but also strict when needed to be.

“Well none o' you are.” Wreckers grasp became firmer, shielding her from her brothers appraisals. “Show the kid some love god damnit. She jus' broke her hand. What the hell is wrong with you guys?”

That had been a sentiment Hunter could get himself behind, but he had the responsibility after all. The thought of Omega being whisked away to proposed safety knocked the air out of him.

Tech readjusting his glasses, appeared to find his voice again. “ I think Wrecker might be on to something here” A statement that they certainly didn't hear too often. “Traumatic experiences such as bodily harm shouldn't be consoled by mindless yelling. Even Crosshair seemed to be aware of that.”

Why, why for god’s sake couldn’t Crosshair be here? He could have told Hunter what was right, what was wrong. Cracked jokes about Hunter’s insecurities, just to ease the mood a little. Being the voice of reason for a family of six was more than exhausting sometimes.

His hand traveled to his neck, massaging the tight muscels. “It's just...Omega what were you thinking?”

Hunter didn’t miss the way, Wrecker gingerly pushed her toward him. The most emotional intelligent of them all, he knew when a reconciliation was on it’s way.

Omega's eyes still didn’t find the bravery to look up into Hunters. Her shoulders drooped as she sniffled again, wiping tears away with her sleeve until Tech reached around, handing her a Kleenex box. “I dunno”

She swallowed heavily, and Hunter knew he couldn’t resist any longer. With a -shush- he drew her into his arms, careful not to bristle against her cast. Cradling her head, he traveled his hand up and down her spine.

“Are you angry at me?”

His heart clenched. Heck, his entire body did. He tried his best not to let it on. Reaching underneath her chin, he finally forced her eyes to meet his. He couldn't let this go on any longer. Who was he kidding? He shook his head. “No kid-“

Finally, the truth.

“Guess I’m glad you’re not hurt any worse.”

Relieved tears rolled down her cheeks and onto his cupping grasp. He pulled her back onto his chest, concluding that a broken hand was enough of a punishment for now.

This, figuring things out as a family...was way harder than Hunter could have ever imagined.

---

Takeout boxes piled up on the pushed aside living room table. Close to Omega's sleeping body stood a Kleenex packet, indicating that much had been discussed during the night. Sometimes Crosshair was annoyed, about missing such important moments. Even if Wrecker, Hunter, Echo, or Tech would later report on what had gone on, it just wasn't the same. 

He smiled at the sight of his passed-out siblings. Omega, in the same position he had left her in now snuggled close to Hunter. Tech still held her feet in his grip. For a brief moment, he thought about pulling out his smartphone to take a picture. Reluctantly, he had to admit that the sight of his sleeping brothers and sister was cute? He cringed as the word came up in his head.

Instead, he sidled over to Omega. Her head lolled on the armrest of the couch. Breathing in and out deeply lost in a dream world, her injured hand lifted on her stomach. He bent down, trying to brush the hair from her forehead, as he had observed Echo do many a times before. She looked so eerily peaceful. Quite grotesque as he considered the emotional turmoil she had to endure yesterday. 

He was about to move into the kitchen to fetch himself a cup of coffee and set out breakfast for the others, when a small hand grabbed his wrist from behind. He turned and instinctively sank to his knees. Omega blinked, pressing his hand to her cheek. At his ginger thumb strokes she sighed, closing her eyes again.

“Hey-“ he whispered, just loud enough that only the two of them understood his words. “How are you?”

She nodded bravely, trying to fool him with a put-up smile. Crosshair knew better. He recognized that pale, embarrassed, empty look in her eyes. It displayed pain. A sharp sensation blossomed in his throat, making it hard to breathe for a moment. He swallowed against it.

Once in the hallway, he decided to turn back around to catch another, quick glimpse of the huge cuddle pile. Omega had closed her eyes again, holding her head against Hunter's sleeping chest.

Argh- something in him couldn’t resist. Cut had said kids make a man soft, but this much?

He rolled his eyes, pulling his smartphone out and switching it to camera mode. Cursing his entire existence, he realized too late that he hadn't switched the flash from his camera off. He quickly retracted it, as the bright light abruptly illuminated the room. 

Somehow, he had already feared that this incident would not go past his siblings unnoticed. Hunter's eyes shot open, bristling against Echo, who jerked upright. Omega yelped as she almost fell off the couch. 

Damn military reflexes.  

However, Tech and Wrecker were unaffected. As always. Grinning, he remembered all the drills Wrecker had slept through or the amount of trouble Hunter and he had waking Tech up. Sometime into their service, the pair had gotten into the habit of physically dragging Tech out of bed, since nothing else seemed to disturb his sleep in the slightest. Crosshair envied that trait.

Hunter, slowly finding his way back to reality, glanced at Omega's cast. Eyes growing, half-tattooed face rippling under the same panic that Crosshair had seen yesterday. Hunter gently grabbed Omega's shoulders, straightening her up.

Crosshair, once again, had a pressing feeling to intervene quickly.

“Hunter calm down. Nothing serious happened, right?” He tried to soothe, tone pressing on the last words. Hunter, being Hunter, saw it differently of course.

He knew he couldn’t be of help anymore…or maybe he just wasn’t in the mood of another discussion. Sleep deprivation really didn't do him any good. He bit his tongue for a snarky remark and went to their medicine cabinet, scrambling some medications together. After that, he went to the kitchen, to grab her a slice of toast and a glass of orange juice. He hoped that would help her get the nasty tasting pills down.

Hunter was quietly mumbling words of reassurance to Omega as he rejoined their bunch in the living room. Crosshair sat down to Hunter’s feet on the floor. Omega bristled at the sight of her breakfast. He placed the pills in her open hand. She was about to pop them in her mouth when he tapped the slice of toast.

“Not on an empty stomach kid.” He said, trying not to sound exhausted. He almost stumbled over his own words. He'd never called her kid before. That had been Hunter’s, Echo’s or Wrecker’s thing, but it just somehow came naturally and even before he could think about it twice. Omega also noticing his change of demeanor, took the piece from his hand. Under his watchful gaze she began chewing at it. Mumbling a ‘Thank you’ between the mouths full of toast.

Omega wrinkled her nose at the way the pills tasted, but he quickly handed her the glass of juice. She chugged the glass down in one go, as if it was liquid salvation. He saw Hunter's arm kneading her shoulder lightly. He met Crosshair's gaze, eyes finally a little more settled and almost back to how Crosshair usually knew them.

“Glad you're back-” he said as a touché.

Chapter Text

He couldn’t deny that her tiptoeing around the couch where Crosshair slept wasn’t adorable. He glanced over from the kitchen table towards the living room. Wrecker had never seen his youngest brother that exhausted. After breakfast, Crosshair hadn’t even made it upstairs to their shared bedroom. Must have been a rough shift… poor guy.

He cooed at the way Omega had picked up the coziest blanket of the pile near the foot of the couch, and carefully had draped it over him. Freezing every time, he stirred in his sleep. She gingerly reached around, tucking the loose corners under his feet. She put an extra pillow next to his head, careful not to touch him in any way.

After a few months of living together, Omega was still quite reserved when it came to Crosshair. Wrecker had considered whether she sensed Crosshair's initial hostility and therefore only approached him in a distant way. He knew his brusque manner could make the kid feel unsure. He loved his brother but damn sometimes he couldn’t deny Crosshair to be an asshole.

Ever since Crosshair’s initial reaction of shock over learning about her existence and the subsequent detatchment, he had changed. Although not much, he could tell that Omega slowly won Crosshair over. Wrecker knew that most of Crosshair's grumpiness wasn't genuine. Unfortunately, Omega didn't. Wrecker had to remind her again and again not to take it to heart.

He’ll come around kid-

He always said, cupping Omega’s downbeat looking face. Wrecker was sure he would. Out of all the brothers, Crosshair was probably the softest. He just knew how to hide it. He smiled at this thought. The kid should feel comfortable with them, and he would do everything she needed to feel that way. Even if it required arguing with his moody bastard of a brother.

She looked back, nodding and smiling, hands pressed into her sides, seemingly happy with her work. Wrecker showed her a thumbs up and waved her towards himself and the others. She quietly closed the door upon entering the small kitchen where the rest had gathered.

Omega looked up at Tech who stretched out to reach the kitchen clock, hanging on the wall.

“I think that’s the last one.” He said, gently sliding the clock out of its holding position and turning it over. He manipulated the backside, trying to get the battery pack to open, whilst emitting grunting sounds and some swears. Hunter rushed over covering Omega’s ears. Wrecker laughed.

Poor kid- they’d ruin her…

With a few angry glances, and a couple of warnings, Hunter finally gave him a butter knife. “Tech, I beg you- stop the cursing in front of Omega.”

Her face dropped into an emotionless expression. "I don’t mind.” She gave a tiny shrug.

“But I do-“ Hunter cut her off. “Really smart people don’t have to curse.”

“I object-” Tech put in. “The use of rhetorical profanities are by no means a sufficient reason to measure someone's intelligence.” He smugly smiled as the battery case popped off.

Omega huffed and took a chair besides Wrecker. He put his enormous palm around her small figure. He couldn't help but smile as she immediately leaned into him.

“Tell me again.” She reached for one of the alarm clocks on the table in front of her. “Why are we doing this?” She turned the little wheel on the backside, lost in a thought.

All eyes immediately turned to Tech, resetting the time on the kitchen clock. Being the smartest usually left the teaching moments to him. Wrecker himself at least didn’t know that much about this subject, never being a stan of biology, geography, or anything else they taught in schools. Only thing he knew was: once in half a year he’d get up sooner and once he’d get up later. Needless to say, he enjoyed the latter.

“Because its daylights saving time.” Tech’s eyes lit up at the opportunity to impart knowledge. He adjusted his glasses.

“Yes, I know that but why?” her voice sounded desperate. Wrecker playfully pinched her shoulder. Tech rolled his eyes, impatient frown turning into a smile.

“Daylight Saving Time is the practice of changing the clocks forward one hour from Standard Time during the summer months and moving them back again in the fall. The general idea is that this allows us to make better use of natural daylight.’’ He paused for a short time at her pensive face. “If we turn the clocks forward in the spring, this grants us more daylight during the summer evenings. If we move the clocks backward one hour in the fall, this gives us more daylight during the early winter mornings. It is all about energy efficiency.” He concluded rather pleased with himself, turning around to hang the clock back up.

Omega nodded. Putting down with what she played with while simultaneously reaching for the cup of tea Echo had made her. “It is because of the earth’s rotation, isn’t it?”

Wrecker didn’t know he fully understood, but Omega seemed to catch on pretty quick. Wrecker was incredibly proud of her smartness, though she clearly hadn’t gotten it from him. The first few months after her rescue from Nala Sé, Tech had made it up to him to teach her all the education she had missed over the years. He was a good teacher, and she was a smart kid, but they all knew she had to go back to school eventually. Wrecker’s heart ached a little at that. His own school memories weren’t the best, but he at least had his brothers present. Omega would not. Tech’s voice distracted Wrecker from the usual despair.

“Precisely but not solely.” Tech fell into his usual thinking face, eyebrows drawn together, upper lip curled up. “Seasonal shifts in the length of a day come from Earth's off-kilter rotation. This means that while the Equator usually enjoys roughly twelve hours of both day and night, the same isn't true for the remaining latitudes."

She cupped her face in her hands looking astounded at his face. Wrecker’s mind twisted a little. He made a mental note to google what latitudes are later. His brother babbled on and on about how sun was leaning to earth...or was the other way around? And how it made more light that way and stuff.

Well, he didn't remember, and he couldn't help but feel that a pungent part in his heart said he should have. Truth was, he had never ever felt so unsure about himself since Omega had come to live with them. Though she obviously liked his company, he couldn't shake the feeling that something was missing.

The urge of stepping outside for a bit overwhelmed him. Maybe he just needed a bit of fresh air. Yeah, that must be it right?

He stumbled out, leaving the dumbfounded gazes of his siblings to travel after him. Wrecker did his best not to make too much noise to avoid waking Crosshair up. The last thing he was after, was discussions.

Unfortunately, he only got a few breaths of fresh air in peace. The porch door behind him swung open and he could immediately tell which feet these old clunky shoes belonged. Before the person behind him could open their mouth, he was quicker.

“Hunter, you don't have to go after me.” His voice dropped into his stomach, leaving him with a queasy feeling. “I wanna be alone.”

He didn't know why his brother wouldn't leave him be. Whenever one of the others needed time off, Hunter respected that. But with himself, no such thing. Hunter crossed his arms standing opposite, casually leaning against the railing. Wrecker knew Hunter could look right through him. For all he knew, his brother was some kind of human lie detector- so what's the point of fooling him?

“Is it about Tech’s science lesson? If so then don't worry.” his laugh was warm and kind, offering a comfort he gladly took. “I'm sure I didn't understand a single thing he just said.”

They both shared a laugh together, then his gaze faltered. “No, that’s not it.” He tried to sound brave but couldn't quite mask the quivering upsetness in his expression.

His brother slowly shuffled closer. “What’s wrong? You seemed fine before, right?”

He nodded eagerly. Unsure about how to phrase the next sentences. “It's just-” He broke off, courage faltering to carry on. He harbored a breath. Being in the army, risking his life on countless dangerous missions being faced with death more than he could even remember, and this was the thing causing him so much trouble?

Hunter didn’t take his gaze of Wreckers face. “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want. It’s okay Wreck’”

But he did want to. He just didn’t know how to. He gulped, finally making some sense of his feelings. “...You can all give her somethin’…but I can't. 'M not smart like Tech, nurturing like Echo, confident like Crosshair or-“ He swallowed loudly. He couldn’t deny feeling facilitated after keeping his grudge in for so long. “Compassionate just like you.”

Hunter’s gaze grew more aghast. Saying nothing, Wrecker concluded to keep speaking. “I can give her nothin’” Something wet brimmed his eyes. “I'm clumsy and big and every time she hugs me, I'm afraid I might hurt her just like…Nala.”

Her name came out of his mouth before he even had the chance to rethink it. Denying the existence of their mother wouldn’t do him any good. Wrecker knew that much. The more he tried to forget, the more the thoughts of her and their time at her house surfaced.

His eyes locked to his feet in shame. He knew how Hunter looked at him right now and he wasn't eager to meet his gaze. Wrecker didn't know why he had kept it for himself. To his surprise he heard a quiet chuckle. His gaze lifted off the ground.

His brother tried to be serious, but something seemed to have gripped him. He made several attempts to regain his composure. “That’s- You're- That’s insane-” he started several times, still not capable of continuing.

Irritation burned its way through Wrecker's chest. Why was his problem so amusing to him? Ugh, he rolled his eyes, rather one eye, turning to the small garden bit in front of their house. “’M glad you find it funny.”

Looking intently at their neighbors’ houses, he focused not to shed any more tears. Wrecker’s head dropped as he felt Hunter’s hand on his shoulder. He resisted the instinct to shove it off.

“Do you really think that?” Hunter’s tone had dropped, to something entirely opposite to his prior amusement.

Wrecker gave a feeble nod. Hunter scooched even closer, dangerously close to hugging distance. He sniffed. Hunter’s grasp became stronger, slowly shoving Wrecker around to look into his face.

“Sorry but that is the most absurd thing you ever said to me.”

"Why?" Wrecker sniffed, still not entirely convinced.

Hunter cleared his throat, eyes searching his. “Because for one, you're one of the gentlest and kindheartedpeople I've ever met-“ He wouldn’t know if he’d agree with that- “You could never hurt a fly.” He wanted to protest. He did. In war, they all had. Hunter continued, apparently not being able to be deterred in the slightest. “And most importantly- she adores you already. Just the way you are.”

Wrecker’s mouth twitched into something he didn’t recognize. Hunter’s hand pulled away, slowly making his way back to their porch door. “You don't have to change. Not for us. We're family.”

Family.

He had to blink heavily as the door fell shut with a slight creak. His stomach rumbled in turmoil, making him feel sick and dizzy at the same time. Hunter had listed the reasons against his mounting insecurity off, as if it were the most natural thing in the entire world. He managed to wipe a tear, whilst still gripping at the railing. Afraid if he let go, he’d lose the ground under his feet entirely.

Family.

Maybe Hunter had been right. Maybe he was enough.

 

Chapter Text

Omega wished Hunter was there. He at least always tried to understand and listen. Be reprimanding on one hand but entirely just on the other. But Hunter was still at work, along with Wrecker and Tech. Normally Echo would hear her out and be fair like that too, but today was different.

She wasn’t blind. Omega had noticed his agonized expression at breakfast. She knew that he sometimes had something like a ghost pain- or what did Hunter called it again? Omega always forgot the name. It made his limbs ache, causing him to grimace and feel miserable. No need to say putting on prosthetics was just a torture then. Omega had been very fearful and worried about Echo’s bad days, but after coming to live with them for such a long time now, she knew he would eventually feel better the next day.

Omega was aware, that he tried to downplay it as best as he possibly could. Somehow, Echo seemed to think there was such a thing as privacy in a house full of six. Although he tried to hide it, she wasn’t the one to be easily fooled.

At breakfast, Omega had seen the drink and pills Tech had set out for Echo. Long white oval shaped tablets with a ridged in the middle. She couldn’t hide her worry. She had asked Echo about them, and he denied her fear, quickly swiping them away from the table. Her mind grew uneasy, thinking she had been giving him the feeling as though he must hide these things from her.

Now Echo stood in the aftermath of an explosive yell across from her. Red faced, shouting, and widened pupils. Needless to say, she was scared as heck.

Coming back from school only moments ago, Omega had dropped her backpack at the entrance. She went to take off her jacket, hanging it at the end of the hallway besides the stairs, stupidly without taking her shoes off first.

Echo came out strutting from the living room, stopping and face darkening as he noticed her muddy soles. Omega immediately came to regret it. Cursing with herself, she knew that Echo didn’t like her dirty shoes on the carpet. But sometimes she just forgot. This time, he didn’t let it slide.

“Omega- How many times do I have to tell you to leave your dirty shoes at the door?” She gasped a little, looking at his face, dumbfounded at his nasty tone he usually reserved for one of his brothers. His eyes narrowed into slits. Omega couldn’t oversee the way he held his hand clenched at his thigh. “Are you even listening to me?” He asked, piercing resentment inherent in each letter.

He moved towards her. Out of instinct she took a few steps back. Omega had her eyes sheepishly locked onto her feet. Yup, something definitely is wrong about him today.

“Sorry.” she said jokingly in a funny put-on voice. She thought it would be able to shake off his bad mood a little, it at least always had before. Instead, this time, it seemed as if he had taken it much too personal.

He bent down to her level, six foot of rage towering over her. He pointed his index finger nearly in her face. “Not in that tone. You do that every time.” Voice becoming louder, Echo‘s eyes grew wild- “I'm not going to let you get away with this anymore.”

Her heart dropped into her stomach. She had never seen him this upset with her. She swallowed. “Echo, I am really sorry. I’ll clean that up. I promise.” She tried to smooth, waiting for a hug coming in, it didn’t. Maybe he’d misunderstood, but nothing she could say or do today would change anything.

“No. I'll do it.” his voice sounded strained and tense, like he was trying to hold himself together. “Just go upstairs.” He pinched the bridge of his nose and grew silent, heading for the kitchen. Omega noticed how Echo’s arm pressed firmly against the outer part of his thigh.

She felt awful about making him upset. Maybe mother had been right-

Omega contemplated following his orders. In the end, she decided against it. She wanted to help her brother, who not only seemed hurt but whom she apparently had made very upset. It just wouldn’t feel right. Besides she knew he couldn’t bend properly with the chunky metal legs even on good days. Omgea could only imagine what it must felt like on this kind of day.

He came back out, angered pain still clearly visible in his face. He rolled his eyes at her tensed figure. She rushed over to him, wanting to pull the bucket and rag out of his hands, pulling him into a forced hug, but she miscalculated.

Instead of holding the handle of the bucket in her hand, she had dropped it. The bucket tumbled with a loud clonk on the floor, water soaking the ground beneath their feet.

“Oh gosh darn it.” She exhaled. Omega didn’t want to look up. As soon as the wetness started absorbing into her socks, the first tears fell. Immediately she started mumbling apologies.

Color rose back into Echo’s face, she saw him close his eyes and exhale. But as he’d opened them back again, Oh boy- “Look at the mess you made.”

“’M not blind-“ She mumbled, trying her hardest not to cry under his accusatory glance.

His breath hitched and his voice became louder, words tumbling over each other as they left his mouth. “Upstairs with you now!”

Omega stood there as if rooted to the spot. She wanted to say something snarky back, like Crosshair always did, but her mind seemed empty. He had never yelled at her like this before.

She knew somewhere deep down that it was not her fault alone, it couldn't be, could it? What if it was? What if they hated her so much now that they would send her back? What if she found herself back in the ugly, abusive clutches of her mother? She suppressed a sob and swallowed the lump in her throat away.

As she heard the door to Crosshair's room open, one tear rolled out of her eye in fright.

Oh great, she thought. A seeping, burning hot feeling making its way through her intestines. Now two of her brothers would hate her guts.

 “What's all the yelling about?” Crosshair stood in pajamas at the other end of the stairs. Half asleep gaze questioningly springing between Omega’s and Echo’s figures.

Omega ignored him for the time being. “It's not fair” She croaked back to Echo. “I didn't do anything- I was just trying to help.” Her voice failing on the last words. Tears she would have loved to hide seemed to float ominously close to the surface again.

Nothing she could do would make this situation better for herself. She wasn’t experienced enough in conversing with adults to know what would come next.

“Life isn’t fair. Suck it up already and quit the crying.” He didn’t look angered anymore. It was way worse than that.

Worse than anything she had ever seen before. He didn’t look like her smiley half-brother, always there to give comfort. A safe haven for any amount of trouble she could harbor. NO.

He looked resolute, shell like, empty. His sunken in features becoming more prevalent as he lost any amount of care in his voice. Fiery, wild eyes now turned to black smoke, not even focusing on what surrounded him anymore.

It was absolutely horrendous.

Under Echo's probing gaze, Omega slowly turned toward the stairs and trudged up. Feet, as if made of lead, lifting with difficulty off the steps.  Her hands clenched tightly into fists and pressed to her side. Brushing against Crosshair as she went up, she let out a tiny whimper.

As soon as she pulled open the door toward the attic stairs, Omega heard Crosshair yelling back at Echo. She paused, waiting for Crosshair to agree with Echo. But that wasn’t the case.

“Have you gone mad?” he sneered, Crosshairs voice almost quivering through the tense air.

"She keeps walking in with dirty shoes.” Echo growled, falling silet afterwards.

Omega craned her head to take more in. She heard Crosshairs exasperated sigh that always followed his infamous eyeroll. “And? What does that fucking matter?”

“I keep telling her not to. But as long as I’m not Hunter, she’ll never respect me.”

“Is that what your upset about?” Crosshair chuckled darkly- venom seeping through every letter. “That you’re not her favorite parent?”

“Go fuck yourself, Crosshair.” Echo’s voice became louder again.

“Lovely Echo-“ Deep baritone growing equally as loud.  “Know what, while you’re ahead, just tell her the same.”

"Why the fuck do I put up with you guys?" Echo moaned, trudging prosthetic feet shuffling into the living room, shutting the door with such a force, that Omega felt it on the railing of her stairs.

----

His feet lifted from the steps with difficulty. Each step accommodated by a sigh. He wasn't the one who, like Tech, read all the parenting books or, like Hunter, had a God-given intuition to know what she needed right now.

To be exact, Crosshair was exceedingly and completely overwhelmed with the situation. But after the nasty fight with Echo, he couldn't leave Omega alone. As careless as he was about anything else, he had that much sense of responsibility, after all.

His mind twisted, wondering what had gotten into Echo. He knew his phantom pain was a bitch sometimes, but nevertheless Echo would never ever speak to anyone of them like that. Let alone his baby sister he adored so much.

Normally when the mood and pain got worse, he would take pain killers, lie down for a bit, and then be back to his old self. Having a child around sometimes was hard. It had taken a lot of adjustment for each of them, but Echo appeared to be best with her. Like a mother goose, he loomed over her. Always having words of kindness and affection to offer should she require it. This couldn’t be about her-

He came to a close on the last step. His mind running wild with sudden awareness of what really had been going on. Crosshair mumbled nasty profanities to himself for having misjudged the situation so profusely. This had never been about her or her silly dirty shoes.

This was about Fives.

He winced, not fully coming to a conclusion on turning back and tending to Echo first. The decision was stripped from his shoulders when he heard a small but indistinguishable sob from behind the door.

He raised his hand and knocked timidly on her door. Every time, his knuckles contacted the wooden board, he thought of retrieving his hand in defeat, but then being gripped by something he could only explain as concerned determination. Once, twice he gruntingly thought she would let him stand outside. But at the third time knocking, he heard a quiet call from inside.

Crosshair opened the door with a creak. His farsightedness searched around the room for her small stature. Omega was crouched over her desk, head between her palms and elbows on the table. She didn’t even move in the slightest as he pushed the door open.

Either she tried to read, or she tried to hide. He guessed on the latter. He moved towards her, approaching in a careful stance ready to take a step back if Omega should show him he needed to. “How are you?”

Omega twitched her shoulders, still not turning away from whatever was laying on the table. Crosshair saw her arched back rising and falling in short, shaky breaths. He knew she tried to convince him otherwise, but he could clearly tell the confused sadness rising in her core.

Damnit Echo...

Omega was usually not someone brought to tears very easily. Crosshair crouched besides her desk, watching her hidden face from behind the brought-up forearms closely. Her lips quivered.

“He just needs time for himself.” He tried to sound reassuring- this thing was still so new to him…

Not at all satisfied by what he just said, she gripped her book and slammed it shut. Sitting back in the desk chair, she crossed her arms and huffed. He couldn’t help to think that, besides the impacts of the fight with Echo seemed to have on her, she looked downright…adorable?! Ew.

“But I was gone all morning and almost the whole noon.” She brought her lips forward in a shaking pout.

Crosshair slowly blinked, his mind switching to the last memory of his half-brother. The image of him standing at the outside of the tent, rifle raised, when- he shuddered, ptsd coming in hot. Crosshair recomposed his fallen gaze. “For some things that just isn't enough Omega.”

Her pout only grew. “I only tried to help. It's not fair.”

Muffled tears she tried to conceal from him rose to the foreground. He could hear the lump swelling in her throat. He carefully extended his arm, remembering the pamphlet Tech had sent him about some how-to-calm-your-child bullshit. Although admittedly not written for little sisters who had to be rescued from the abusive clutches of their mother and now had to live with five adult army vets. But nevertheless, he had read it, and it actually had been insightful- not that he would ever admit that.

“It has nothing to do with you.” he tried to explain, drawing his long fingers between her shoulder blades, just like the brochure had suggested. She met his eyes in confusion. “Trust me.”

-----

Omega stumbled down the stairs. Crosshair in tow at first but then he seemed to ultimately decide not to partake in the upcoming conversation. He turned to the kitchen as Omega headed for the living room where Echo's voice emitted.

Something in Omega hated him for that. She could have used his guidance now more than ever. She made her way across the carpet, stopping at the bucket and old rag, that both hadn’t moved an inch since they last stood there. The soft floor beneath her socks still grossly wet her socks.

She just wanted to open her mouth to speak but then heard his voice first and entirely froze.

“Is just- I miss him. Nothing more-“

It didn’t need much guessing as to whom he was calling.

Her stomach turned. Crosshair had been right. This really wasn’t about her. Although she should have been incredibly relieved, something nagging still remained.

If the situation had been about her, she could have at least done something about it. But this was out of her control and Omega, entirely outmatched with her lack of experience, didn’t know what to do now.

She had never in her life even seen an adult sad. Well, except for Wrecker. That guy seemed emotional about everything. She wouldn’t have it any other way though. Each and everyone of her brothers was perfect just as they were, and she loved them all dearly. That’s why, she concluded, she should at least try to attempt to help his situation.

As soon as he had finished the call, she thought to herself. Then she would be brave enough to confront him. He should take the time he needed.

She heard him sniffle heavily. Standing behind him, hidden out of sight, she could see he repeatedly brought the stump to his face. Hunters muffled sounds on the other end seemed calm.

“I know it’s not her fault Hunter.” Another heavy sniff. This time, she suspected, not towards grief but towards regret. “Yeah, I promise I’ll make up for it.”

He lowered his stump toward the armrest. Hunter's voice at the other end murmured something in between and then became quiet. A farewell, she realized. “See you at dinner mate-”

He huffed a stuffy sounding laugh and clicked his Smartphone shut. She saw him rub his face with the hand that had occupied the phone mere seconds earlier, massaging his temple.

Omega slowly shifted her weight into the tips of her feet, ready to come closer. Her strides became quicker as she saw him struggle to get up.

''Echo I'm -" she broke off, her speech sounded hoarse. She didn't dare to look up from the ground standing opposite to the armchair, afraid that maybe -just maybe- he was still angry.

"No kid- I have to apologize" He intervened letting himself fall back again; arm stretched out. He grabbed her wrist, gently pulling her closer until she was standing right where his knees once had been. He gestured towards his lap. Nothing left of the previous anger.

She carefully sat atop his thighs, avoiding to bristle against the ends. He put his arm around her, gingerly forcing her head to his chest. Rocking back, they snuggled into a reclined position.

Wanting to show him just as much love and forgiveness, Omega gently brought her hand up to his stubbled jaw. She nearly jerked.

Normally he would have made an effort to shave, like Tech or Crosshair. She rarely saw either of them like Echo now. She stroked her thumb slowly across his jawline, in, what she had hoped, would be a comforting gesture.

Her eyes traveled from the shadow of his beard upward. Omega shuddered, never having ever seen anyone look that horrible. His gaze was strained and hollow, like something might have tried to snag him out of his consciousness and nearly succeeded.

The only thing to say that came to her mind was the one thing she always wished someone asked her when things were looking grim. “What’s wrong Echo?” she kept her voice low, imitating Hunter whenever he had spoken to her when she had been upset.

She heard him gulp. His good hand gripped her tighter to press her further into himself.

“Omega, did anyone ever tell you what happed before we came back from our duty?”

The vibration of his voice box shook against her head. She bit her lip in thought. “Well, I asked Hunter a couple of things but he mostly doesn't answer what I want to know. He doesn't like telling me about the army.” she remembered his clearance about that particular topic. “-but I once asked Tech about the service you did. I know that you guys were in the same division with a couple of our other brothers. Nothing more.”

She emitted a breath she didn't know she was holding. Omega knew better than to press Hunter for information he clearly did'n want to share. “-As Hunter found out, he was very mad.” she quickly added, thinking back on the amount of trouble Tech had gotten himself into after their conversation.

Echo huffed a laugh. “Yeah, I can picture that.” He pressed his mouth on top of her hair and she felt all the anger ebbing away. She closed her eyes with a blissful sigh. “You see, Hunter just wants to protect you- but I think we should tell you more instead of leaving it up to imagination. You're a big girl after all.”

Omega nodded eagerly, curiosity getting the best of her. She felt his chest rise and fall.

“It was the last week before our mission ended. We were packing up the medical base. A helicopter would have picked us up in a few hours when we were suddenly attacked.” She recognised his blank eyes, despair matching his monotone talk. “Gunships flew over us and destroyed our camp. I had just loaded something into a crate when the roof collapsed on top of me. I don't remember much more than that, unfortunately.”

He paused meaningfully. She heard his heartbeat approaching tachycardia. “It wasn't until I woke up back at the hospital that I saw how badly I was actually hurt. Your brothers were there for me. Fortunately, nothing significantly bad happened to them.”

Omega fixed her eyes on his. She saw something glancing near his lash line.

“But you know, my own brother-“ Echo‘s breath hitched, and he looked towards the ceiling, blinking. “His name was Fives. He was my best friend-“

Omega had never seen an adult cry before. Some part of her was deeply shaken and terrified at his vulnerable sight. Another part, she admitted with biting resentment, was proud with being entrusted with such sensible information.

“It's okay to be sad.” She told him, reciting the same thing her therapist always told her. Omega straightened up and curled her arms around him, mimicking the circles between her shoulder blades Wrecker and Tech always drew on her. “I'm here with you.” She whispered into his ear, rocking from side to side on top of him to intermit his low, guttural, hitching breath.

His trembling torso shook her entire upper body. Omega held him for what seemed to her like hours. She kept drawing circles and snake lines with her index finger. Fixating on a simple task to give her some security. After a while of further sniffling and shaking, he retracted to mimicking her motions on his back. She couldn't deny that it felt nice. Relief nearly coaxed her into a sob as well.

Focused with their attempts of painting invisible patterns on each others backs, Omega almost jumped at his low voice. He cleared his throat. “You know what we should do now?”

She nodded. “Clean the carpet!” she said jokingly in return. Together they shared a laugh. It was short lived but honest. She was relieved he had found some happiness again, be it only for a moment. But that was enough. For now, at least.

Chapter Text

“Ughhh this again?” Crosshair made his way down the stairs. Groaning at the decorations Wrecker had delicately placed along the banister the day before.

“Shush Cross, don’t ruin her first Christmas.“ Echo said, holding a wooden spoon out with a threatening gesture.

Crosshair held his hands up in defeat and went to the side window, trademark audible sigh and eyeroll following, of course. “Gosh darn it.”

Echo knew that he wanted to say something else, but on behalf of Omega cutting out Christmas cookies with Echo on the kitchen table, he thankfully kept his sailors mouth shut.

Crosshair stared brows furrowed at Hunter and Wrecker, hanging up Christmas lights around their small house. Wrecker had found them in the renovation process of the attic they fixed up for Omega. It had been full of useless crap that once belonged to their great uncle ninety-nine. It was bittersweet holiday. Their first ever with Omega, but sadly without ninety-nine.

Echo knew Crosshair only hated Christmas so much, because it reminded him of his lost parental figure. As if sensing his thoughts, Crosshair turned to Echo. The both of them shared a knowing gaze. Echo thought that for a short moment, he saw Crosshair’s lip quiver before he bit on it, turning to the small kitchen radio.

Omega preoccupied with her important task of transferring one of the cookies to the baking sheet, hummed to the music. It was one of the most beautiful sounds he had ever heard. Tech, standing at the sink right behind her, ruffled her blonde hair, nodding approvingly at the dough she held in her hands. She smiled but at the next moment gasped as one of the cookies she had cut out fell broken onto the table. It was a gingerbread figure, now short of an arm. Echo darkly chuckled. It looked familiar.

“Oh no.” Omega exclaimed.

Echo came to the rescue with his spatula. “Don’t worry kid. We can fix him.“

She shook her head and went to put him onto the baking sheet anyway. “No. I like him like this.” Omega grinned with glittering eyes of pure joy, and Echo swore, he almost melted. “We can name him Echo-two.”

She giggled, searching for the lost arm and stuffed the small amount of dough in her mouth. Echo crouched down to reach around her middle. Pulling her close. She immediately leaned into him. As she released herself, Omega chuckled again, reaching for another bit of the batter.

Tech made an effort to stop her hand. “That is sufficient.” he smiled. “Digesting too much raw eggs increases the chance of contracting salmonella.”

Omegas face fell into a tiny pout. Tech shook his head, serious educational gaze, and all. As she realized that he would not give in, Omega went ahead, gripping a star shaped cutter next.

“What is Samonlea?” She mumbled, eyes curious and fixated on Techs glasses. Her hands unconsciously played with cookie dough star she just cut out.

“Salmonella-” He enunciated “Are dangerous bacteria that multiply in your gastrointestinal tract.” Upon her confused glance he corrected himself, showing his index finger at her middle. “Your tummy. They make you very sick-”

Omega nodded, finally understanding what he meant.

“Hey Tech-” Crosshairs silent voice crept over from the kitchen window. “Explain chlamydia next” Deviant smile on his face, Echo couldn’t master to hide a short chuckle. His gaze fell back on Tech, eyebrows threatingly raised.

Omega’s head shot up, eager to learn, as always. Tech seemed to process this situation, his brain almost having a hard drive crush. “Well-“

Tech-“ Echo shouted in between. “She’s ten for gods sake-“

Morons.

Crosshair couldn’t hide his laughter at the chaos he’d created. Omega chimed in with him, not a clue in the world, what was going on. She went on to cut out little stars, the occasional thump or mutter coming from outside.

Tech face a little reddened tended his phone. Tapping away hastily to get away from the situation as quick as he could. He turned it to show them. “It appears that it will be snowing by tonight-”

Omega interrupted him. “What’s snow like?” she asked, reaching for the flour to dust the next cutter she took.

Her normal sounding question had a devastating impact on the rest. Crosshair immediately lost his smug grin, Echo in the process of washing the spoon froze and Tech set his phone aside. The brothers exchanged a stricken look. ”You really never saw snow before?“

She shook her head, looking down, as if ashamed. “Mother never let me play outside.“

Her voice grew agitated and they knew not to press on for further information. They all knew that her childhood had be isolated. But like this? They were shocked enough to come across her lack of knowledge about Christmas itself, but no, that she never even had seen snow in her life broke their hearts entirely apart. Echo’s chest twisted in agony. Nala Sé truly held her in captivity. Without saying anything the brothers silently agreed to give her the best Christmas in the world. Possibly not solely for her sake, but also for theirs. Dealing with ninety-nine’s passing had been hard to process.

Tech cleared his throat, taking his Smartphone back up. “It seems as if the cold will stay for a while.” He scrolled down the screen to the weather forecast.

“Nah, it gets worse before it gets better.’’ Cross muttered smiling in his cup of coffee.

“It gets worse before it gets better.” She repeated. Echo’s glanced at his half-sister puzzled. “That's what mother used to say to me when she gave me vitamins.” She shrugged as if it were the most normal thing in the world. Her voice went scarily resolute and cold.

Echo’s stomach almost turned. He knew from Hunter that that wasn't always the case with the so-called vitamins. The quadruplets’ mother experimented on all her children until one day, child protective services basically ran their door in. The brothers had been taken in by ninety-nine and spent their remaining childhood years with Echo and his twin brother Fives. Gosh, he missed him. Too many Christmases without his Fucker.

The boys' childhood under the dire circumstances of medical abuse had been more bearable than Omega's. After all, Nala Se's experiments in Hunter's, Crosshair's, Wrecker's, and Tech's childhoods had been spread over four people. Omega, on the other hand, was raised as an only child. Thus had Nala Se's full attention. Echo didn't know everything so far. She only let on small portions. What he did know was enough to get angry as hell.

“Omega” Tech turned to his sister. “Is there something you want to tell us?”

They heard from her therapist, to never coax her to telling them about her emotional trauma. Sometimes, every sentence had to be phrased a certain way, when talking about these things as not to startle her. They sadly had made that mistake many a times before.

She nervously clutched her hands. Opening and closing her mouth as to say something but changing her mind at the last moment.

“No-” Voice even tinier, she looked at her feet, shaking her head. Echo waited for a short amount for any possible tears that could arise, but there were none.

“Come on kid, wash your hands. We’re done. They can go into the oven.” Echo interrupted the tense mood forming in the kitchen.

She happily hopped over from her chair and wiggled to the sink. Crosshair turned on the faucet for her and then handed her a towel. To everyone’s amazement, she grabbed his hand and pulled him over to the table to show him all the shapes she had made. Even Crosshair himself seemed a bit stricken by her gesture. Normally she longed for affection elsewhere.

Hunter was usually the one to hold her hand and Echo the one she would snuggle up to on the couch watching movies. But now she wanted this kind of affection from their youngest brother and Echo could clearly see, that, by the glittering thing near Crosshairs lash line, he wasn’t the only one immensely touched by her gesture.

She laughed as she showed him each one individually and received exaggerated recognition from Crosshair each time. Damn Bastard had a heart indeed. Echo smiled, happy for Crosshair to finally be able to let his guard down more often.

Her laughter was so contagious soon all of them chimed in, filling the crammed kitchen with lots of happy memories. The four of them were interrupted by the slamming of the front door that brought a waft of cold air in. Dressed in a Wrecker-knitted red sweater, Omega shuddered but then saw Hunters figure in the doorway. He scrunched his red nose, sniffing.

“Smells amazing.” He smiled. Omega skipped over to him, folding her hands around his waist and nestling her head into his cold jacket. “Did you have fun?”

She nodded, wanting to pull him into the kitchen. He resisted upon Echo’s strict glance at his work boots. Instead, he crouched in front of her. “I have to show you something kid.” He turned to the rest. "Actually, You all-'' He took her little hand into his and lead her out into the hallway. Crosshair groaned and set his coffee cup down with a thud. “Come on Cross. Don't be a grinch.” he gestured impatiently.

He gave her the little blue jacket and mittens, zipping it up for her as she struggled to get the gloves on. She hopped excitedly up and down at the front door, waiting for Hunter to open it.

As Hunter saw that all his brothers were dressed nice and warm, he opened the door. Omega barreled past him to Wrecker, who spun her around and jostled her up on his shoulders. Hunter, of course, immediately reminded him to be careful. Omega still chuckled but fell silent. Finally recognizing what they came out for.

“WHOA-“ Omega’s eyes grew big at the multicolored lights that wrapped the house. Her small face was alternately lit by greens, purples, reds, blues, and yellows. Echo couldn’t take his eyes off her ecstatic features. They stood in a row, about 30 feet away from the house, just watching the lights dance and blink in tandem, saying nothing at all. She laid her head on top of wreckers, not daring to glance away, not even for one second.

“That truly is beautiful.” they heard a voice crack beside them. Echo gripped his shoulder. To his surprise, Crosshair didn’t shove him off like he usually did. Instead, he jerked his chin up to the sky, blinking heavily as the first snow of the year began to make its way down to earth. None of his brothers mocked him for that.

Chapter Text

Clutching the steering wheel tightly with white knuckled hands, he had parked on the side of the road leading to the house of Omega's friend Hera. The two had met after Omega's prolonged period of isolation at school and soon had become inseparable. So, it was no surprise that Hera, who was throwing a big party (supervised, of course) for her 15th birthday, made Omega her special festivities coordinator.

As Hunter had dropped her off that afternoon, he had promised to pick her up again, no later than 9 p.m. She had rolled her eyes and had pointed out that she wasn't a baby anymore that needed constant supervision. He had had to give in. The two of them finally had agreed on 9:30 p.m. Wide victory smile, she had skipped up the stairs to Hera's house and fell into her friend's arms on the porch. Hera's father behind them put up garlands and fairy lights on the porch roof. He had waved at Hunter with a friendly smile, and of course Hunter had returned the gesture. With another wave from Omega, he had started the car and driven back home.

Biting his lips, he thought of her last words.

Hunter I'm not a baby anymore

Something strange twisted in his chest at those words, accompanied by the usual turmoil of guilt. If only he had taken her out of Nala Se's poisonous clutches sooner. He refused to call her his mother for what she did to her children. All of that was over now.

After they learned of her existence, the top priority was to get her out of the abusive household as soon as possible. However, this turned out to be much more difficult than anticipated. Years filled with worry, court appearances and police involvement. A long uphill battle that Hunter and his brothers fortunately won.

Omega had had to overcome a lot since then, but she had always been able to count on each of her brothers. All Hunter ever wished for her was that she could have a normal childhood. Only, unfortunately, she didn’t have a chance to start that sooner. Bittersweet.

He heard someone shouting behind him and stared into the rearview mirror. A shock of blond hair crept up to the side of the blue work truck. Turning around she waved once more and then reached for the driver's door.

“You're late.” he sighed; eyebrows raised.

“Just-“ She turned her left wrist “15 minutes. Sorry.” she hissed. The apology only half-serious and delivered in a Chrosshair-eske tone.

He didn't even had to look at Omega, her eye roll almost audible. He shook his head. She seemed to be downright looking for trouble with her brothers lately. Blowing up over everything and anything. Truly a minefield. Hunter remembered that teenage years were unpleasant but staying calm about a behavior he wouldn't let any of his brothers get away with was particularly challenging.

Crosshair, to everyone's surprise, seemed to be the best at dealing with her increased irritability. His little brother was showing her patience and understanding when no one else had any left. Hunter envied him for that.

Eventually it all would pass Echo had said, and Hunter clung tightly to that. Swallowing, he turned his head toward her.

“How was it?” He tried to start again.

“Great.” Her voice sounded dishonest and pressed but for some reason Omega tried to fool him with a smile. She slid down in the passenger seat and leaned her head against the window.

-not a good sign- He knew that much.

Her features twitched whenever a streetlight illuminated her face. At the next traffic light, he eyed her more closely. Her nose was slightly red, her eyes glassy and dull. Her gaze stern held upfront, not searching for his face, as she usually did. An outsider would probably not have noticed this, but Hunter knew better. No something was definitely up.

“You want to tell me what's going on?” His free hand reached for hers, but she was faster and quickly slipped it into her jacket pocket. A sting to his heart.

“No. I just want to go home.” A mixture of exasperation and rising anger.

He pressed his lips together and nodded. With the radio murmuring softly in the background, he began to think.

Was it time for her monthly thing again? He thought back- A quick math break later established -No- not for another week or so- that couldn’t be it then. He’d come to track it in his smartphone as to be aware when he needed to be extra gentle. He cast her a suspicious look out of the corner of his right eye. When that had become an issue some time ago, he was very grateful that Tech had taken over that particular conversation. He was very nonchalant and matter of fact about these kinds of situations and everyone, including Omega, appreciated that.

Something seemed to slide heavily into his stomach. He swallowed hard against it. What if it was something way worse? He kept hearing on the news that all kinds of terrible things happened to young women. Especially at social gatherings. Why had he let her go to that stupid party? He growled.

“Hunter- I think Wrecker would prefer if you left the steering wheel in the car.” Omega turned to him with wide eyes. He looked at his cramped hands which seemed to have parked the car by themselves in front of their house.

Unease shook him to his very core, and he could not intervene before something seemed to snap behind his pupils.

“We're going to talk about this now.” his voice almost shouting in the otherwise quiet, standing car. She put up a pout - her specialty. “It can't go on like this. We're all not going to take this much longer, and you know that very well.”

Any bottled-up frustration seemed to spill out of him at once. He knew it wasn't fair to take it out on someone half his age, but he couldn't help himself. Maybe a good scolding would finally convince her to open up. His heart hammered in his chest as he turned in the seat with his whole body now facing her. Hunter saw how Omega blinked heavily, accommodated by a loud gulp. He immediately regretted what he was doing. “Omega-” He started softly but it was already too late.

She fled out the door, huffed and sniffled, and slammed the car shut with way more force than needed. He jumped out of the truck and tried to catch up with her one hand stretched out to grasp her form, but she was faster. Without taking off her shoes or petting Gonky, she trudged loudly up the stairs to her room.

“Hello?” Echo's voice faded from the left side of the house, cut off by the slamming of the upper bathroom door.

“LEAVE THE HOUSE ALONE, WILL YA?” Hunter called after her. He heard something muffled yelling back at him but for everyone’s sake he ignored it.

Hunter's footsteps came to a stop at the bottom of the stairs. The squeak from the upper floors’ attic stairs announced her withdrawal. With a heavy sigh, he sat down on the steps and began to take off his shoes. The little cat coming closer. Her green eyes sparkled, and she meowed softly.

“Hey Gonky-” he stretched his hand further out. “Don’t worry. I didn’t forget about you.” the little grey cat pressed her head affectionately against his shin, exactly understanding when her affection was needed. He nuzzled the back of her neck with his fingertips. Gonky purred loudly as he grabbed her underbelly, jostling her into his arms. He stopped shortly listening in for any sign of life up in Omegas room. He heard nothing and went into the living room to join his brothers.

“Well, that didn't seem to go over nicely.” Tech chided. All eyes fixated on Hunter’s expression. He shrugged his shoulders, sitting down beside him. Gonky still happily rested in his arms.

“Seems to be her new usual if you ask me.” He eyed at the TV, not realizing it was turned off. “I can’t seem to get through to her.” He lowered his eyes on the cat, words looking for condolence of his brothers. His breath hitched. “I lost my temper.”

Wrecker gasped, Echo and Techs expressions remained neutral patiently waiting for him to continue with his confession. “I tried to guilt trip her into telling me what her problem is.”

Echo looked like he was about to give Hunter a serious reprimand. Hunter couldn't look at his half-brother at that moment, too ashamed of the failed conversation with their current problem child. In a tandem movement, the little cat tried to massage the rising tension out of his chest with her paws. A short silence with muffled sounds above them followed.

Ever the observant one, Tech said “You shouldn't take hormonal imbalances evoked by adolescence too personal Hunter.” His tone offering neither solace nor rebuke. He picked his crossword puzzle back up and scribbled a word into the white squares.

Echo leaned forward, facing him. “She'll come around. She always does.” He had a reassuring smile to offer, and Hunter took it gladly.

His brother was right. He knew that. Even after a particularly bad mood swing, Omega still searched the company of her brothers. But Hunter couldn't shake the feeling that this was different. He anticipated the worst.

Trying not to startle Gonky, he fumbled in his back pocket for his Smartphone. Message from Crosshair bright on his screen. A gif from their conversation earlier. Too bad he worked night shifts. He could have needed his youngest brother right now. Hunter clicked the icon and typed.

Is it too late to give her back? He knew he wasn’t serious about what he said. He knew he loved that child. Even if she sometimes pushed him to the brink with worry.

Seconds later, a speech bubble appeared. Three smiley faces with tears of laughter.

Fire station? Give me 15 minutes tops. Every word pinched with sarcasm.

Don’t be late. He jokingly wrote and added a scrouchy face for good measure, trying to overshadow his insecurities he felt when it came to her parentage. Crosshair typing again, Hunter hoped it would be something beneficial, but because it was Crosshair he was talking to; he knew it wouldn’t be.

Don't bash your heads in until I get back. I have to hold the camera . A gif of a monkey cartoon character swinging his wooden bat. Have to work now. Fucking nightshift.

Huffing, he clicked the power button of his smartphone, putting it face down onto the table. Gonky slowly awoke from her tandem movements and began to creep across Hunter's lap between Tech and his crossword puzzle.

They heard heavy footsteps, complemented by the crashing sound of glass and a loud drawn-out groan. His pulse raced as he rose from the couch

What had gotten into her?

Before the party she had seemed ok. Fine even, more than usual in the recent weeks.

Tech pushed Gonky off his lap onto Echo. “I'll be right behind you.” Hunter held him back with one hand and shook his head. No. He had to fix this on his own. He had to make her feel better about what the hell was bothering her. Desperation carried Hunter with a flying pace over the stairs. He didn’t misstep once.

-------

Hunter heard the awful music before he even got to the top. A female singer who overemphasized every other word. He stopped in front of the door for a few seconds. The hand already held up and ready to knock. A soft voice called out to him from inside.

“Go away.” the voice sobbed. “I don't want to talk. Never again.”

What the hell was going on in there?

Completely unaffected, his brain running on automatic, he knocked anyway. Footsteps loudly strode in his direction. “Hunter- I said-” She yanked the door open and fell silent at his stunned look.

He peered behind her into the dark room. It was a mess. Wrecker's good influence he noticed. The only source of light the switched-on fairy lights above her bed. He saw the party clothes on her desk chair. The ones she had been so eager to put on. Besides this the cactus on her nightstand, that had fallen over in the tumult and spread its crumbly soil onto her carpet.

She lifted her gaze to meet his face. He almost shuddered at her pained glance. Something inside of him knew that the origin of this kind of pain wasn’t physical. Before she could slam the door back shut, he put is foot in between.

“Can I come in?” He asked, voice quieter than he had ever estimated for it to be. He shivered, awaiting her response, afraid Omega would shut him out again.

She stepped aside, Hunter gingerly slid past her. Omega shutting the door, didn't turn around.

“What's going on?” he begged, stepping closer, one arm on her shoulder until she turned around.

He saw too late what an impact his words had landed. Her face contorted mid sobbing, one hand half covering it. The shoulder under his hand tremored like the worst earthquake he ever felt. Giving into every instinct he possessed, he  drew her into his arms. He felt her fight it at first, but she finally gave in to it. His grip around her thin figure became tighter.

Suddenly, it didn’t matter that the anger of their previous conversation still seemed to loom over him. All that counted was him being there. Sharing this awful feeling that had gotten  hold of her, as though she didn't have to carry it alone. No matter how long it would take, he would be there. He said her the same. She nodded. Mid stuttering her thanks her speech broke off into another round of violent shaking.

Hunter's mind ran wild with thoughts. One toppling over the other on what to do next or what to say that would be of any help.

"I've got you." He murmured into her hair, drawing wide, familiar circles around her back. Just as he had as she was a kid. "Always." He lifted his hand cupping her head from behind and gently smoothed over the blonde hair. He didn’t allow himself to move even one inch away.

After an awful long while, her breathing calmed down again, and the tears began to subside.

“Do you want me to fetch Tech?” he finally asked, keeping in mind that it still could be a problem she was too ashamed at to talk to him about. He interpreted her headshake as a clear no.

Terribly, this filled him with pride. Somehow, he didn't feel very useful lately.

With a hiccup, she slowly moved away from his chest. Her eyes left two large dark spots in his dark grey sweater. At the moment, he couldn’t care less about his clothes. She gripped his wrist, dragging him over to her bed.

She crawled onto her mattress, waiting for Hunter to get settled so she could lean against him. Without any protest this time, she let herself be held. He sighed deeply, drawing circles between her shoulder blades. “Omega?”

“Yeah?”

“What’s really going on?” He felt her grip tighten around his waist before she removed one hand to wipe her eyes.

Hunter grew desperate again. He didn’t care that she heard his rapid heartbeat against her ear. “You haven’t been yourself lately, right?” She nodded, sniffling.

Like breadcrumbs on a trail, he tried to lay out a path for her to follow. “Your struggeling-” He didn’t even know himself if he had just phrased a question or an answer. “You’re angry-” Omega nodded once again.

Wiping away another tear she managed “Yes-“ her voice became quiet.

“Is it because of us?” He asked suddenly, the question had occupied him a lot lately. Especially since her bad mood appeared to rent out a permanent place in her head. She looked up to him in confusion.

“Is it something we did?” he tried to sound confident, but miserably failed. Omega noticed the same and looked upward, shaking her head. Now he was the one stiffening a sob.

Jesus Christ, why was this so hard?

“I mean we’re no experts in this-“ He felt his brain running on automatic, rummaging through the past couple of months of insecurities. “-I’m sure we could’a done so much more.” He barely managed to get out before his voice went quiet again and his lungs seemed to have emptied of all air.

“You guys were perfect-“ Omega cupped his tattooed face into her palm, stroking the tip of her thumb along his stubbly jawline. Her gaze softened as he blinked something wet from his eyes. She was clearly as alert as Hunter himself.

Hunter couldn't make any sense of her. If it wasn't something he or one of his idiot brothers was responsible for, then what the hell was it?

“At the Party-“ Omega gulped. “-I kissed Numa.” She hesitated as if that wasn't all there was to it. He felt her trying to breathe into a silence that meant a lot more than what she just said. Through the first layers of surprisement her words had caused, he felt the spinning of his head finally coming to an end as if to say – That’s all?

“I think I like girls too-“ She said in a low and weak voice against his chest. Omega paused. Hunter just held her even tighter than before.

Only thing he could think of was, that it didn’t even matter in the slightest as to whom she liked. He was one second away from telling her so, as she began to shiver, trying her best to keep her voice steady. “Some other kids saw us.” She hiccupped. “They thought it was fun to force us into a corner and kept shout for us to do it again.”

Fuck , he knew that kids, especially teenagers could be terrible to each other, but this. His rising anger and hatred disrupted by a delicate clearing of her throat. “Hera couldn’t do anything. They’re her friends.”

Suddenly he noticed something on her nightstand to be different. The picture of Hera, Numa and Omega, all standing arm in arm, after her last soccer tournament in the spring, was turned over. She got quiet and swallowed. He stroked along her arms, letting the silence wash over him. Quietly soothing her, he rocked from side to side, telling her “All I ever want for you is to be happy.”

She sniffed, crying almost reaching a crescendo. It unironically baffled him she still had that many tears left. He just kept swaying from side to side, always the same movement, repetitive, reliable.

What he told was the truth. All he ever wanted was for her to have a fulfilled and happy life. No matter how or with whom and he knew his brothers would share his mindset. Not that it was any of his business to tell them. If the time came, if she was ready, he would be there.

Omega finally rested a little, snuggling up to him and he knew she was mentally ready to hear his voice again.“First kiss at 14 huh?” He grinned, she shrug her shoulders, sniffling the rest of her tears and snot away.

“Didn't know you were such a late bloomer.” He playfully pinched her shoulder. She reached upwards and rammed her fist into his shoulder. He laughed faking an -Ouch- “Well at least earlier than Cross and Wrecker. So, you have that going for you.”

“Really?” Omega gawked in disbelief “I topped Crosshair?” her cheerful nature awakened from hibernation. “I need to rub that in his pointy nose.”

“Please don’t.” he laughed; secretly anxious he’d never hear the end of it if she did so. “He'll kill me when you blurt that out.” Hunter snorted and loosened his grip around her huddled figure. Only a little, though.

Their murmuring interrupted by the rumbling on the stairs. The door opened with a loud squeak and Wrecker stuck his big, bald head through the crack. The artificial eye still rotated as his gaze stopped on them. “We heard ya laughing. Thought we'd check in.”

 “Mind if-“ he pointed to their huddled figures. Omega shook her head and made a welcoming gesture with her hand. He ducked his head as he strut through her door, Tech and Echo in tow.

Not being asked twice, Wrecker almost threw himself across Hunter's legs, occupying a good three quarters of her bed. Hunter gave an annoyed huff and repositioned himself under Wrecker’s weight. Tech sat down to Hunter's left; legs crossed.

Echo bent down in front of her bed. “Feeling better?” to his relief, she nodded with a gentle smile. Echo did the same and sat close to Wrecker on the edge of the bed.

Echo fished his cell phone out of his hoodie pocket and held it up with one hand. Before anyone could object or put their hands in front of their faces, he took a selfie of their group cuddling. Even though he only had one thumb, it seemed to operate pretty darn fast. Hunter didn't have to ask who he was sending the picture to. Echo showed him Crosshair's response half a minute later.

I hate my job.

Hunter breathed a laugh. He didn't notice how time slowly passed in the semi-dark room and in the cozy presence of his siblings, until Omega's head slowly but surely tipped off his shoulder. He caught her with his right hand and pressed her head against his heart.

Why couldn’t she stay that little forever?  

Curled up in his lap and slowly coming to rest. His other hand on her back felt how her pulse slowly stabilized.It’s all part of growing up he said to himself.

Chapter Text

The Batch, as the brothers liked to call themselves, jumped seemingly frightened at the little figure in the doorway. If it wasn't for the horror film, they were in the middle of watching as thunder and storm rumbled outside, they wouldn't even have noticed. This week it had been Wrecker's turn to decide on a movie and his pick landed on: The Exorcist.

Just as the girl in the movie underwent the horrible religious treatment, Omega had knocked on the door and opened it with a creek, looking for comfort but unfortunately scaring them shitless in the process.

Crosshair still held his chest from the shock, quickly grabbed the remote and changed the channel, the screams protruding from the movie now transitioning into monotone babbling of a news anchor. The tenseness in the small living room appeared to subside.

“I'm sorry.” she croaked, speaking softly to the floor. A single fresh tear glistened on her cheek. “I didn't want to disturb you.”

Wrecker, seeing her downbeat mood as well as anyone else, slid down to his knees, engulfing his little sister in a hug. “It's fine kid. We’re finished anyway.”

The others mumbled words of confirmation. She grabbed on tight to their burly brother and as another lightning struck, winced in his grip. Omega nestled her head into his shoulder as thunder rumbled the earth beneath their feet. Storm was getting closer, and it was way past her bedtime.

Hunter crouched down as well, meeting her at eye level and put a soothing hand on her shoulder. “Are you afraid of the thunderstorm?”

“Mhh.” she hummed in affirmation, nodding slightly. Wrecker lifted her up, carrying her onto the couch and letting her rest on his lap. Tech grabbed her blanket from the floor that she had let go of in the shock of scaring them unintentionally. He gingerly placed it back over her and Wrecker. Making sure to tuck every loose corner in. He settled beside them.

Crosshair, on the other side, noticed her foot sticking out. He formed a claw with his fingers and lunged it playfully onto her toes. She breathed but then wobbled with her ankle, an invitation to proceed with his attempt at a distraction. Omega’s big toe and his right hand playing a careless game without words. He grabbed her foot, making deep guttural growling noises as she tried to release from his attack. He won and pinched her gently. She giggled, lifting her head from Wrecker's chest in Crosshair’s direction.

Crosshair didn't notice how the others watched them dumbfounded. He wasn't the affectionate type and certainly not very attentive towards children. Echo and Hunter exchanged a look of utter surprisement. They had estimated for him to take way longer to grow accustomed to his new found little sister. She had only been with them for about two weeks, the effects Nala Sé had put her trough still painfully evident.

Omega had to go through a rehab cold turkey. All the drugs her mother gave her, had turned her into some kind of junkie, without her even knowing either what that word meant or why it was being done to her. Her guess was probably as good as the ones from her brothers.

The first nights had been bad. She had become so delirious from the rehab that one of the brothers was either sleeping right outside the room or on the couch. She shouldn’t have to search a long time for one of them if she woke up.

Of course, this situation, all the necessary medical treatments that followed her abuse and the visits to the police station to testify against her mother, aroused a lot of anger. But seeing Omega sitting there, tucked in by Tech, snuggling on Wrecker's lap and playing with Crosshair, Echo and Hunter couldn't help but feel genuinely happy about their new family situation.

Echo sniffled a little, getting emotional at the wholesome sight, but then settled back on the couch, grabbing Gonky the cat from the pile of folded blankets at the end of the couch, and putting her in his lap. She purred contently as his hand traveled along her fur. Gonky, searching affection from each of them, made her way across their laps. She climbed casually over Hunters ripped jeans, stopped at Crosshair for a couple of pets before she reached Omega and Wrecker. She nuzzled her head against the little girl, as if she could tell, that their sister had been plagued by something else entirely. Omega’s little arm pet the cat like it was the only thing that was truly giving her solace. Gonky couldn’t be bothered by the uncomfortable spot between Crosshair and Wrecker, squeezing herself at Omega.

They paused as rain pelted harder and harder against the window pane. The living room was illuminated by a sudden lightning strike. Omega cringed again and pressed her face into her brother's sweatshirt as the thunder subsequently shook the walls of the house. Gonky's hair stood up at the sensation. She humped and hissed, then hopped off the couch and hid behind their feet.

“Coward.” Crosshair sneered.

“Cross-“ Hunter returned in a threatening tone, with a wink at Omega who was still shivering and buried in her brother's arms.

“What? I meant the cat.” He shrugged, leaning back but still keeping an eye on Omega’s frightened figure.

Tech shifted forward and leaned in to interrupt their bitching. “You have nothing to worry about Omega.” She whimpered. “Thunder is a consequence of lightning. The lightning creates a lightning channel, in which extremely high temperatures are generated. This causes the air to expand explosively, which causes the sound.”

The others looked at each other with raised eyebrows. Cheering people up wasn't exactly Tech's strong suit. But his sciency-way of explaining at least he got her mind off things for a while, and it seemed to help. Omega looked a little more settled.

Hunter raised his voice again. “You can finish watching the news with us, but after that it's back to bed.”

She rested her head on the side of Wrecker's arm and pushed her lower lip forward slightly, quickly wiping another tear from the corner of her eye.“Can't I stay longer?”

He shook his head, ex military intransigence and all. She looked down at the floor and then back up at him, trying to make the biggest puppy eyes he'd ever seen. It worked, almost.

“Please please? I won't be tired tomorrow- I promise.”

“No, you need to rest.” He cleared his throat, discussing patiently with a child was definitely one of the things he still needed to practice.

“I can't sleep if you tuck me in anyway.” She muttered under her breath. So quietly that they almost missed it. But just almost. Her arms crossed in surrender.

“What was that?”

“I always dream about her.” They shivered at the coldness of her tone.

The brothers knew who "she" was, and they also knew what "she" was doing to Omega in her dreams. Probably the same thing she had done to them. Conducting medical experiments, administering pills, studying the impacts, and ultimately tormenting them for any negative effects. It had taken them a long time to talk to each other about the things that had been done to them, but with Omega it was not proving to be easy either.

Echo nervously slid back and forth in his seat. Growing up in another household, he had never personally experienced what their mother was capable of, but the stories of the other batchers were enough for him.

“Kid-” He cleared his throat. “What is she doing in your dreams?” he asked cautiously into the mounting anxiety of the room. The glances of his half-siblings rushed to him. On the one hand they were eager to know what she would answer, on the other hand they were nervous about what she would reveal.

Omega swallowed audibly and looked down at her lap, her hands firmly in a struggle with each other. She blinked hard. “She's very very angry with me. She gives me vitamins and then I have to do a test.” Wrecker tightened his grip. She sniffled but kept her composure, as if she had been a bystander watching herself. It was both heartbreaking and terrifying. To see her little figure sitting there, resignedly replaying what she had experienced, was eerily disconcerting to them all. “ –but mother yells at me that I'm not good enough, and then I always wake up.” She looked into the round of distressed looking pairs of eyes. “I don't want to sleep anymore.” Her little voice broke off and she swallowed again.

“It is perfectly fine to have nightmares Omega. You have nothing to fear.” Tech readjusted his glasses, breaking the ominous silence. “It is just the detoxing process from mothers’ administerings-” His voice was kind and low, offering compassion for her emotional trouble.

She noticed how he didn't say her name, like all her other brothers did, but still referred to her as a parental figure. She blinked at the thought. Indeed, her mother had given her many of the multicolored things, but she had promised they were beneficial for her health. She’d called them vitamins, but the effects of some of them were so strong that sometimes Omega had thought there must be more in them than simply minerals.

“-Tech” Hunter tried to interrupt briefly but then got cut off himself.

“No Hunter. Let him finish. Why shouldn't she know?” Pairs of eyes seemed to glare daggers at Crosshair. He swallowed but then quickly added “Just saying she has a right to-“

Her bespectacled brother carefully lifted her chin from Wrecker's chest with two fingers. Tech glanced over her shoulder at Hunter, who nodded at him reluctantly. “The spontaneous drop in a certain concentration of a substance in your blood provides withdrawal symptoms that can have a significant effect on your body chemistry. This can cause night terrors, extensive sweating and tremors.”

They all remembered the first few weeks after they were rescued from her mother's clutches by Ninety-Nine. It had been awful. Tech and Crosshair had practically slept in the same bed together for a month because they couldn't stand the nightmares alone. Wrecker had such chills from detoxing that he couldn't get dressed on his own, and Hunter had been nothing but nauseous for weeks.

Since their sister had gotten more of Nala Sé’s “love” than all of them together, they didn't even want to imagine all the things she experienced that she didn't confide in them. She nodded slightly, then leaned back on Wrecker's chest.

It had taken at least a documentary and a half on the Gulf of Mexico for her to finally fall asleep on his chest. With a nod to the others, he signaled that he would put her to bed. However, Wrecker didn't expect it to be a group activity.

As he crept down the hall to her room, trying to avoid the squeaky steps on the stairs, he didn't initially notice that all four brothers had followed him. That night they put her to bed together and none of them dared to stray too far from her room. They couldn’t say whether it was because of her wellbeing or because of the effects of the interrupted horror movie evening.

Chapter Text

“Stand still Omega-“ Tech gingerly pushed the book onto her blonde curly locks to level her head. Eyebrows furrowed together; he made a pencil marking on the doorframe. Tech shoved her gingerly aside, holding the measuring tape at the previous line and checking for the distance between the two. Omega bounced impatiently up and down next to him, eager on finding out how much progress she had made. “You grew a whole inch since we last measured.” His eyes widened proudly, and a rare genuine smile twitched his features.

Echo behind him looked incredibly pleased. “Good job kid.” he held his hand out for a high five. Omega jumped to reach, and a beam spread over her entire face.

“I'm going to be as tall as Hunter one day-” she yelled excitedly, almost bashing into Crosshair as she paced towards the shoe rack to pull on her pink rainboots.

“In that case you won't have to grow for too long.” Crosshair gave a sneered smile as he stepped out the kitchen. Hunter hit him hard in the shoulder and groaned, muttering something not quite youth-free under his breath. Crosshair laughed, seemingly appeased he had gotten to him.  

Wrecker, carrying a backpack out the front door, shot Omega a happy look, thumb held upward. “Great job kid.” He rumbled.

“How much Tech?“ Hunter came to inspect the marking he made. With Hunter’s excellent hearing the was no way he could’ve overheard what Tech had said. He, quite clearly, wanted to hear their success again.

“1 inch-“ he reiterated. “Or 2.54 cm in metric units.”

Hunter bent down, where Omega stood, widest smile put up Tech had seen in a while. “Woah kid- sounds like we have to buy you new clothes soon.” He pointed to the now ankle jeans her last growth spurt had caused. His look fell pleadingly onto Echo- such things were out of Hunters territory.

Echo nodded. Being reminded with the first time clothes shopping they had done. Coming to them, Omega was only equipped with basically nothing but a somewhat flimsy blue and white way too large shirt and a pair of leggings she had outgrown a longtime since then. “I’ll get to that on Monday.” He said, crooked smile growing at Omegas eager nod.

“I can drive you-“ Tech offered, knowing full well that taking the bus was possible but not very comfortable for neither Echo nor Omega.

“Thank you- see you later mate-“ Hunter said, going out the door where Wrecker appeared to struggle with the equipment they had packed. Tech, grasping a map from the bench near the entrance, followed him.

Crosshair remained in the doorway, patting down his pockets for the car keys, eagerly waiting for her to finish getting dressed and making little ‘Come on’ noises.

Omega looked downbeat at the underparts of Echo’s prosthetics. “Why can't you go with us?” she asked, her voice near cracking point. He ruffled her hair, pulling her into a hug.

“My legs make it difficult to walk long distances-“ He wasn't quite sure if she understood or not. She looked at him in concern and for a moment he didn't know if she could comprehend the extent of his injury. He zipped her jacket up, straightening it out afterwards. “But I'll stay and I'll make your favorite dinner. Then you can grow just as well in the future. How's that sound?”

He smiled fondly as she closed her eyes, rubbing her little hand over her belly in anticipation. “Awesome.” She grinned.

He grabbed her small backpack he had stuffed to the brim with snacks for the short trip. Holding the straps out, she carefully slid her arms through, adjusting the buckles all by herself. He bowed down, pulling her into a hug once again, reluctant to let go so soon. To his astonishment, she pressed a quick kiss on his cheek and then skipped to Crosshair at the door. He froze, dumbly grinning at her touching gesture.

“By you guys. Have fun.”

“Byy!!” One hand searched for Crosshair’s narrow palm, the other waved at Echo.

-----

Hunter couldn’t believe that it had already been eight weeks since she had lived with them. It seemed as if time had passed in the blink of an eye and simultaneously as if it had never been any different. To everyone's surprise, she got used to her new home rather quickly. Of course, the first nights were hard. Omega had had many nightmares, a few entirely sleepless nights, and he was awakened more than once by her crying at night.

At some point, the Hunter and Omega developed the routine that he was only allowed to leave after she had already fallen asleep. He had to admit, it probably wasn’t the best lesson in independence. He sincerely hoped the therapy she had begun would eventually help.

The situation had been intense, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. Better she suffered with them than with his useless bitch of a mother. Though, she shouldn’t have to suffer at all. And Hunter himself couldn’t be more heartbroken about it. Nala Sé’s parental rights had been permanently evoked and passed on to Hunter. The court allowed her one call per week and poor Omega didn’t know how to handle the situation at all.

Out of sheer fright, Hunter always tried to stay close to her. Hoping to catch what she needed before she even knew herself. Thinking about all the years she had spent in isolation, Hunter wanted her to be protected and he took it upon himself to fulfill this task.

It would be his worst nightmare if -No. He couldn't think about that, he thought sternly to himself. Today was a happy day. The most beautiful of the year so far. Sunshine all Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Forecast had promised a break from the annoying April showers, just in time for the Fett-brothers (and sister) to get an activity planned.

As curious as Omega was, she couldn't resist the idea of hiking. Hunter couldn't blame her for that. He remembered his own foreignness with nature and the outside world as a whole. Being Nala Sé’s child meant, besides no free will, being an object for her to study, strict rules to follow. Hunter thought back to his first time sneaking out of Nala’s basement chambers to get a glimpse at the thing that chirped outside every morning at 6 am. She had caught his arm even before he could make it to the window. What followed after that was way to gruesome to think about on a supposedly nice day like this.

Shaking his head, he fought himself back into reality.

Seeing the guard rail of the road in his periphery, made him think of Echo. Unfortunately, they had to leave him at home, as always when they went to do physical activities. The prosthetics could make a long walk quite uncomfortable, but his brother never seemed to mind too much, probably glad to have the house to himself after the tumultuous couple of weeks.

Waving off, as Hunter had proposed to think of an idea, they could all participate in, Echo had offered to pack them snacks and promised to welcome them back with a delicious dinner. Hunter jokingly called this his mom-time.

Hunter glanced at Crosshair, who, sitting at the wheel, kept looking in the rearview mirror. A slight smile crept on his lips. Hunter turned backward to the rear seat and immediately saw its origin. Omega was bent over Tech with her nose and hands pressed firmly against the window. At first Hunter thought Crosshair would reprimand her for the marks she had left on the glass, but instead he was shaking his head.

With each tree she saw on the mountain road, her eyes seemed to open wider, asking Tech thousands of questions as quiet ‘wooows’ escaped her lips. Tech held her tightly with both hands as they rounded a sharp curve further up the mountain and Omega seemed to be pulled the other way out of g-force. She squeaked in joy, like it was the best roller coaster ride she had ever been on. Hunter couldn't get rid of the feeling that Crosshair was taking the curves extra fast. Normally he would have told him to stop, but today Hunter just wanted Omega to have all the fun she could get.

“I've got something for you.” Crosshair said, pressing a button on the door. With it, the rear window slowly slid down.

“This is so friggin' cool.” her breath hitched, as if they'd given her the best Christmas present in the world. Crosshair smiled proudly.

“Hey, no swearing.” Hunter gently chided. “Don’t want the court to think you’re raised by complete bafoons-“ Omega nodded. Eyes wide, she put a hand over her mouth in shame.

“Don’t know Hunter- there might be something to it.” Crosshair said, pumping the gas so the old Mercedes would make its way up the hill.

With that sensation, Hunter had to turn back to the front. The curves really got to him sometimes. He had never been able to completely shake the nausea he got from driving. His stomach squealed in agony, every bump in the road making it more upset.

Wrecker from the back clasped at his shoulder and squeezed. He knew that was his way of asking if he was okay, without needing to speak. Sometimes, that would strain Hunters ears even more. He slowly nodded, closing his eyes, and breathing steadily until the nausea slowly subsided. It had been a long car ride. A bit too long for his taste.

“You want some fresh air?” Crosshair rumbled from the driver’s seat, reaching over to open the glove compartment where he kept small paper bags, exactly for this incident. Hunter pressed his mouth shut, afraid anything would spill out if he opened it. He shook his head.

Tech, noticing what went on quickly intermitted. “We’re almost there.” He checked on his smartphone. “Google Maps indicates only a couple more minutes.

Gosh, how much Hunter would have hoped that to be true.

-----

 

“See that thing up there Kid?” Wrecker's thick index finger pointed to a spot between two clouds.  “That’s where we’re goin‘“ He laughed as the mouth of his sister dropped open. She breathed a long drawn out “Wooooooooooooaaahhhh”. Omega’s hazel eyes excitedly sparkled up to his. Gosh- he loved this kid.

She held both of her arms out for Tech to slide the little backpack over her arms. Then Hunter, still the slightest shade of green in his face, slammed the trunk shut. They stood in a semicircle around Omega, a serious expression on their faces.

“Do you remember the rules?”

She nodded eagerly and began counting them off on one hand. “Stay with your family, don't talk to strangers, and if anyone offers me candy, I'm not allowed to take it.” She beamed as Hunter double-checked that the zipper on her jacket was closed. “That's right.” He smiled gently and took her hand to cross the busy street. “Good girl.”

It had taken them almost twice as long as it normally would have. Omega insisted on stopping at every tree, every time asking Tech for its specifications. Her walking encyclopedia of a  brother was happy to explain and, of course, knew every plant they passed. Wrecker grinned as Omega gave him the twentieth stone she had found along the way, citing a reason why this particular one was even more beautiful than the last she had given him. He put it in his jacket pocket to the others. What difference would one more rock make? 

Crosshair turned around, now that Omega appeared to have fallen behind for the third time. Head tilted to the side, he narrowed his eyes, trying to make out the thing she held in her hands.  

“What do you want with that?” Crosshair teased, probably testier than intended.

“It’s pretty.” She turned the leaf in her grasp. The greens and yellows from one side transitioned into red and orange speckles on the other. “Look.” She practically shoved it in his face as his long figure leaned down to her level. He dodged backward, before Omega could press the fallen leaf into his face. “I’m bringing it home- for Echo.” She sighed looking at the trail beneath her feet and then back up to meet the gazes of her brothers. “Because he couldn’t come with us- You know?”

“We know kid- He’ll love it.” Hunter spoke gently. He didn't expect Omega to miss her half-brother already. Even though he had to admit that her bonding was quite cute, the clinginess also caused him some concern. He bent down to ruffle the blonde locks, reacting at her suppressed yawn. „Not much further. Right Tech?“

“Based on the maps specifics, we can surmise that there is little distance between us and the mountain top.” His brother pushed his googles up with one hand while trying to decipher the map he held in his other.

----

 

“Ahhh Crosshair nooo!!”

Wrecker exclaimed, trying to get a hold of his brothers hooded jacket. Wrecker never had been a fan of heights and certainly wasn’t cool with them coming to close to a drop either.

Crosshair shoved his hand off with a laugh, striding towards the cliff. “Come on Wrecker. Don't be a pussy-“

Hunter's head immediately snapped in his direction, and he cleared his throat deliberately, nodding towards Omega. Crosshair apparently still had trouble to make his language more child friendly.

Crosshair seemed to notice his mistake and mouthed a silent apology toward Hunter. He made a mental note to reprimand his brother for that later.

As if to make amends, Crosshair gently grabbed Omega’s waist to stabilize her as she settled beside him on the rock's ledge. She offered him a carrot.

“What’s a pussy?” Omega asked him with round eyes, looking up from her overfilled lunchbox with curiosity just as Hunter hoped she might have overheard.

Crosshairs eyes widened. Hunter thought to have heard a gulp.

Tech’s voice took the opportunity. “It is an English slang word for-”

“Tech no-” Hunter quickly yelled in between. Jesus Christ. The girl was just ten. “Cat- It's an English slang word for a cat. Right? Tech?” His tone was insistent. Hunter narrowed his eyes into slits at Tech, still rummaging through all the backpacks, unpacking all the Lunch Echo had made for them. “Yes. That as well.”

Omega nodded, appearing to be satisfied with the answer that she got. “Pussy.” She reiterated, which sent Crosshair into a laughing fit. Omega, innocently realizing how much it made her brother happy when she said that, repeated it over and over again.

Thanks to Crosshair, Hunter now had to have two unpleasant conversations later.

“Please don't ever use that word in public.” He said, secretly hoping that no other hikers, coming across them, heard what she had said.  

“Okay.” She replied, giggling, reaching for another carrot stick to give to Crosshair. Hunter laughed to himself at her completely ignorant state, which, in combination with her angelic, round, little face just looked too funny.

Tech, finally finished fumbling with his backpack, sat down next to Crosshair on the ledge as well. Wrecker let out a loud sigh behind them. "I just don't understand you guys."

Omega, next to him, relaxed and dangled her feet. That's what he had wanted for her. That she could be a child, protected and ultimately no longer alone. Again, he’d come to curse Nala Sé in his thoughts. He sighed and put an arm around her slender figure. Omega beamed at him with glittering eyes and nestled into his half embrace. This, he thought, this was what it was all worth it for.

Full of joy, Omega pointed to the sky whenever she spotted another pair of birds, who crossed their flight paths. Looking questioningly at Tech, she beamed, as he was able to identify them all.

Crosshair soon showed her a new game. He laid back, feet still over the ledge, and stared up at the sky. Omega imitated his movements. Alternately they said what shapes the passing clouds reminded them of. 

They both laughed at a cloud with a particularly expansive one with a small point, to which Crosshair referred to as a fat chicken. At that moment, Hunter could have sworn that he had never seen his youngest brother so careless, especially for someone with Crosshair’s past. Even though he didn't really warm up to her at first, she appeared to be doing him good. Hunter smiled fondly.

She yawned heartily as she put the empty lunchbox back into her backpack. Echo would be very happy with her growing appetite. Since coming to live with her brothers, her emaciated figure slowly filled out to a healthy degree, and Echo had appointed himself special envoy when it came to Omega's diet. Every extra pound on her body was proof that she finally surpassed her old life. Faced with her growth spurt in the last few weeks, the new lifestyle finally started to take effect and they couldn’t be prouder about that.

She gave another hearty yawn as Hunter zipped up her jacket. He remembered this moment from parenting books Tech gave him upon Omega’s arrival at their house. When a child's energy level dropped, it did so abruptly. Hunter had been learning, but still, he knew there would be challenges enough to come.

He heard Wrecker offer her a piggyback ride, which she couldn't refuse. Just as Hunter suspected, she fell asleep as soon as she was leaning on Wrecker's back.

She didn't even stir as they put her on the backseat of Crosshair's car. Hunter huffed a laugh. Omega was really out cold. The entire ride home, Wrecker cradled her in his arms. Omega still clutched the leaf she had grabbed from the forest ground for Echo.

[Rumor has it that Echo dried the leaf Omega had gifted to him and now has it hanging in a frame above his bed.]

 

Chapter Text

The old workshop they had set up in the garage smelled of wood, oil and a little rust from Echo's old wheelchair, which was slowly decaying in the dark corner behind Tech's car. Due to the more skilled handling of his prostheses, it had to be used increasingly less, a fact that obviously pleased not only Wrecker but everyone else as well.

Once again, he took a deep breath until his lungs were filled with the dusty and heavy air. It was one of Wrecker's favorite smells in the whole world, right behind Echo’s apple cobbler. He never minded that his hobby consisted of a similar activity as his daily work on the construction site with Hunter. Creating things brought him joy, and now he would even be sharing this part of his life with his little sister he held so dear.

The brothers wanted to offer Omega a gesture with the beginning of the new phase in her life. They cleared out the attic, which made a decent sized room that could be accessed via a narrow staircase on the second floor. The room she had previously inhabited was more like a converted pantry, with barely enough room for a foldaway bed. Though the brothers had tried to make it comfortable. Wrecker remembered searching Craigslist for an entire week, nervously hoping that she might like what they picked out. She was their little sister, after all.  They didn't want Omega to feel as if she was a sack of potatoes, shoved aside in a dark room with a mini window.

Omega had been incredibly happy, as Hunter had suggested that she move upstairs. Wrecker had asked her if she needed anything else for her new big-girl-room, which wouldn’t have been unlikely, considering the old slowly falling apart furniture. A little possessive as always, Omega thought everything was perfect the way it was and refused to trade any of her belongings for something new. Hunter, however, had insisted on a place where she could do her future schoolwork, and thus Wrecker’s new project was launched.

He couldn't help but sniffle away a tear at the thought. The kid just grows way too fast.

The initial worries of her schooling were negated when she returned home from her trial day, beaming with joy and telling them all how much fun she had had on her first day at school.

First day at school - Wrecker snorted. Normally, children started school at age six, not age ten. Although he tried to suppress the anger, he felt toward Nala Sé for Omega's captivity, sometimes it did surface. Nevertheless, he didn't want to let it get the upper hand, not when he was about to show Omega a part of his life he loved so much. Tech was usually the only one to assist him in the workshop, but today, they also had enlisted Omega’s help.

She was overly curious about the different machinery and tools and couldn't wait to begin. Hunter previously taught her some basic rules of conduct about handling dangerous machinery. He stressed how important it was that she always wore earmuffs and safety glasses. His little sister’s reaction was to yawn at yet another reason Hunter told her what she mustn't do.

Wrecker had to admit that the controlling streak Hunter had last been able to exercise in the Army became more prevalent, since Omega lived with them. Sometimes that annoyed Wrecker. Especially when it seemed like he didn't trust his other siblings to handle her.

Wrecker knew Hunter meant well, but he couldn't help but feel uneasy about it sometimes.

Wrecker quickly moved some more wooden boards and yardsticks into place. Stopping, as Omega came through the side door of the house with Tech in tow. He held a sheet of paper, pinning it behind the work bench. It showed a drawing of the desk, surrounded by an awful lot of measurements. Too much for Wrecker’s taste, but he knew how his brother loved preciseness.  

Omega, not having a clue what any of these symbols regarding her new desk meant, stood in front of him, grinning broadly. Her thin noodle arms dangled in one of Hunter's work jackets, which she had clumsily rolled up, eager to start the project with her two brothers.

___________

Exactly two hours into the project, all the parts had finally been sawed out by Wrecker and Tech and had their edges expertly filed down by Omega. Now it was time to put the parts together.

“Ya have to pound the hammer nice an’ straight, kid.” Wrecker supported her hand as she raised the tool. Without his help, it probably would have been way too heavy. Even with his hand as support, she still trembled as she tried to mimic Tech's hand motion.

“You're doing well Omega.” Tech commented, leaving her to hold the nail on her own.

Again, Wrecker's hand came to the rescue. He gingerly reached around her, careful not to get the spiked end of the hammer into his good eye. She grinned and struck. Harder than he would have expected and right on his thumb. He gasped audibly, trying to keep his expression steady for her benefit. Still, she met his distorted smile with concern.

“What’s wrong?” her voice lowered as she began fumbling nervously with her hands. “Did I do something wrong?” her frown turned so sad that he’d rather endure ten more hits on the exact same spot than to hear that tone of voice again.

“No kid-“ He winched a little. “Just try to hit the nail next time."

Omega nodded vigorously; lips tightly pressed together, she turned back to the board.

___________

“To my knowledge, that was the final one!” Tech stated, dusting off the glasses on his T-shirt. Omega first skipped toward Tech, and then toward Wrecker, hugging the both of them tightly. Her small stature was just tall enough to reach their thighs.

“Thank you so much!” she beamed from ear to ear, then placed her hands at her sides to view their finished handiwork. “I think it's fantastic.”


“You're welcome, Omega.” Her lanky brother ruffled some wood shavings out of her hair while Wrecker turned to reach for a bucket. “That wasn't the best yet!”


“It wasn't?” Omega’s eyes widened, eagerly hopping up and down for the next task.
“Nah kiddo-“ Wrecker placed the bucket in front of her feet and put a giant (well, at least for her hands) paintbrush in her open grasp. “Here. Now we're gonna paint.”

___________

After yet another hour, the now white desk with little swirly patterns on the side was finally finished. Echo had just called them to dinner when Omega made the last brushstroke.

“Building things is a lot of fun” She giggled, looking even more proud than before at their finally finished project. She stretched out to Wrecker, giving him the paintbrush back. The sleeves of the jacket and palms of her hands were completely stained in white paint.

“It is kid-“ He shyly rubbed his hand over his neck, almost as if he wanted to ask out a girl he really liked. “Maybe you can join me another time-” he stated, unsureness in his voice almost making it come out like a question.

Omega nodded, grin growing wider. He leaned down to ruffle her locks, eying her more closely in the process. He huffed a laugh. Even her face was covered with white speckles.

Oh boy- Echo ain’t gonna be happy about that...still he had to laugh.

“Come on kid- wash your hands-“ He gestured outward. “and maybe your face too. It’s dinner time.”

He watched her skip out of the dimly lit workshop and back through the door into the house. A blissful feeling traveled through his chest. Wrecker slowly came to the conclusion, he would never want to work in the workshop without his sister ever again.

 

Chapter Text

Somehow, Hunter had imagined it to be much easier to have a child as an additional family member. He didn't expect to have to worry so much so soon. Especially when the kid was practically still a stranger to them. All he knew, however, was that she desperately needed his and his siblings' help. To learn of her existence was a nightmare come true.

Not the fact that she existed and was now living with them, no. Rather that his mother, after having to get rid of her four children, had the audacity to get another child, subjecting her to the same abuse.

Ironically, he and his brothers had also been ten years old when they were freed from the toxic household. Since then, they had had to work through an incredible amount of trauma and had even completely broken off contact with her. Well, at least until a week ago, when a letter fluttered through their front door stating that in the future there would no longer only be five of them living in the house, but six. Hunter had immediately dropped everything and went to the address of the sender. With reinforcements in tow, of course.

And there they were. Their little sister Omega was fast asleep in the room down the hall, and all the brothers had unintentionally gathered in the narrow kitchen during the evening.

Her court therapist had pointed out to Hunter that it was time to set some firm rules. He didn't like to admit it, but within the first week, they had pretty much let her get away with everything. After all, they wanted to give her the chance to arrive and feel comfortable and secure. Somehow, her therapist had been able to see through their bullshitting around her emotions pretty quickly. During their last conversation, he had pulled Hunter aside, basically drilling into him that they couldn't proceed with their form of anarchy. He and his brothers should all work together when it came to further educational measures and begin to establish firm rules.

He knew that this would be a difficult subject, with an additional argument or two. After all, none of them wanted to upset Omega too much. She basically could still be considered as a stranger. But he did see that a firm structure was, well, necessary. So, they went through scenario after scenario, setting little rules for each other on how to deal with what situation. It was complicated to find solutions that the five of them were happy with, but after much deliberation, everything seemed to work out fine so far. For the thirtieth time that night, they had grazed at the topic of grounding.

“Kids get grounded all the time-“ Echo supplied. “No big deal-“

“She's been locked up her whole life. We should do the opposite!” Wrecker slammed his fist down hard on the table and paused. Keeping a low-profile noise-wise since Omega had moved in with them obviously wasn't an easy task for him to accomplish.

Echo had to stifle a laugh and stared back in Wrecker's direction in disbelief.

Oh boy. Hunter emitted a long, drawn-out sigh.

“Are you suggesting we lock her out like a dog?”

Hunter fumbled with the label of his beer, shortly questioning if Wrecker was still in his right mind.

Tech, ever the negotiator, interrupted Echo’s and Wrecker’s bickering. “Personally, I don't think much of that discipline either. However, a mild punishment is clearly beneficial to her learning process.”

“Okay then, that's settled: no matter what she does, no grounding.” He couldn't help but notice that his youngest brother kept quiet again, not participating in any way.

“She’s a good kid-“ Wrecker added.

Crosshair was leaning back against the sink, watching them with an alert gaze and defensively crossed arms. As their eyes met, Hunter noticed his brother to be opening his mouth, only to close it again without any further comment. He rolled his eyes as Crosshair shot him a snarl. His tight-lippedness really got in the way sometimes. “Let's just hope it stays that way.” Hunter turned, grinning as Echo rolled his eyes.

Tech sipped his beer. “How about finally discussing her nighttime routine?” his steady tone shook the uncomfortable looking group. 

Touchy subject, Hunter already knew that much.

“Hunter.” His brother's gaze turned serious and unyielding. He adjusted his glasses. “She appears to have a major problem with sleeping.” To comfort himself, he took another sip.

Echo, too, now looked more resigned than before. “Tech is right. It can't go on like this.”

Omega had no trouble getting up in the morning. Most days, she was awake before he even knocked on her door. However, as the day wore on, her otherwise cheerful nature seemed to gradually diminish until it disappeared entirely in the evening.

Getting her to bed had become a routine struggle, which she sometimes responded to with tears of frustration. It didn't matter which of the brothers put her to bed. Even Hunter, with whom she usually seemed to behave best, had difficulties getting her to rest. Every evening, before bedtime, she made it clear that she would not let his attempts to coax her to bed pass idly.

Echo’s right.

It couldn’t go on like this. Her energy levels plummeted. Every day a little more. His stomach twisted. He knew what she had been anxious about. Hunter thought of the many times he had woken up as a child and feared being back in Nala Sé's sterile house, not being able to escape again. He hoped time would be all she needed. The voice of his brother ripped him out of daydreaming.

“Firm nighttime rituals and bedtime hours provide security and orientation. In addition, this also helps to prevent any fights that may be fought out for delay purposes.” He raised his eyebrows toward Hunter. He nodded. He knew he’d gotten some information out of one of his parenting books.

Everyday, another one arrived in an amazon box at their house. He ironically thought about Tech wanting to open a library, but that’s just who he was. Ultimately, it was Tech’s way of showing support. To gather as much information as he possibly could.

“The national health organization believes that a child her age should get up to ten and a half hours of sleep.” He moved his finger downward on the phone's narrow touchscreen, scrolling for more information. “Since she seems like an early riser to me. I would suggest we set her bedtime for 8 p.m.”

They looked at each other and nodded in agreement. They all knew that no matter what they decided on that matter, she wouldn't like it. Her fear of falling asleep, diving into a world from which one could not easily escape, was too strong.

They heard a cackle of ironic laughter behind them and for the first time that evening, Crosshair seemed to find his voice. “That's bullshit.” he hissed from the corner behind them, making no secret of the fact that he thought their efforts were unnecessary and disrespected.

“At least we're participating in what's going on- giving the kid a set routine and all.” Echo scoffed, his eyes sparkling dangerously across the table. He sighed audibly as Wrecker joined in.

“That's right, you just standin’ there, sayin’ nothin’.” He pointed towards Crosshair’s chest.

His brother held his palms out defensively until he reached backward, white knuckles grabbing the sink. Hunter noticed him beginning to breathe faster. Hunter knew full well that he had to intervene before it was too late.

"Cross for god’s sake, spit it out already!" Hunter said, slowly getting frustrated with his brothers put up cool persona. He knew, as well as everyone else, that it was neither beneficial for their situation nor healthy for the mental state of his brother.

Despite the direct speech, Crosshair tried to keep his face neutral. Nevertheless, Hunter could clearly see the effect of his sharp words.

Finally, the mask faltered and left nothing but an incredibly distraught looking man behind. Aghast, Hunter just stared. He knew it took a lot out of someone like Crosshair to show himself vulnerable.

Crosshair’s stone-hard expression grew soft, eventually becoming completely distorted. He quickly looked down and turned to the window. Hunter believed to have heard the tiniest sniffle.

Hunter’s heart sank. In all the commotion around Omega, he had clearly forgotten the needs of his littlest brother. Being the oldest, he had to protect him, after all.

Fuck.

He knew how susceptible Crosshair was to emotional distress. Given his brother’s backstory with other substances than the odd cigarette he thought no one would ever catch him smoking, he clearly had neglected him- with disastrous effects, it seemed. Hunter slowly approached his crouched figure. He knew that sudden movements could frighten a mentally decompressing person even more.

“Wanna talk in private?” He patted his hand on Crosshairs shoulder. He feebly attempted to shake it off, once it made contact.

“No-“ he growled, trying to decline.

Knowing it was desperately necessary, Hunter didn’t let himself be deterred. “Come on.” Hunter reiterated, slowly pulling him out of his protective stance.

Under the glances of the others, he calmly pushed Crosshair to the living room, making sure to tightly shut the door. Whatever his brother would confide in him wouldn't leave the room. Hunter sat himself across his brother, watching him struggle to find the right words once more.

Crosshair's gaze timidly searched the floor and remained there. His expression grew more serious again. “What makes you think your routines can make this shitshow any better?”

Hunter was taken aback, swallowing against the lump in his throat. “I don't. But we have to start somewhere.”

Hunter didn't know where to place the snarky comment. He recalled the words of her psychiatrist. It was only Crosshair's right to express concern. “All we can do is pick up the pieces and hope that we can at least take some emotional weight off her shoulders.”

“But what if that doesn't work? What if she's already been fucked up forever?” His voice barely got the last word out before it broke off.

It made sense to Hunter that he wasn't talking about Omega, rather explaining himself. Even though their mother had four children, she all despised equally, she always had it out for Crosshair the most. He appeared to be the most subjected to the cruel experiments she did. Of course, this didn't mean that he, Wrecker or Tech got off lightly- quite the opposite.

Somehow, Nala Sé recognized his emotional nature early on and made a cruel joke out of exploiting it. At some point, his brother had closed himself off, leaving a protective mask, making it incredibly difficult to access his own feelings.

Hot feeling creeping up Hunter’s neck, he pressed his fingers to his burning eyelid. Hunter breathed deeply, trying to not let past memories making his head spin. “Is that how you feel?”

“I dunno-“ He mumbled. Crosshair usually never mumbled.  “A lot came up.” He said clipped, agitatedly chewing on his lower lip. He slowly appeared to be coming out of his trance. Slender, long legs, pulled to his chest, he rested his head on top of his kneecaps.

Hunter reached his arm out, resting right beside his curled-up figure. “Why didn't you say something?” He swore to God, he didn’t want to sound that annoyed.

Disapprovingly, Hunter had to admit that Crosshair's closed-off streak annoyed him quite a bit at times. Why, for god’s sake, did his little brother feel the need to act so strong? They were family, for fuck’s sake. He didn’t need to do this. It wasn’t like he could fool anyone with his demeanor anyway.

All it left them with was an incredulous amount of concern. Especially when they were all trying to avoid another one of Crosshair’s relapses. The last one hadn't been too long ago. Finding his way back to addiction, despite the meetings he went to, was still easy.

“Hunter-“ Crosshair began pleading. “She needs you much more than I do. Look at what she's been through-" His brother's tone became soft and pleading. Something in Hunter's chest almost tore.

“She needs all of us, Cross. Not just the four of us. You too.”

“Pfft- What the fuck could she want from someone like me?”

“The fact that you think so little of yourself is astonishing to me.”

Swelling with something he didn’t recognize, Hunter harbored a breath. Crosshair was so much more than what his trauma and the addiction made him to believe. His brother gave a short, barely noticeable shrug.

“Well soldier-“ Hunter started, pulling Crosshair’s attention away from the ground. Army tactics always seemed to work. “Tomorrow, you're on bedtime duty.” He tried to sound cheerful. “She almost rage-bit me today. Let's see if you can do a better job.”

Crosshair huffed in frustration. “Hunter- I don't think I can-“

"You'll do fine-" He grasped his shoulder in a firm and steady manner. Finally, his brother let him. "Can't get any worse than Tech's attempts." Both shared a laugh; well Crosshair’s had more or less been a short chuckle.

The night previous, Tech had read Omega a story about deep-sea creatures. Omega had been intrigued. So much, in fact, she couldn’t sleep at all and kept getting out of bed to pester Tech further.

The corners of his mouth pulled further down. He swallowed audibly. Hunter unobtrusively tried to slide closer. His brother slightly recoiled. "I'm not going to cry now” he hissed, back to his old manners. “So stop looking at me like that."

Crosshair lowered his gaze back toward the floor. His lip began to quiver, and he bit down on it to shamefully mask his growing upsetness.  "Ughh- don't be so proud" Hunter hissed, cradling him tightly in his arms.

"I'm not going to cry-" he repeated, his breath coming out as short hitches. Crosshair's hand clung to Hunter's back, desperately trying to find some form of support. It was the last thing he said before a few tears did roll out of the corner of his eyes and he began to sniffle quietly.

Hunter would hold him for as long as his brother needed him to. His hand ran soothingly from shoulder to shoulder over his back. Repetitive motions acting in tandem with the sharply sucked in breaths. It took a long time for his brother to calm down enough to move away from Hunter's embrace.

When he had regained his composure, they looked into each other's eyes for a moment. Better- It seemed they had more life in them than before.

Crosshair sighed heavily and slouched backward onto the sofa; hand pressed against his forehead. Hunter still cupped his shoulder until they both heard a soft call from down the hall.

Hunter gradually switched from one problem child to the other. Always on the move, he thought to himself.

Chapter Text

“Believing is not knowing Omega.” Tech readjusted his glasses onto the crouched figure of his little sister. She was bent over a worksheet of Spanish vocabulary, agitatedly chewing at the end of her pencil. Echo was concerned.

“Tech, let the kid be.” He said, putting an arm around her back, pulling her closer to his chair. In protest, her head collapsed on the table. “She can’t know everything.”

“If I refrain from correcting her, she runs the risk of acquiring incorrect knowledge.” He sounded as smug as always, Echo noticed. He had been with her all day. Omega had been doing great, given the circumstances at least. Since their brother joined them, however, things just went downhill.

"I don't want to do this anymore." with that said, he knew she was fighting tears. Lately, it happened more frequently. She put the pencil down, sliding back on the crappy kitchen chair.

Fortunately, the brothers' daily lives were not particularly impacted by the pandemic. None of them had had to fear for their jobs. Hunter and Wrecker continued to spend days at the construction site, Crosshair was able to continue working the night shift, and Tech, despite having to move his job home, continued to work in customer service for the tech company he was employed at. Only Echo was temporarily suspended in his job at the Vet Center, but with the prospect of continuing once the infection rates dropped. These happy circumstances could not be said about Omega's life. Within a week, her whole lifestyle was turned upside down. First, leisure activities closed their doors and eventually, so did school. Before they knew it, they were faced with a whole new kind of challenge: homeschooling.

Since they were already partly overwhelmed with the parenting of their little sister -the older she got the more difficult it became- now they were even more challenged. To create an artificial daily routine, which could not be limited by a fixed framework, was more than difficult. The sudden change had left them perplexed. And if it was something Omega had a particularly hard time with, it was change. Kids need consistency, Tech always said. Unfortunately, the virus was as inconsistent as it was unpredictable.

Her brothers were aware that she was suffering greatly from the lack of social contact. For a child, who had spent most of her life in isolation, she was particularly fearful that the absence of social contact with peers would be the new normal.

Her lethargy and induced irritability had reached a momentum last week when she and Crosshair butted heads. It was their worst fight yet. In hindsight, all the brothers were glad that, after a brief cooling-off period, they seemed to quickly find their way back to each other. As much as they sometimes clashed, they understood each other and could exactly gauge what the other needed. Crosshair had proposed that physical activity might be especially good for her, after the interrupted soccer practice. Now it had become their daily routine to go for a run together when he got home from work and she was getting up. That at least got her out of the house a little and compensated for the other physical activities she participated in at school.

In addition, they had to continue her therapy sessions via mobile phone. Due to the constant risk of infection, all non-life-supporting medical practices and therapy centers were closed for the time being. Once a week, she would talk to her therapist on the phone for 45 minutes and seemed more cheerful after that.

However, that didn't necessarily lasted long. Homeschooling was a lot harder than expected and because of the loss of motivation, she was behind on some of her assignments. She had always been so eager to learn, but now everything school tasked her with seemed to be a huge burden. Echo sighed as he pointed to his sister's printed sheet, the boxes with the especially difficult Spanish vocabulary still unfilled.

The three of them were so involved in her Spanish homework that they didn't notice someone sneaking up behind them.

“pulpo -what?” Crosshair said, messing with one of Omegas loose curls. She grinned, letting her head sink further into his long-fingered grasp. “It’s the Spanish word for octopus. ¿No?” He moved further toward the counter, making himself a cup of coffee. Omega scribbled the word into the last unfilled box.

Tech groaned. „How will she ever learn anything if you just tell her everything?“ Uff- seems like Omega wasn’t the only one who suffered from the social distancing. His half-brother seemed to be particularly blunt today. Crosshair huffed. The muttering of the coffee machine cut through their potential argument.

"She's not going to learn anymore, anyway. It's late." Echo flipped the laptop closed and pushed it aside along with her books. "That's enough Omega. You did very well today." He smiled gently and brushed her cheek with his hand. The corners of her mouth pulled up only briefly before she returned to a resigned expression. Startled, he realized that the sun was already setting. He felt uncomfortable at the thought that she had been sitting at the kitchen table all day. Isolated and only with him and Gonky, who mostly slept atop the fridge, as company. He knew it wasn’t beneficial for her mental health, but he just didn’t know what to do in these unpredictable times.

“How else should she be able to catch up with the missed schoolwork?” Tech pulled the charger out of the outlet, slowly gathering all her supplies.

"I don't know. Why do you care so much?" Echo hissed. Tech's eyebrows furrowed further, and he shook his head accusatorily.

"I have always been interested in her education." He said, clearly emphasizing the I. He was curter than any of them were used to. He grabbed the laptop from the kitchen table and walked into the living room with it. Omega whined.

"Come on." Echo smirked encouragingly. "I could use you guys' help making dinner." He was relieved to see a slight grin creep back onto her face. She hopped off her chair and quickly picked out some cutting boards and knives they might need for the preparations. He knew she loved to cook with them.

She smiled at Crosshair as he sat down next to her, his coffee already half emptied. Echo placed a small mountain of vegetables in front of them and gave them a bowl to throw the ingredients into.

"You know he means well. Right?" Echo looked over her shoulder and nodded approvingly at her way of cutting potatoes as she held one up to show him.  

"Yes, but somehow he has a strange way of showing it." Her voice collapsed as she struggled to cut through the thick stack of potato slices. Her head lowered and suddenly she sounded very sad again. "I don't want to disappoint him." She crossed her arms and put the knife down from her hands. He heard her sniffle before she wiped her eyes with her backhand.

"Don’t feel bad- Tech was like that to us too when we were kids." Echo knew it was bad when even Crosshair tried to cheer her up. 

Echo sunk beside her chair to look directly at her face. "I can't imagine you could ever disappoint him with anything." He held out his arm and the prosthesis. She didn't have to be asked twice and settled into his embrace as if she'd been waiting for it.

"Unless, of course, you would make the absolutely unforgivable mistake of not arranging the tea bags alphabetically."  Crosshair chuckled, his eyes alert at the trembling back of his sister's head. His little joke couldn't fix much.

She sobbed quietly but heartbreakingly into his shoulder. At that moment, Echo wished he had his right hand back so he could give her a little more security. „Cross- handkerchief." he said softly, pointing behind Crosshair to a stack of paper towels. He compassionately handed one to Echo, who passed it on to Omega. She sniffled her thanks as he carefully slid it between her clenched fingers at his side. Eventually, swallowing hard, she lifted her head.

"I'm so sorry," she began wiping the shed tears away from her face. He shook his head in protest. "I just miss my friends so much-" Omega leaned back again, knees propped on the edge of the table and clenched tightly by her arms.

"-and you're getting sick of just sitting in front of that stupid computer all day. Right?" He knew that, if Hunter had been present, he would have chided Crosshair for the mild curse he emitted. Fortunately, Echo himself was different. She nodded and began to wring her hands.

"It's okay Omega. This situation is difficult- not a single soul on earth was prepared for this." He rested his large palm onto her grasp, attempting to stop the flutter he knew went on in her head. "It's okay to be sad about not seeing your friends. But you will see them again- I promise."

She went in for another hug, this time less firm of a grasp and shorter in duration. She cleared her throat and blew her stuffy nose. Her wet eyes glanced into his. With a final nod she seemed to recollect her strength. Under Crosshairs watchful gaze she resumed cutting more vegetables whilst Echo attended the stove.

Crosshair apparently coming up with an idea, pulled out his smartphone blasting radio hits on full volume, whilst he tried to sing the lyrics as off-key as he possibly could. Making a fool out of himself only to make her laugh again. It seemed to work, and it was hella catchy. Soon not only Omega sung at the top of her lungs but Echo as well, stirring the spoon in the pot to the rhythm of an old Beatles song.

They were so immersed in giving a movie-like performance of the songs that Echo almost didn't hear the front door slam shut. Gonky, who until now had been watching the action from above their heads, jumped from her hiding place with a loud meow and pushed past Echo's prostheses into the hallway.

"Yay- Hunter and Wrecker are home." Omega set aside the kitchen knife and jumped happily from her chair. Like Gonky before her, she sprinted out into the hallway to greet the two oldest brothers.

"Yay" Crosshair mimicked her ironically, and much to Echo's amusement, made a motion with his hands. The more time she spent at home, the more she missed her brothers. A fact that didn't escape any of them. While it was endearing, Echo felt a little queasy at the thought of her attachment. He knew from one of Tech's books on parenting that children sometimes developed separation anxiety, but it seemed to take on a new high with Omega. In disapproval, he thought back to her volatile childhood.

Wrecker pushed his tall, broad-shouldered body through the narrow kitchen door, without Omega or Hunter in tow. Echo bristled. "When's the food gonna be ready? ‘M starving." He said, dropping into Omega's chair.

"Well, that's a first." Echo put the wooden spoon aside and lowered the heat on the stovetop, his mind still on Omega's and Hunter's absence. He didn’t pay attention to the child-unfriendly curse Crosshair flung at him. Wrecker laughed it off and fished for vegetable scraps that were messily scattered across the table.

The loud radio music seemed to fade away as his feet clumsily moved toward the hallway. He stopped in the doorway. His siblings were tightly tangled in an embrace that neither seemed willing to give up anytime soon. Hunter clutched his sister's blond head with his hand and held her tightly against his chest. Echo's and his eyes met. Echo made a small waving hand gesture. Hunter looked over at him with soft eyes. Sometimes he wished he could decipher emotions as quickly as his half-brother. 

Echo made a beckoning gesture with his index finger and Hunter nodded gently. His hands moved to her shoulders and gripped her tightly. She moved away from his stature, rubbing her eyes and staring languidly upward. "I'm so tired."

Again, Hunter shot Echo a worried look. He returned it. "Then go upstairs." Reassuringly, he brushed the tangled bangs from her face with his hand. She nodded and slipped past Echo up the stairs. He briefly reached for her wrist as she brushed his thigh.

"I can bring your food to your room if you like." He was careful not to put any kind of paternalism into his words.

"Mhkay-" Omega yawned. Her feet dragged slowly up the stairs. It wasn't until they heard the attic door squeak open that Hunter approached. He hadn't even taken off his thick winter jacket yet.

"She misses her friends." Echo said softly, watching Hunter balance himself with one hand on the wall surface in the process of removing his work boots. He nodded, as if Echo's statement had been the most obvious thing in the world.

"Yeah, I thought so." He fished in his jacket pocket for the mask and hung it under his name on the board Wrecker had made at the beginning of the pandemic. His hands reached for the disinfectant on the shoe cabinet. Tech pedantically insisted that none of them enter until they made sure they had rid themselves of any potential remaining germs.

In face of rising case numbers probably for the better- Echo thought and moved on to Hunter.

He kept his voice calm, but unmistakably clear. "We should up her therapy hours." Hunter nodded in acknowledgement. "Just for the time being. It's necessary."

He knew that being faced with the increased cost, Hunter was sweating internally. The therapy sessions were incredibly expensive, but worth every penny if they wanted to prevent the aftereffects of serious changes in her life from becoming permanent. Even though money was sometimes a scarcity in their home, they always found ways to cope with the many bills. If need be, they still had a few savings accounts. Among them was that of ninety-nine, who had inherited it to Hunter for the upkeep of the house. Hunter, however, had refused to touch it and was determined to save it for Omega's college education.

"Yeah, I'm starting to get worried too." Echo stifled his feigned surprise at Hunter's statement. Hunter slowly pushed past Echo into the kitchen to join the other siblings and sighed with pleasure at the smell coming from the oven. Echo went after him and fixed a plate for Omega next to the stove. Hopefully things will get better soon.

Chapter Text

“Good meeting to you-” Hunter said, waving idiotically to his little brother. Crosshair bravely put up a grin, shaking his head. He muttered a silent thanks and then turned to slam the car door shut. Hunter would have wanted to fix himself with a fast-food meal, just like Wrecker did, when he brought Crosshair to the meetings, but today, he just couldn’t bring himself to leave the parking lot.

He pushed out the button for the headlights and scooched back in the seat to make himself comfortable. He couldn’t deny being anxious to leave his brother to himself after a meeting. The old fear still sat deep within. Inevitably, he couldn't help but think of how he recognized the first signs of substance abuse.

Crosshair had been remote and even harder to reach. He never had been the particularly vocal type but at that time, it was like he hadn’t been present at all. Empty eyes, darting constantly as if searching for something invisible.

Hunter himself didn’t realize what went on until Crosshair was already waist deep in trouble. For the first time in his life, army excluded, Hunter had been afraid for his brother. Not by watching somebody he loved turn into someone he chafed, but by watching somebody he loved turn into someone he might not recognize anymore.

Back then, fear had been a constant companion. He used to wake up to it every day, thinking of Crosshair and fearing he was gone. He never told anyone. He thought about what his emotions mattered, if the life of his little brother was at steak? Though he wasn’t the only one who remained silent. In fact, all the brothers had collectively decided to become anonymous to the idea of sharing emotion.

Hunter secretly had hoped that their silence would make their brother feel safer and more protected. That if they would be as silent as possible and gave him as much room to be erratic as he wanted, Crosshair would eventually stop doing what he did. Sadly, nothing they ever did in silence seemed to help. It would have been easy. Too easy, Hunter now thought.

But fear wasn’t the worst thing. It was shame. Hunter was ashamed that he himself might have done something to worsen his little brother’s mental state. He was embarrassed about past instances, where he had clearly seen his brothers struggles but chose not to recognize or acknowledge them, thinking they could go away on their own if he just looked the other way long enough.

Hunter understood way too late, that his brother’s addiction hadn’t been his fault. He, much to his dismay, clearly remembered the last day Crosshair was caught from authority whilst being on cocaine.

Rex had brought Crosshair back to their home from his trips many a times. Each time the brothers had promised him that the situation would soon improve. The last time, however, he hadn’t been so easily convinced.

Rex had taken Hunter aside, clarifying that he couldn't just let the situation go on like it had. He gave them two options to choose from: either their little brother would go to jail for drug possession, or they had to promise to take him to a rehab center the next day.

Thinking back, he also felt a lot of guilt.

Hunter had wept openly in front of his brother that night, begging him for the love of God to stop this self-destructive streak. However, when Crosshair woke up from his high the next day, he seemed to have forgotten everything that had happened.

Seeing his brother without drugs in his body was no joy. Naively, Hunter had thought that once his brother started rehab, he would be back to his old self. However, Crosshair had been nothing but listless, paranoid and overly sensitive.

Not even the substitute he took made his situation any better. Crosshair had suffered through countless nightmares, ultimately causing a substantial lack of sleep. Agitation once again returned to the Fett-brothers as Crosshair discontinued the substitute. The collective fear of relapse was immense. No matter how much Hunter tried to compensate for the heavy, gray cloud looming over their heads, he learned that some things were inevitable…

Crosshair disappeared for a full nine days after the night they learned of Ninety-Nine's death. Hunter was at his wits' end with fear and grief. Wrecker, Hunter, Echo and Tech had been out simultaneously in the car, searching the entire state for their brother until, by coincidence, they had found him at a gas station not far from their house. It had been horrible.

Wide, bloodshot pupils that had almost peeled out of his pale, ghost-like face. Completely paranoid and ragged, they had taken him straight to the clinic.

An ice-cold shiver ran down his spine, dousing him in past turmoil. Everything was better now.

Crosshair, in the program of ambulant rehabilitation, was given a long list of rules that he and his siblings had to follow. One of those things was a weekly drug test. Determining how much of the substance he still had in his system soon became their new priority.

Crosshair reluctantly and under much protest, had to piss in a plastic cup every week for a full two years until enough trust was restored.

Since Omega had been present, Crosshair had been completely clean. He no longer needed his replacement drug, though he smuggled a couple of cigarettes by. But Hunter didn’t mind too much. As long as he kept it a secret from Omega. There were still certain parts of life, Hunter didn’t want her to experience.

Crosshair really appeared to have made a U-turn in his life. Even the night shift seemed to be doing him good, giving him the structure back he so desperately seemed to need.

Today marked 912 days since Crosshair had begun abstinence, without a substitute. 912 days in which they had laughed more together than ever before. 912 days in which they had used to rebuild their little family, and, most importantly, exactly 912 days since they had gained a new family member.

____________

“Good meeting to you.” Hunter said, waving.

Crosshair waved back and snickering something underneath his breath that Hunter would have caught, if he hadn’t been too busy mastering a feeble smile.

After all these years, Hunter still didn't know what to say. Though he couldn't blame him. After all, he had caused his siblings quite a bit of pain over the years. He had often felt regret towards his family and wished for nothing more than to be able to turn back time. However, that wasn’t possible, and Crosshair knew that. He would forever have to live with what he had put them through.

Small raindrops began to roll off his forehead. Crosshair quickly pulled the hood of the sweatshirt over his pale blond hair and skipped the remaining steps across the dark parking lot to the entrance of the Narcotics Anonymous center. Shirley, the older somewhat chubby woman had her usual hyper-positive smile on and greeted him by first name, only to cross him off the list on her small clipboard. Crosshair smiled back and took a cookie from the box on the counter.

Twenty minutes to go before the meeting started. He glanced at the bright smartphone screen only to tuck it back into his back pocket. Crosshair sat down on one of the chairs further away from the entrance, not at all keen to strike up a conversation with any passerby.

Crosshair’s thoughts wandered back to the first day he stepped into the cramped waiting room. Back then, he had just been released from the clinic, the drugs not even out of his bloodstream yet. The past surrounding his years with addiction sometimes felt like he had drunk one too many and had a blackout. Reluctantly, however, he had to admit to himself that the addiction hadn't just been a case of lost memory. Crosshair couldn't remember how long the addiction was in control. He estimated that it had been at least a year and a half before the others noticed. He wasn't angry that they missed it. After all, he had been incredibly good at hiding these things.

Crosshair’s gaze jumped up as someone sat down next to him. Slowly relaxing, he realized he knew this person. Miguel had been trying to strike up a friendship with him ever since Crosshair's first meetings. Crosshair didn't want to be rude, so he let him try, but soon realized that they had a lot in common in terms of personality - except, of course, for the pushiness of engaging others in small talk, in which Miguel seemed to be an expert at.

“Hey Crosshair.” His wrinkle-rimmed eyes flashed from under bushy eyebrows. “How's your sister?” he asked, knowing full well that Crosshair didn’t like to be addressed first. He didn't mind talking about his family. But talking about himself- No, not when it wasn’t absolutely necessary. Perhaps that's why he still had a strange queasy feeling in his stomach coming to the NA meetings.

“She’s doing great.” Crosshair reluctantly noticed that the corners of his mouth automatically moved upward at the thought of his sister. “She won her very first game last week.” Crosshair knew that Omega theoretically played team sports, but if he was being honest, it was only thanks to his talented sister that the game went 5-1 for the home school. The other deadbeats on her team hadn't contributed much to the victory.

They couldn't even run straight- he defended his thoughts to himself. Crosshair fished in his back pocket for his smartphone to show a picture of Omega taking the final winning shot into the opponents' goal. His sister would certainly not approve if he showed around the picture of her distorted face chasing a ball. Somehow, she had become quite vain with such things lately. Teenage brat-  Crosshair always teased her, but they both knew he wasn't serious ... or at least only half serious.

A strange sensation quirked up in Crosshair’s stomach upon looking at the photo. It was half blurred, and one corner was covered by Wrecker's chubby finger. Omega's hair was totally disheveled and was sticking out in all directions. She had been completely exhausted but had lunged at the opposing defense with all her might to score the goal. The brothers had screamed their throats hoarse with cheers. Omega had been so proud and happy. Again, he found that he was grinning. Somehow his little sister could always get a genuine smile out of him. 

“That's awesome.” He said, and to Crosshair's satisfaction, he looked impressed. As courtesy would have it, it was now Crosshair's turn to ask about Miguel's daughters. He had three. Crosshair sucked in a heavy breath. With all due respect, he didn't know what he would do with three Omegas. He put on a smile, quickly staring back at the cell phone clock.

“What are your kids up to Miguel?” he asked, watching Miguel's old eyes light up in eagerness as if he had been waiting to be asked. He cleared his throat and rummaged for something in his wallet. "The smallest one, Eva- it was her birthday this weekend..." Miguel pulled out a polaroid. True Boomer- Crosshair noted.

On it, three little girls, all younger than Omega, could be seen laughing, gathered around a cake. Somehow, he felt a strange sting in his chest. Omega would never be able to have that kind of age closeness with any of her siblings.

When he really thought about it, they weren't really like brothers to her either. Much more like- bluargh, parents. He cringed. What an embarrassment - he said to himself and only then noticed Miguel pestering him with his watery stare, clearly waiting for a reaction.

“Really nice, Miguel. Tell her a belated happy birthday.” Crosshair said quickly. Another glance at the clock said it was about time to head to the meeting room. Crosshair put the phone back in his jacket pocket. Though one thought still fondly lingered with his little sister.

The room in which they had gathered was a bit run down. One of the ceiling tiles seemed to have been missing for years. The others were covered in yellowed stains, but somehow that didn't bother him. At least it made this artificial environment feel secure. Contributing to this also was the strong smell of old coffee, that reminded him of his half-brother Echo.  

The thing he hated most about these meetings was the forced way everyone had to introduce themselves. It was always the same, for every person. Twenty times in a row. Name, age, drug of choice, story.

It was weird to him how happy they all introduced themselves only to name the thing that had almost ruined their lives. Still, Crosshair couldn’t deny how good it felt to name the ‘devil’ and speak about how it affected him and his family.

He knew Hunter meant well when he said he shouldn't talk about his addiction in front of Omega. After all, he was just trying to protect her innocence. However, Crosshair wanted the same thing, and he couldn't help but think if Hunter's approach in this regard might not be entirely justified.

Crosshair swallowed as countless sets of his turned to him, waiting for him to continue with the round of introductions. “My name is Crosshair.” he began clutching the water bottle tighter in his grip, nails digging at the label. If he was honest, he didn't even know what last name to introduce himself with. Sé as well as Fett was used with equal frequency and Crosshair didn't even know what exactly was printed on his passport anymore. Eventually, he skipped his last name.

“I'm 27-“ was he really that old? he snorted to himself. "My drug of choice was cocaine." He wasn't embarrassed to admit that. It helped looking into faces that were drawn by kindness because they knew exactly how it felt.

“I've been clean for 912 days.”

Tame clapping filled the room. His stomach tightened. Somehow, he couldn't feel proud because of it. He knew that he paid a heavy price. Of course, there were days when it didn't even cross his mind what he'd been through.

Sometimes though, every day felt like a struggle. Fighting the addiction had been incredibly exhausting and he couldn’t help but glance glumly into the future, thinking he would have to fight even more. Although, he knew it was worth it. For them. For her… - he reminded himself. For Omega. He had a responsibility.

“My piece of shit mother-” He couldn’t exclude the possibility that his mother’s administrations might have contributed to his substance abuse. Crosshair remembered Tech telling him about the caused imbalances, probably lasting way longer than anyone would have thought and causing a deficit of somekind. “-She never missed the chance to say how useless we were. That didn’t fucking bother me though-“ he lied to himself. Crosshair cleared his throat. “Coming back from war, with everything out of place and stuff-“ damn, did he just say stuff? Was he thirteen? “I -I just didn’t know what to do with myself and couldn’t shake off the feeling that she might have been right.”

He paused to recollect himself again, breathing heavily. To think of Nala Sé was more than painful. In the most literal sense of the word. It had taken a long time for the aftereffects of what she called 'treatments' to wear off. Unlike Hunter or Wrecker, he hardly had any physical complaints anymore.

However, he wouldn’t have cared much about the physical well-being if it were not for the rage. He realized the lingering anger way too late. His hand clenched into a fist until the nails dug painfully into his flesh.

“I had trouble- With myself but also with everyone else around me.” A ridiculous understatement. At that point, if he had to spend more than ten minutes with another person, he snapped.

Meanwhile, he held the peeled-off label of the water bottle in his hands and turned it to look absent-mindedly at the sticky back. “I don't want my sister to suffer the same fate as me.”

The sentence came quickly and without thought. Crosshair was very surprised of himself to admit that openly. However, it was true. Omega was basically the second chance his family needed to avoid breaking apart altogether.

He had to realize that he had played a contributing factor in that regard. Before Omega showed up, things had been a lot different. All of them had just let the days happen. Listlessness and inertia had been their regular daily routine.

After old Ninety-Nine had passed away, Crosshair was the only one left in the house during the day. So, he inevitably got used to the habit of sleeping late. Before he knew it, he was no longer voluntarily getting up before 2 pm. Hunter had suggested him to apply to be a night guard. -Why not? Crosshair had thought at the time. Then, he at least had a real reason to sleep during the day. To everyone’s surprise, he ended up linking his job quite a lot. So, he remained there.

“I'll do everything in my power to prevent that from happening.”

Omega was supposed to have a better life. He wanted to see her grow up, scream his head off at thousands and thousands of soccer games to come, have breakfast and dinner with them all day every day. Movie nights, where they snuggled tightly on the couch only to watch Hunter's stupid martial arts movies or Tech's nature documentaries, he always cracked stupid jokes about.

He was determined to never start with that shit again.  If not for him, then at least for his little sister. The girl, who he never knew existed and wasn't even sure if he wanted to meet, but he quite clearly … loved?- Grow up, he chided himself. He never wanted to throw out the beautiful moments Omega brought into their lives. Only for some of that fuckery. Never-

____________

Omega stood at the top of the stairs and watched the living room door downstairs slowly open. She had spent what felt like an eternity there, carefully avoiding her other siblings.

It was getting late, hopefully her big brother wouldn't be mad at her for not being in bed. She simply didn't want to go to sleep. Omega clutched the banister tighter.

She startled as Hunter's figure turned, making its way toward the stairs. Quickly, she ran, hiding and standing flat behind the shelf in the hallway. Breathing quietly, she listened to his heavy footsteps, accompanied by cracking sounds from the wooden boards beneath his feet. Hunter’s head swiveled in her direction, but ultimately seemed to miss her in the dark hallway. Omega exhaled. Thank God he never turned on the lights at night.

Omega slipped out of her hiding place as Hunter disappeared into the bathroom. She crept along the edge of the stairs, careful enough not to make as much noise as Hunter. At the bottom, she paused in front of the closed living room door. Bright colors flickered out from under the gap. She swallowed as she took the door handle in her hands, gently pushing it down.

Crosshair laid sprawled on the couch, typing away on his cell phone. Omega felt relief. Finally, they could talk alone, without anyone else deliberately withholding information. She had waited weeks for this moment, inwardly thinking about all the things Omega wanted to ask Crosshair.

Sometimes her brother intimidated her. At times Crosshair seemed almost cold and distant. She had asked Hunter about it a lot, but he affirmed that her youngest big brother didn't mean it. That was just the way he was. Somehow, though, that hadn't satisfied her.

She had pestered Hunter until he told her a little about the time before she came to them. His explanations had been terse and unenlightening. Even more reason why she thought talking to the direct source of her concern might be more fruitful. It bothered her that almost every week, usually on Thursdays, he seemed to disappear for exactly one and a half hours, only to reappear after she was already in bed. But just because his nighttime walks, sometimes accompanied by the others, outlasted her bedtime, didn't mean she didn't notice what was going on. After all, she wasn’t stupid.

He paid no attention to the television or her figure. Omega closed the living room door behind her. Crosshair immediately scooted upwards. Her brother cleared his throat, eyes piercing her face and searching for some kind of explanation why she’d fled her bed.

“Hunter just went up.” He grabbed the remote and turned off the TV. Without it’s light behind the tv on, the small room was suddenly pretty dark. “Maybe you can catch him before he goes to bed.”

Omega walked up to the couch, sitting down next to him. Crosshair let his gaze travel after Omega’s bright blue pajamas, staring as if she suddenly had three eyes instead of two. “No.” Determined, she shook her head. “I don't want to talk to Hunter. I wanted to come see you.”

If her brother didn't look dumbfounded before, he certainly did now. Relieved, she noticed that he slid closer. She did the same until she finally got close enough to lean against his lanky torso.

“You wanted to see me-” Crosshair gestured to himself.

Something strange put itself in his tone that she didn't understand. It didn't sound like a question or a statement. “Mhhh” she nodded in confirmation, finally deciding to ask her question before she lost courage. Omega glanced up. “Where were you earlier?”

The look on his skinny face turned alarmingly pale. Somehow, it scared the living daylights out of her. She didn't miss the way his fingers clenched into his thighs. “I shouldn't-“ he said with the typical venom in his voice. This was exactly what she was afraid of. Another adult who didn't trust her to handle things on her own. And she thought Crosshair to be otherwise.

“Yes, you should!” Omega replied quickly and with more defiance in her voice than she would have liked. “I want to know.” She crossed her arms. Leaning against his side, she heard him gulp. “That's not fair- everyone knows- only I'm not allowed to.” Omega pushed her lower lip forward slightly, knowing that begging was met with two kinds of reactions from Crosshair: mockery or surly compliance. She crossed her fingers, hoping it was the latter.

“Alright.” He hissed, finally reaching an arm around her shoulder for her to get comfortable. She smiled smugly. “But I don't want you to be afraid. Okay?”

Now it was Omega's turn to look puzzled. Why should she be afraid of his evening walks? She really only wanted to know where he walked to, but Hunter had refused to tell her even after several requests. She nodded again.

“I promise.” She said, softly grinning up at him. He rolled his eyes but gripped her shoulder even tighter until it dug into his ribcage. For some reason though, that didn't seem to bother him.

“You know how you go to therapy-“ She nodded, wondering why he brought up the fact that she got counseling once a week. “I basically do the same thing.”

“You don't go for walks at all?” Her eyes widened. Why didn't Hunter just tell her that? After all, there was nothing wrong with needing help.  But why on earth was he doing this at night? Was he ashamed of it? Should she be too?

Crosshair furrowed his brows, shaking his head. “What-walks? Who the heck told you that?”

She didn't need to answer his question, since he already knew the answer. “Hunter-“

There it was again. Sentences phrased neither as questions nor as answers.  Somehow that made her uneasy. She huffed in frustration. “Before you came along-“ his deep baritone became scarily monotone, eyes searching for something stoic to land on. “We didn't use to live like we do now.”

His voice broke off. Omega was afraid he would change his mind when, to her relief, he continued. “Somehow we were all busy with ourselves.” He swallowed again. In a way she was getting scared now, but Omega was too proud to admit it. She was the one asking this of him. “I was angry and sad- about the things I had seen at war, and it triggered bad memories of our upbringing.”

Echo had once explained to her what triggers were when her therapist mentioned it in session. Omega understood that certain sensations brought up bad memories that one would prefer to forget. Something in her was relieved that Crosshair seemed to feel similarly about her mother.

Neither of her brothers wanted to talk about it, although she would like to have the opportunity every now and then. But she also didn't want to hurt her siblings' feelings. Echo was the only one who agreed to talk regularly with her about the past.

“and because everyone was preoccupied with themselves, the others didn't notice how I actually felt. But it wasn't the others' fault that I did… what I did. For a while I couldn’t deal any different with this anger and sadness than to take substances that made it easier to cope with everything that surrounded me at that time.”

She blinked hard. How could that be such a bad thing? She knew that her medicine made her feel better during the day. Why wasn’t that the case for Crosshair?

“These substances weren’t good for me. I became involved in some gruesome stuff, and it isn’t healthy for your body either. Every day, I wanted more of the one thing I knew I shouldn’t want at all.” He sighed, his hand absentmindedly scribbling snake lines on her shoulder.

Omega held a breath and slowly tried to regain her courage. “These substances are dangerous?” she asked, timidly imitating the non-question and non-answer tone. Her brother nodded, sighing again.

“Very. But that wasn’t the worst part.” He met her confused glance shortly before continuing. “No. You see, the worst part is how it affected our brothers. I took a lot of fault, in driving Hunter to be that overprotective.” She felt him pause again, his grip slowly becoming limp. Somehow, she couldn't imagine Hunter non-overprotective. It was as if two pieces of a puzzle didn't fit together.

“I'm sorry” his voice became brittle. “I- I shouldn't have-“

Omega shook her head vigorously in protest, trying to gently squeeze his chest. But he didn't even seem to notice her anymore.

“What the hell must you think of me now?” To her dismay, he looked away from her. She didn’t like this tone at all. Omega didn't even know why her viewpoint on him as a person mattered to him. In her eyes, Crosshair hadn’t changed at all.

The only thing that seemed to change was his demeaner. When she had encountered him, he had been relaxed. Now, there didn't seem to be much of that left. She wanted to see her brother smile again and make jokes at everyone’s cost but his own. But Omega slowly understood that just like her, Crosshair couldn’t harbor this feeling of joy all the time.

"I love you." she said, softly gripping tighter around his middle which he seemed to be gently retracting. “I don’t think that the substances made you a bad person.”

Crosshair’s heart, pressing against her ear, skipped a beat. She knew the reason. To her knowledge, it was the first time she had ever said it out loud to him. To Hunter and Echo, she had said it a thousand times before. Even to Wrecker and Tech. However, she had never said it to Crosshair before. She knew how much he detested sentimentalism. But that didn't make it any less true. “And you can always tell me when you're sad or angry.” She quickly added.

Crosshair’s arm jerked upward, agitatedly wiping his face. He slid closer again, putting her legs across his lap and fully embracing her now. “Since you’re around, that’s not the case anymore-“

“ 'Thas good.” She sighed, blissfully closing her eyes, and soon slipping into a dream.

Sleep already seized her when her slowly becoming unconscious mind heard him say: “I love you too… Omega… I really do.” As a result, she fondly smiled, allowing the weightlessness of sleep to catch her further. Finally safe and secure in the arms of the person who otherwise showed her the littlest affection.

 

Chapter Text

"Untah-" Omega crept cautiously up to Hunter's narrow bed, searching for his shoulder in the darkness to tug at the fabric of his pajama top. Carefully, she climbed over the clothes scattered on the floor until she came to a stop in front of his sleeping body. "Huntaaaa-" Her tugging at his pajamas grew stronger and her voice louder until she finally woke him from his slumber.

Instinctively, probably to protect himself from potential danger, he jerked his left arm out of bed and opened his eyes. He grimaced as he heard several things tumble off his nightstand. He glanced over to find her hesitant figure that, to dodge his arm, had jumped backwards. The small clock on his radio showed 3.30 am. Somehow, he was surprised himself that his little sister had been able to sneak up on him like that. Normally, his sleep wasn’t particularly deep. In any other night he would have heard the little tiptoe-steps her feet made on the newly renovated parquet.

He had insisted on wooden floors in the attached part of the house when the brothers agreed that with his sleeping habits, it would probably be best for him to get his own space. He could rarely sleep in the room with other people. Usually, that only worked if he was either very sick or extremely exhausted. The attachment was nothing special, but it gave him the opportunity to retreat whenever he needed to.

His heartbeat was still trying to calm when he saw her small figure recede towards the door. " ‘M’sorry- I'm so sorry Hunter-" Only now he noticed her pressed tone. Leaning half out of bed, his large, rough hand clutched her small wrist. Carefully, he tried to pull his little sister toward him. He loosened his grip when he noticed her hesitant approach. He was briefly reminded of his mother's firm grips, to which he didn’t want to connect himself to in any way.

He eventually let go completely. Hunter rubbed his eyes and sat up, another yawn impossible to suppress. "What's wrong?" he said, clearing his throat softly. After a few tense seconds, he was relieved to find that Omega was approaching him again. Because of the soft moonlight, that shone through the poorly darkening curtain, he caught a glance at her completely terrified face - he had last seen her that distraught when...

Omega stood with her knees against the bed frame, which he had assembled in a hurried action out of necessity with Wrecker. It creaked as he sat up further. She looked down at her feet and began to fumble a fight with her hands. "Can I sleep with you?" her voice sounded shy and brittle, a little too much for his taste.

He nodded, not seeing why he should refuse the request of his little sister, who clearly seemed to need his attention. He flipped open the corner of the blanket and then, gripping her tightly at the hips, lifted her over him until she lay between him and the wall. She wasn’t as bony as she had been at the beginning but still very very light.

He briefly glanced beside his bed and saw the bright outline of her rag doll, which she must have dropped. It was a female soldier figure with a fabric hat and green uniform. Affectionately, she had named her Trooper. Trooper was old and had previously belonged to Echo. However, when Omega moved in with them, they had gathered everything they could find in the attic that looked somewhat childlike. He had happily passed it on to Omega. It was her number one comfort item. Right after Wrecker's stuffed animal, Lula.

Her grip quickly tightened around the soft doll as Hunter handed it to her under the covers. She slid closer to him and nestled her head just beneath his chin, her forehead pressing firmly against his chest. Supportively, he slid an arm under her head to further embrace her curled up figure and keep her still and secure.

With the feeling of terror subsiding, a thousand questions remained in Hunter's mind. How did make her way that far to his bed without him noticing? Where had his bandana ended up in all the commotion? -and the most important one of course- Why was she even awake at such an hour?

Disapprovingly, he felt Omega's intermittent breathing in his hug. Her hand, unconsciously playing with the hem of his pajama sleeve, trembled a little. He grew agitated and swallowed against a lump in his throat, still struggling to find the right words. His hand moved to cup her head in an attempt to hold it steady. Only then did his hand feel the wet curls stuck to the back of her neck.

After another wave of uneasy breaths, he cleared his throat again. "What's wrong?" He tried to keep his voice as calm as possible to hide any kind of his own uncertainty. Her small figure shrugged, only to bury herself even deeper under the covers in his chest. He adjusted himself so as not to fall out of bed. 

Strange. She was doing fine earlier. In fact, she had spent a nice day out in the garden with the brothers. They had been raking autumn leaves, only to throw themselves into the big pile of leaves afterwards. They had never heard her laugh so hard before. It somehow didn't fit with her current, completely distraught demeanor.

Still unsure in the art of comforting little sisters he never even knew existed until a month prior, he stroked her trembling form. "Are you not feeling well? Are you sick?" Carefully, he released one hand from her grip and, in a terribly unnatural motion, twisted it to grasp at her forehead. Maybe he could wake his brother Tech. He knew medical issues best. However, despite the slightly cold-sweaty head, she didn’t feel warm. He furrowed his brows further.

"No- M'fine"

It didn't need much guessing to know that she wasn't sincere about it. He knew not to push too far about wanting to know what bothered her. He wanted to be helpful after all. Not give her the feeling she should feel compelled to share her emotions. No- Now knowing about the parenting style of Nala Sé toward Omega, he didn't want to subject her to coercion ever again. Her fingers wandered back to his, as he lowered his arm. Encompassing her small hand fully, he kept drawing his thumb across her knuckles. "Did you have a bad dream?"

She slowly nodded, affirmatively humming a "MhhMhh". At that, his heart seemed to drop into his stomach and for a short moment panic took over as he was utterly lost. He tried to recompose himself only coming up with: "Everything's fine. I've got you."

Her breathing appeared to develop a new pattern. Something far more noticeable. Before it got worse, he quickly tried to intervene. "You're safe with me Omega. You're safe."

Reaching around with his free hand, he gently pushed the damp locks out of her forehead. She made a feeble attempt at nodding before she began to shake violently. So violently in fact that the more he tried to hold her still, the more she shook.

Too late he realized her crying. A small but indistinguishable sea of wetness had built up on his bicep, where her temple rested. Much had happened in the past couple of weeks. Too much given her young age. Hunter didn’t know either what to say, nor what to do, that would even begin to make her cope. All he could think about was being there, being in the moment with her and that seemed to be enough for Omega.   

He began drawing wide circles around her back and on the upper arm. A repetitive pattern, just like her weeping. "Shhht, it’s okay-" He understood that sometimes emotional outlets could looked different for everyone. She hadn’t been very verbal since her rescue and maybe crying was the only way to communicate for her at that moment. He didn’t know what went on in his sister’s head. Sometimes, when she shot him a glance out of unsureness, Omega almost looked lost. He knew it would take some time for her to adjust and all the brothers were eager to give her all the time she needed. The fact that he was certain his help wouldn’t be of any good, just hurt. It was awful seeing her like that.

She drew in sharp breaths and held them in until she gasped for air. The trembling finally took over and the held air was cried out in bursts with a whimpering sound. This went on for quite a while. The house was awfully quiet, filled only with her small, guttural breaths and shockwave-like crying. As soon as the sobbing and trembling had subsided a little, he spoke softly.

"Do you wanna talk about it?"

Burying her face even deeper against his chest, she shook her head, making him clueless on what to do next once more. She sniffed. "No. I don’ wanna" She sounded unsure and not very convinced about her own statement, but he took it. No means no. Always. No exceptions. He didn’t want to tie himself to the memories of their mother who never took no for an answer. "That’s okay." He gently shifted her away from the sea of tears she had left on his arm and stomach. She harbored another gulp, speaking with the tiniest voice he had ever heard from her. "I was lonely-" she made an attempt to lift her head off his chest, trying to meet his bleary gaze. Hunter gave her a gentle smile.

"It’s okay-" he repeated, god dammit- couldn’t he come up with something else to say? "There’s no shame in wanting company." He felt sick thinking about how often she must have felt this way before and didn’t have anyone to seek for comfort. "I was a little lonely myself, so I’m glad you’re here now." He knew that wasn’t quite truthful, but he wanted her to feel a little more understood. It wasn’t that much of a lie though. He liked her company after all and after spending all his life at nighttime as far away from others as he could get, Hunter couldn’t deny that he might not have been the only one offering comfort for loneliness.

She wiped her nose at his sleeve. "Really?" she cleared her throat, coughing away the tears and snot built up and nestled her head back against his chest. "I know you don’t like sleeping around other people-"

Somehow, he was astonished. He had estimated his sister to be less attentive. Of course, what she said was true, but he didn’t like where it led the conversation. "Really." He quickly said, smoothing her hair. The last thing he wanted to make her feel was to be unwelcome. "You can always come to me if you feel lonely."

He hadn't slept much that night, but it didn't matter. The main thing was that Omega could find a little rest. Because of her now regular breathing and silence, he concluded that she had finally found the piece of rest she had always longed for. Hunter didn’t want to admit to himself that maybe the same was true for him and that there was something that his little sister brought into their lives, they had all been missing before.

Chapter Text

Cutting hair wasn‘t a specialty of any of them. Especially, when only four out of six people in their household still had hair that could be cut at all. Echo's had fallen out long before his injury and Wrecker's, well, he liked the shaved look. Ever since Hunter had neatly screwed up his brother's haircut a few years ago, Wrecker, as a consequence, ended up having to shave it all off. His brother had gotten used to being bald. Since then, he wouldn't have it any other way.

Hunter had never cut hair ever again. This task was now left to Crosshair. He had the steadiest hands of them all and a pretty good sense of proportion and spatial thinking. Although he was extremely farsighted. He saw extremely well into distances, but at close range he unfortunately only recognized blurred outlines. Because of that, he usually needed his reading glasses for activities like these. However, since he was too proud to put them on, he preferred to squint his eyes and roughly estimate where he had to cut. A practice that had worked reasonably well with Hunter's long hair, as well as with Wrecker's shave, but now it was Tech's turn, and he wasn't at all thrilled about Crosshair's stubbornness.

"-please wear your eyeglasses." Tech's voice grew more agitated. He reluctantly let himself be seated by his brother, who stood directly behind the crappy kitchen chair. "I have to work on Monday." Crosshair put a towel around his brother's neck and began spraying water to his short hair, shushing him.

"Pff I- don't need them for your amount of hair-" he chuckled briefly and promptly received a firm punch to the stomach area from his brother, to which he countered with a splash from the water spray bottle directly into Tech's face.

Omega, who was bent over her coloring book with Hunter, looked up and giggled at the sight of their gentle scuffle.

Tech groaned in annoyance. "I don't want to look like Wrecker after the incident with the razor." Wrecker briefly looked like he took that statement personally. He stood up from the chair next to Omega, coming to a stop before his brother. He bent down to Tech's level, and plucked the glasses from his face, only to put them on Crosshair behind him.

"That's it. Much better-" he laughed, pleased with himself, and went to the refrigerator to crack open a beer. Tech whispered some profanities behind Wrecker's back, at which Hunter looked up, eyebrows raised and pointed his crayon threateningly at his brother. His serious mask soon faltered. Even Hunter couldn't help but laugh at the sight of Tech's thick glasses on Crosshair's face.

Crosshair, who had always boasted of his overly put-on coolness, now looked like a mole. The big brown Jango eyes shrank to pinpricks behind the thick glasses. In addition, he continued to squint, as if he still couldn’t recognize what was in front of him. He couldn't tell if his little brother saw better with Tech's glasses on or not. All he knew was that it just looked profoundly stupid.

Omega obviously thought the same thing as she started breaking out in laughter at the funny sight. Shaking, she held her side unable to stop. They could have sworn, they had never heard her laugh like this before. Soon laughter gripped them all. Even Tech.

For the brothers, it wasn’t the view of Crosshair with a far too strong glasses that left them so amused. Rather, their laughter was due to Omega's carelessness, which she hadn’t shown all too often since they rescued her from her mother. Deep seated relief floated in the small kitchen- A circumstance that didn’t always exist in her house.

Crosshair himself didn't seem to mind. He grinned, shaking his head at her extremely amused look. He enjoyed making her laugh, even if it was at his own expense.

Still catching breaths and wiping away happy tears, she turned back to the coloring book and Hunter. He briefly looked over at Tech and Crosshair, smile faltering and with a final nod of admonition, probably meant to prevent further swearing. Crosshair, holding a comb and scissors, defensively turned his palms outward.

Omega flipped a page of her coloring book to proudly display her finished work. She earned a series of acknowledgments from her brothers as she waited for Tech's reaction. "Look what I drew!" she beamed at her brother, who had difficulties to even see his own hands without his glasses on.

He sighed, smiling. “Omega, given your creative abilities, I’m sure it is a beautiful masterpiece, but since my seeing aid has been removed-“ He shot a short but infuriated glance at Wrecker “-I’m simply unable to recognize what you drew.” He blinked hard as some of the cut-off hair fell into his face, making a complaining noise, at which Crosshair wiped his face in a rough and loveless manner.

Hunter, thinking he could finish his obligations to help with coloring, put the crayon aside and slid back a little in the chair. "We'll hang it on the fridge kid-" He put a hand to her back and squeezed her shoulder lightly.

"Really? Is it that good?" The anxiety mechanism of fumbling with her hands started again. Noticing this, Wrecker quickly added "It's beautiful Megs.".

He reached across the table and lovingly ruffled her hair. She nodded, eyes glittering in delight and growing almost as big as dinner plates. She eagerly opened another page of her coloring book to continue with the activity. She returned Hunter's set aside crayon and gave him a prompting look. He sighed under the brief glance of his brothers, whom he met with a slight eye roll and smile.

Echo soon joined them. He held a stack of letters in his hands, including, at the top, a yellow one with the words: Department of Transportation. Hunter's eyebrows furrowed, knowing full well what was about to come. "Tech, mail for you-" Echo tossed the yellow envelope into his half-brother's arms. Tech's gaze immediately shifted apologetically to Hunter. Nodding a quick thank you, he accepted it. Because of the short movement, Crosshair met him with a tsk. Still keeping his fingers busy with his brother's hair, he put both hands to Tech's face from behind to straighten his head.

To Wrecker Echo gave a large envelope that looked like an advertising brochure for the local hardware store, Hunter got one from Omega's school district. Echo himself kept something labeled: final notice. So Omega wouldn't feel left out, Echo gave her the monthly phone bill to open up. With a hearty sigh, he sat down right next to Crosshair, who had finally set aside his scissors and comb and was rubbing the towel on Tech's shoulders over his brother's head to dry the hair.

Hunter, fumbling with the envelope of Omegas school, now used it to point at Tech. He cleared his throat and looked sternly from under the bandana. "How many speeding tickets you got now?"

"Nineteen." Under Echo's hidden laughter and Hunter's admonishing gaze, he merely shrugged. Crosshair removed the towel from around his shoulders and handed him back his glasses. Tech's long fingers began to tug at the envelope of the letter. "I can't be faulted if the highway department continues to come up with bullshit speed limits on unsuitable streets."

Hunter made an attempt to cover Omegas ears from the swearing, but he reacted way too late. She already giggled at Tech’s emitted curse. He shook his head, setting the letter aside for later. "You're a danger to society, Tech."

"Oh come on Hunter-" Crosshair huffed. With a wave of his hand, he shooed his bigger brother out of the chair and wiped away the remains of his cut off hair. He made a beckoning gesture with his index finger toward Omega. She jumped from her seat and reluctantly wiggled towards him. More carefully this time, he placed a fresh towel around his sister's slender shoulders. "Wouldn't be an ordinary Tuesday if we didn't have to take him to traffic court."

They remembered Techs' last visit to court all too well. For his last traffic offense, it hadn't been possible to just pay the fine in letter form. Hunter had to accompany him to his court date. They unfortunately hadn’t left a very serious impression. Being faced with Hunter’s tattoo and Tech’s infamous smart mouth the female judge shot them more than one annoyed look.

In the middle of his hearing, he couldn’t be held back and started to negotiate with the judge about the sense of his punishment. Hunter had unobtrusively stomped on Tech’s foot so many times in order to make him shut up, that Tech had a bruised toe by the evening. Of course, the judge didn't just let that go over idly and doubled his punishment.

By the time they drove home, they had had a bad argument, which was forgotten again until this letter arrived. Hunter bit back another rebuke. He could only hope that his brother would eventually change in that regard. Or at least that Tech would start taking driving lessons again. After all, the last thing Hunter wanted was for anyone to get hurt.

Tech seemed to understand and discreetly tucked the letter into the front pocket of his sweatshirt. His gaze turned to Crosshair, who seemed to be having trouble parting Omega's curls. Tech quickly came to assist.

A whole six months had passed since Omega had first lived with the brothers. She was unrecognizable. The shaved hair had grown out, the figure filled out to a healthy degree and her personality seemed to blossom more every day, despite several small setbacks.

Omega, as they found out, had never had such long hair in her life until then. Nala Sé couldn't stand any mess in her home-built lab and had shaved all of it off for health and medical reasons. Now, of course, she wasn't happy about having to cut it off. The mistrust ran deep, and they all knew it would take a while before she trusted them completely. If total trust would ever be an option for their sister at all.

"But don't cut too much away-" she complained, hesitantly turning her head to the side. Tech, holding a section of her hair was pulled along and almost tripped.

This shouldn't have surprised them, since Hunter and his brothers, except for Echo, had received the same treatment. No one who lived around Nala Sé had any say in their own bodies. Perhaps that was part of the reason why he liked to wear his hair longer now. A late act of rebellion.

"I'm just cutting the ends, so the hair will stay healthy." Her brother moved to her eye level. He spoke softly and with more patience than they would have given him credit for. With her mouth clamped shut, she finally nodded in agreement, and he went back to his task.

However, not all worries seemed to have been completely forgotten. Whenever he approached with the scissors, she flinched. At the sight of shiny silver objects, she appeared to make herself as small as possible. As if she wanted to shrink into herself for protection. A sight that clenched their hearts and made them sick with turmoil and rage. Almost imperceptibly, but still visibly, she held on to Tech's trouser leg throughout the entire procedure.

"See-" he said as he finished his sister's haircut. He held the front-facing camera of his smartphone under her nose. "Hardly any difference." Omega checked herself over and huffed in relief. "You'll never have to look like Wrecker or Echo again."

"HEY!" Wrecker shouted between them, giving Crosshair a kick under the table. Omega giggled as Echo slid his hand across his face. She jumped down from the chair, the old kitchen towel still on her shoulders, and turned to her brother who was rubbing his shin. "Now I'm going to cut your hair Crosshair." 

Chapter Text

“Which one of you guys is the parent?”

A thin nurse asked, standing uncertainly with a clipboard and pen in hand. Expectantly her gaze sifted through all five men who sat in a row in front of her at the dentist’s office, waiting for their little sister. She cleared her throat of any uncertainty and looked into the group. Perhaps because she was beginning to realize that those opposite her were too old to be siblings but at the same time too young to be parents.

Before anyone else could have reacted, his half-brother Hunter instinctively jumped out of the middle of the row of seats. "Brother-" he corrected, taking the clipboard from her hands to hastily sign in a scrawled handwriting.

The nurse nodded in acknowledgement and made an appreciative noise, almost as if she wanted to apologize for her previous question. She smiled kindly as he handed her back the clipboard, but Hunter didn't return her gaze. Echo rolled his eyes. He had been like this all morning. Omega would only be getting her wisdom teeth removed, but Hunter acted like she had just lost a limb and was near to bleeding out. Echo doubted if his brother had slept at all the night before.

His nervousness, of course, didn't help Omega's fear of doctors. His half-brother had tried everything in his power to pull himself together. Hunter joined her in the operation room and waited, holding her hand until her eyes slid closed and she was asleep under full anesthesia. But now that they had been waiting outside for more than an hour, his nervousness seemed to be getting worse and worse. Now, his deliberate chewing on the tips of his fingers couldn’t be stopped. His old anxiety habit of nail biting spiked up whenever someone he was close to had been in a compromising situation. Crosshair tried to hinder him from pursuing, slapping his hand down with a hiss whenever he'd raise it to his mouth. The poor man couldn’t distract himself at all.

Tech, his other half-brother, had brought along a crossword puzzle to tide him over, which he eagerly filled in. Crosshair, next to Echo and Hunters now empty seat, yawned at his Instagram feed. Even Wrecker, who had been getting up every fifteen minutes to get a candy from the vending machine, seemed to have found something to pass the time with. If it hadn't been for Hunter's completely agitated appearance, their little group could have even been perceived as relaxed.

Apparently, Hunter didn't like being separated from his little sister at all. Echo knew that he only wanted to help. Even if their separation was solely beneficial to her health. The fact that he wasn’t at her side right now, had been enough to plunge him into deep despair. Although this occasion couldn't even remotely be classified as a bad event.

A month ago, during a routine checkup, the doctors noticed that her wisdom teeth started to give her trouble. They all collectively agreed, under sweaty hand fumbling from Omega, that it would be best to have them removed before her sixteenth birthday rolled around. As far as Echo was aware, that had been necessary in all of Jango's children at that age.

Of course, the brothers didn't miss the opportunity to take time off for this special event. Not that Omega needed them. She had become quite a bit more independent lately. The vacation day stemmed more from the fact that they couldn't gauge for sure how Hunter would react. Even though he usually took on the authoritarian role and usually showed his strong unflappable side, they all knew that he simply handled some things differently with their youngest sister. Well theoretically, she was only Echo's half-sister, but he personally cared little about that and kept forgetting that they didn't share the same mother. Sometimes he hoped she forgot that as well.

As the day approached and Omega's agitation and anxiety about the procedure slowly mounted, Echo had made her the promise of cooking her favorite dishes in a mushed consistency just in case she couldn't chew anything. A prospect that appeared to persuade his sister.

He watched as the woman put a timid arm on Hunter's shoulder. "I don't think it will be much longer. Please do your sister a favor and relax." She laughed at his gritted teeth. He nodded reluctantly, working his jaw. Echo heard her speak again, this time facing them all. "Is this the first time for you guys waiting for someone in surgery?"

They stared at each other and then shook their heads, thinking back to ninety-nine's broken hip. Echo smiled, knowing what their sight probably looked like. Five grown men in their thirties desperately waiting for a fifteen-year-old girl to be finished with a routine procedure. The nurse nodded slowly, seeming to understand that she apparently dealt with a group of very protective relatives. Hunter sat back down and rested his head in his palms.

Wrecker followed his stress mechanism to grab another candy from the vending machine. He got up and asked if they wanted something, leaving an empty chair with an M&M wrapper behind at their negations.

"She's going to be fine." The nurse slowly retreated herself away from the group. "I personally haven't seen anything bad happen with this type of surgery." She went back behind the counter, tending to another patient who had arrived.

Tech's head shot up, his voice rising an octave in excitement. "Actually, death during wisdom tooth extractions have not been extensively documented to make such a validated statement. Well, at least not in Omega’s age group."

"Fascinating." Crosshair hissed ironically from behind his smartphone screen, mask-like face illuminated by the bright light. Tech, who mostly didn't seem to understand the sarcastic tone, nodded in acknowledgement of Crosshair's comment.

"It is widely believed that sedation or other anesthetics might be a lot more harmful to a body. Statistically, the mortality rate for temporary anesthesia is 1 in 250,000-"

Echo ran his hand over his face in exasperation. He would have loved to tape Tech's mouth shut. Hunter looked at him as if watching a car crash. His big brown eyes widened. Fascinated, but at the same time, eerily horrified. "A chance that, while slim, should not be dismissed." Their bespectacled brother concluded, and Echo secretly hoped he would leave it at that. But apparently Tech wasn’t done yet. He began to list more studies for reference, only stopping when he heard a long drawn-out loud sigh from Hunter.

"Tech for the love of god, please shut the fuck up." Completely exhausted with nerves, Hunter stood up and started pacing back and forth in front of the seating area. Echo didn’t miss the way, how Crosshair watched his older brother from behind his smartphone, one eyebrow ever so slightly raised. His gaze only briefly lifted off Hunter as Wrecker rejoined them.

Echo glanced at Tech in the corner of his eye. He had fallen silent altogether and was back into his crossword puzzle. It didn't take much guessing to know that their brother was probably a little miffed because of Hunter's snide remark.

Echo couldn’t help but to feel a little sorry for him at that moment. They all knew Tech only meant well, but he couldn’t deny that sometimes his approach was a little too direct and factual for the rest of his brothers. This obviously didn’t mean Tech didn’t care. He just showed his concern differently. Thorough research and gathering as much information beforehand to account for all kinds of possible scenarios was Tech’s way of taking care, and ultimately preparing himself and everyone around him as well. He wasn’t that much of an affectionate guy, at least not with his brothers. Even if the others didn’t understand, Echo did. 

He knew that his half-brother’s autistic traits could sometimes rub people the wrong way. Normally, Hunter understood and didn't mind his scientific remarks. This time, however, it appeared to be different. Echo made a mental note to himself to have a conversation with Tech later and kindly ask him to keep factual data to himself in future medical situations.

Sometimes Tech needed a certain straightforwardness. Often, he didn't understand implied social subtext and had difficulty differentiating it in everyday language.

Grinding his teeth, Echo recalled how many times he and his twin brother Fives had to bail him out of dicey situations at school with other classmates. Due to his social impairment, Tech probably had the worst time at school of all the brothers. However, he had always been able to count on Echo in particular. That maybe had been part of the reason why Echo saw great importance in Tech knowing why people around him were sometimes appalled about his bluntness.

Echo felt his body almost jump automatically out of the waiting room chair as the door opened. Mere seconds later, the end of his thigh, everywhere the prosthesis was pressed flush against his skin, spiked up a complaint due to the abrupt movement. The pain had to wait, he told himself. As if electrified, their heads all snapped in the same direction to fix their gazes on something small, hunched over and blond.

Of course, Hunter was the first to sprint to the door and protectively put his arm around his sister, nodding his thanks to the nurse.

Omega, still dressed in the green shoe covers she was already wearing when she walked in, had some sort of white bandage wrapped around her head, disfiguring her features. Her hair, which she had previously tossed up into a messy bun, was neatly tucked in under an OR cap. She slightly waved at them with lazy eyes, probably completely dazed by mind-numbing drugs. Echo grinned inwardly at her sight. He could already tell the swelling coming to life in her delicate face.

She swayed considerably while standing. Although she was leaning against Hunter, she didn’t seem to have regained her balance. Her 110 pounds had quite a bit of influence on his stature. Adjusting his grip on her sweatshirt and grasping her slender shoulders, he had a lot of trouble keeping her upright. Crosshair came to aid on the other side as further support, muttering something to Hunter that the rest of them didn’t understand.

Her heavy feet dragged clumsily over the carpeted floor. Guided on either side by two grown men who reached under her arms to keep her from toppling over. Echo, carrying her backpack with medical records and a set of changing clothes, followed close on their heels. Wrecker and Tech went ahead of their small group, making sure to remove every obstacle in their way. Perhaps they shouldn't have been any less people after all he thought to himself. Although he couldn’t deny being impressed with how quickly she was back on her feet after the general anesthesia. Perks of being young.

Together, they staggered across the parking lot to Crosshair's car, which he unlocked with a click to the car key. Hauling her across the parking lot had already proven to be a challenge. However, that proved to be nothing compared to hoisting her drugged-up figure into the car. All five men were trying to help but simultaneously got into each other’s way.

They hadn't been able to agree on who would go back home in which car. After all, the six of them couldn't all find room in the same vehicle. In the end, they agreed that Wrecker and Tech would take the pickup truck and Crosshair, Hunter, Omega, and Echo would sit in Crosshair's car as a foursome just in case a medical emergency arose.

However, the patient herself appeared to be doing well. Her tired eyes sparkled, becoming increasingly more alert, like a bear waking up from hibernation. The aftereffects of the anesthesia wearing off and to everyone's chagrin, she was becoming more talkative. Leaning her head against Hunter's shoulder, she played with her seat belt and kept babbling on about something that, because of the cotton in her mouth, no one really understood.

"Keep your trap shut or it won't stop bleeding at all." Echo intoned from the front seat, getting a soft giggle in reply. He had never seen her this out of it before. He couldn't be sure what dimension her consciousness was in at the moment. He handed Hunter a handkerchief, with which he carefully dabbed her mouth of all excess blood and drool.

Echo knew the tremendous effects that a mix of painkillers and anesthesia could bring. One time, he remembered also being very woozy after an operation benefitting his prosthetics. He had also babbled a lot of nonsense for which he had to apologize and be ashamed of afterwards. Even to this day, Crosshair still laughingly rubbed some of his most inappropriate quotes under Echo’s nose.

He noticed that he wasn't the only one who had to stifle a laugh. Even Hunter's bad mood seemed to cheer up at her befuddled talk. By feigning interest in what she was saying, he made sure she was entertained and didn't get any ideas. Now, however, that seemed to be of no use anymore. He tried to stop her from taking the cotton out of her mouth. Still on the road, Echo turned to the back to lend him his hand. Omega's confused figure grew more and more agitated. He suppressed the urge to pull out his smartphone to film her little scuffle with his half-brother.

"No, you have to leave those things in, Omega-" Hunter voice was calm and almost monotone. He reached around her and squeezed her tighter.

Echo knew the grip Hunter used to keep her still. It was strict military practice, to disarm the opponent. Gentle but nevertheless unyielding. A fine line between patronage and guard. Like the man himself, Echo chuckled darkly.

Omega finally gave up and removed her hands from her face. He gave a strained sigh and smoothed her curls, thoughts about further restraining already subsiding. She nestled her head back on his bicep in surrender and closed her eyes with a huff. "That's it kiddo- you'll be fine."

Her dull eyes stared upward into his. Hunter first watched her out of the corner of his eye, then returned her gaze fully. Echo saw that she was drawing her eyebrows together tightly, as though she had lost something in his face, and he didn't dare to give it back. To Echo, it looked strangely intimate. His stomach turned cold. A boulder of ice seemed to naggingly seep its way through his insides. He’d never seen her look like that at any one of them. Quickly, he tried biting back every further envious thought. He swallowed, turning to the front as to give them a little privacy, but his ears still alert from underneath his beanie. He could hear Omega shuffle in her seat.

"Dad?" she mumbled from between a mouthful of absorbent cotton.

Again, like a punch to his gut. This wasn't about him, he told himself. Echo knew, Hunter was a family man. With that big of kin, they all were. Even though Hunter would never admit that, and even though he always emphasized to be her brother, all the other brothers, heck, their whole family even knew it to be different. Everyone who watched Omega and Hunter's interactions realized they were one of a kind.

His half-brother always had God-given intuitions about being fatherly, even as Omega hadn’t even been in the picture yet. Echo remembered their late childhood days. Hunter had been staying away from the hustle and bustle, watching from a distance, ready to jump to aid whenever someone needed him.

Echo briefly wondered if he might have been missing that. Now he was able to fully live out his caring affectionate nature with Omega. He always instinctually knew what she needed, sometimes even before she was aware of it herself. Echo marveled at it. They were the sibling pair who had spent the most time together by far. He often thought about whether she had missed a real father figure in her life and was now trying to make do with what she had.

Everything in Echo begged him to forget this irrational feeling. Though he couldn’t deny that sometimes that line of thought stung a little. Not the fact that she sought it from Hunter, but the fact that she didn’t search for that kind of love from anyone else but Hunter. At las it got him nowhere.

“I’m not your dad Omega-“ he whispered into her ear, but Echo could still differentiate the heartache in his tone at that statement, clearly touched by what she had said. “I’m your brother, remember?” On that, she gleefully nodded bringing one hand up to his face but then her harboured strength caving in and she dropped it halfway. None of them had any clue if she remembered anything at all.

Crosshair beside Echo cleared his throat, briefly watching the traffic in the side mirror. “Keep telling yourself that Hunter.” delivered with a punch of his pressing sarcasm, he had a smug smile on as he checked over his shoulder to take a turn. A slight eyeroll followed and Echo, this time, couldn’t suppress his laughter, gladly accepting Crosshairs delivered distraction. Omega’s half consciousness coming out of oblivion chimed in, though probably not having any clue as to why. Echo couldn’t help to snap a pick of his totally drugged up half-sister, bent over Hunter and laughing. Hunter steadying her, rubbed a hand along the crook of her neck. He sent it straight to their family group chat. Seconds later, Wrecker’s speech bubble appeared, sending three smileys with tears of laughter. Ye keep the kid happy.

Omega, realizing that Hunter and her weren’t the only people in the car, turned her attention towards the front. She tilted her head to the side, looking straight into Echo’s camera, muffling “Who’re you?”

Echo thought of a funny response, but Crosshair was quicker. “Your kidnappers.”

“Cross-“ Hunter warned with a deep sigh. Omega still being utterly amused, couldn’t be bothered, giggling an “Uh-Oh- ‘M’n trouble.” from behind the bandaging around her head and sliding further down in her seat. Her sheepish gaze once again fell directly into the lens of the camera making a peace sign with her fingers. Echo seemed to lose it at that. Warm laughter shook the entire car, bouncing off at the walls, as if the car itself joined their merrymaking, only coming to a stop once they arrived back home.

Hunter and Crosshair had somehow managed to get their little sister out of the car and into a standing position. She still swayed a lot when upright, as if she was a tower ready to collapse. Echo himself moved out of the way. He knew that he himself and his one hand couldn't do much. Hunter, who was the stronger one of the two, despite his shorter height, had even managed to maneuver her feet up the porch steps to the front door. Now standing inside the hallway in front of the long wooden staircase leading to the first floor, Crosshair and Hunter glanced at each other’s eyes, helplessly.

“How the fuck should we get her up there?” Crosshair asked, one hand gesturing up the staircase, referring to the attic room she occupied.

Upon hearing that, Omega made a disapproving noise. “You’shdn’t curse-“she slurred, head collapsing onto his shoulder. Crosshair audibly rolled his eyes. Sometimes Echo wondered if he just rolled them hard enough they'd get stuck back there.

“Ha! You tell’em that kid!” Wrecker boomed from behind. Omega winced at his loud voice. Seeing that, Hunter nodded towards the living room. “Couch.” he ordered. Echo went ahead, setting out a pillow and blanket on the armrest of the sofa.

They gingerly set her down, moving the living room table out the way in the process. Crosshair grabbed her legs, putting them up, until she was fully stretched out on her back. Hunter fluffed up the pillow to slide it underneath her hair. He then grabbed the blanket, drawing it over her small figure and tugging all the loose ends in. “Better?” he said, voice soothing and very quiet. She nodded weakly against his hand on her forehead.

As Echo saw her lying down, he could clearly distinguish the swollen face beneath the bandages. Pasty tight skin began to squeeze aside the white material, Her bleary gaze almost swept him sideways, making him feel dizzy with compassion at her woeful sight.

Hunter and Crosshair both slowly pushed their way back out of the living room to give her some rest. Then they heard a soft moan from the couch. Her laughter and the cheerfulness she had radiated suddenly was very far away. “Wai-no-“ She breathed with a panicked voice, clinging her hand onto Hunters ripped jeans as if her life depended on it. “Don’go!”

With one of his intuitions, he lowered himself to her level. “Want me to stay?” Gently, he smoothed the blond curls, his mouth formed into a faint smile. Omega returned that smile scooching to the side of the couch, almost crawling into his hand. “Mhh-yes all’f you stay.”

“You heard her fellas.” Hunter gestured with his hand toward himself. “Come’ere”

As though he had been waiting for it, Wrecker didn’t need to be asked twice and eagerly slid past Echo through the doorframe. Echo mouthed a silent complaint as the mountain of a man pushed him aside. Tech protested at first but then gave in to Omegas further begging.

To position themselves around Omega had been a challenge, even as she was smaller, but now, it seemed damn near impossible. Somehow, they still made it work. She was stretched out over all of them. Head now equipped with cool packs and delicately placed in Hunter’s lap, upper body half over Echo’s stumps and on the couch, and her legs held by Crosshair and Wrecker, who made circling motions around her toes.

Although her helpless and delusional state pained Echo quite a bit, he couldn't help but admit that it felt quite comfortable with all his siblings on the couch. In the end, he had also made peace with the short tinge of jealousy. He realized that while Hunter was receiving a different kind of love, it wasn't worth any more than the one Omega displayed toward Echo or the other brothers.

_____________________________

She sighed under Hunters deliberate thumb strokes, that grazed the edges of the cool packs on either side. Her eyes switching minutely from closed to open, as though she didn't quite know to rather take the provided comfort in. Awake or asleep. Their warm presence appeared to consume any further stirring evoked by the haziness of her mind. Only getting interrupted as she started to move her jaw, this time with a distasteful scrunched up look on her face.

Hunter not noticing, still stroked her cheeks with his fingers. His motion only being disturbed as Tech, who never missed anything, caught her silent plea for attention and rushed to her aid from the other side of the couch.

"Are you experiencing pain anywhere?" he flat out asked, his hand placed softly and without pressure atop her head. She didn't answer. A sheepish glance to the side paired with a stiffened sniff was all he needed to know. He shot a short but all the while impactful glance up at Hunter and Echo. "Peculiar- I thought the analgesic to be of a long-lasting variant."

Further estimating her medical needs, he sat down on his knees, directly beside her head. Gazes of the others strictly laid upon his resting figure. With the gentles of motions, he gingerly pushed his brother’s hands, holding the icepacks, away, revealing swollen tissue underneath. She met his stare with cracked open eyes. Terrified, but simultaneously thankful he was present. His grasp reached for the end of the bandage. Before he began to reveal her face, he paused. "Are you okay with that, Omega?" he asked, knowing full well that consent was indispensable to the more defenseless person.

Omega tilted her head downward in defeat. "Up you go kid-" Hunter softly said, getting a grip underneath her arms to better position her for Tech’s assessment. Tech, who couldn't be bothered to stray away, chimed in to help.

Going limp, she let both brothers move her upward. Her legs began to drag across their laps as she settled into a reclining sitting position. With her head in an elevated position, she squeezed her eyes tightly shut. Blood flow that had previously been concentrated in the upper body now rushed down through the remaining arteries, leaving nothing but a throbbing pulse behind. She gasped for air as if it suffocated her, instinctively bringing her hands to her eyes, shielding herself and trying to pull away from Hunter and Tech.

Out of the corner of his eye, Tech saw Wrecker pinch the bridge of his nose with his index finger and thumb, swallowing heavily before taking quick steps outside. Techs look traveled after him briefly, but then his gaze fell back on Omega. She needed him more he decided. Crosshair, possibly grateful for a brief interruption of the sight of her puny form, stood up, putting her feet gently back behind him on the couch and joined his brother. To give comfort or to seek it, that Tech could not say.

He caressed her forearm before gently dragging it away from her face. Her hold was firm but ultimately not as strong as Tech's was. She still had her eyes squeezed tightly shut, as if daylight were her archenemy. Slowly, but with the trained skill of someone who had to take care of all sorts of aches and pains many a times before, he unwound the bandage. The tight pull left deep, red marks on her face, which seemed to expand under the lack of external compression. He couldn’t deny it looked like it had been utterly uncomfortable.

He suppressed a gasp at her sight, clearing his throat instead. Her cheeks were puffy and accented by purple and blue hues. Dark blotches stretched across her entire lower jawline like shadowing a beard. A moment of panic rippled Tech’s otherwise composed gaze. Echo, meanwhile, didn't dare to take his eyes off her. Not even for a second. Even if she looked dreadful, Tech knew that the swollenness would only be a unpleasant temporary side effect. 

He didn't miss how Hunter's arm tightly curled around her folded form, stroking the part between her shoulders, and telling her kind words of encouragement. His gaze didn’t meet her face. He deliberately avoided his worst nightmare at living daylight.

"Does that feel better?" Tech asked, putting the bandage aside the couch. She let out another whimper. Tears he hadn’t estimated to be flowing, rolled over the swollen cheeks. Down below, out of the depths of confusion, deep guttural sobbing shook the couch. They knew wasn’t because of anything worse than pent up pressure slowly being released. But upon her totally confused state, Omega obviously couldn’t tell that herself.

"You’ll be alright kid-" Hunter cooed, gently kneading her upper arm, pressing her further into himself. Her arms reached out, grasping Echo’s hand, as well as a fistful of Tech’s T-shirt. Not compromising to show them that she needed them all equally. "Shhht-" Tech tried to soothe, catching the tears with his thumb. Omega weakly nodded, leaning ever so slightly into his touch. He couldn’t deny being glad his brothers were present as well. 

A hot, burning sensation made his chest as he noticed that she had a little speckle of blood stuck to the corner of her mouth. Giving in to every medical instinct he possessed, he put his hand to the back of her head and turned it towards him to avoid any possible evasion. He shivered a bit, realizing the amount of blank fear in her eyes. This time being directed to him.

"I need you to open your mouth for me please, okay?"

With a burning twinge in his chest, He felt her head shift to Hunter and Echo instead of him. Echo leaned slightly forward and nodded, giving her hand a squeeze. "Do as he says, Omega."

All the remaining control Hunter tried to maintain in his face fell away, as Tech freed her mouth from the cotton. "Oh god Tech-" his voice cracked, small bullets of sweat formed at his forehead. Upon hearing that, Omega, still not knowing entirely what went on, froze, seemingly pulling away from his long fingers.

Tech murmured words of affirmation as more tears rolled from her eyes, begging his brother to not verbalize the gruesome sight anymore. Indeed, a lot of red had soaked into the cotton patches. He quickly crumpled them up in his hand so that Omega wouldn't have to see too much of her own injury. He briefly thought back to what Hunter had thrown at him earlier and wished he could say it back, but rudeness wasn’t akin to Tech’s nature.

"It’s alright Hunter. I know that does look gruesome but given the fact that saliva and blood is being mixed together in the mouth, even small increments of bleeding can look like a lot." He murmured instead, smoothing over her blonde hair again before standing up to fetch some additional medical supplies. Wandering through the downstairs floor to the bathrooms medicine cabinet, he could hear Echo tell her sweet words of affection. Walking past the kitchen window, he caught a glimpse of Wrecker and Crosshair standing on the front lawn, side by side, looking down in dismay.

Gathering every item, he thought he might need, he returned. He smiled faintly. Omega was still being comforted. She laid cradled in Hunters arms and grasped with both hands at Echo’s one, pulling him over her like he was her human blanket.

Tech’s focus shifted onto Hunter. Eyebrows furrowed, drawing deep lines in his forehead, he looked almost as bad as Omega did. Face slack, only accentuated by a set of piercing eyes. Highlighted below by deep purple circles that gathered like dark clouds in the sky. Hunter was not one to be easily shocked or swept of his feet. Sharp needles of ice seemed to razzle onto Tech’s skin as he slid down. "Hunter, I can take over if you need a break." he suggested with a calm tone, knowing that such an offer usually only got two reactions out of his brother.

Hunter glared at him with narrowed eyes and Tech knew, there was nothing else he could say or do that would make his brother let their baby sister go out of arms reach.

He emptied his hands on the table and set the bucket he had brought along beside the couch. He was aware, that one could never be quite sure how a healing body would respond to all the exertion. She somehow looked even paler than he had left her. Gritting his teeth, he wondered if Hunter and Echo even noticed anymore.

By the looks of her features, she seemed to need it. Face getting whiter, purple and blue contrast growing and becoming starker, she twitched, turning her head to the side, letting go of all hands and arms that clang to her as she threw her upper body over the couch and choked into the bucket. Her hands tightly clawed around Techs steady grip on either side, afraid that if she let go for even just a second, he would be gone. But he wouldn’t be. He never would.

Glad having brought it with him, he held it steadily underneath her face until her gurgling stomach seemed to have emptied itself. Echo’s hand reached over, traveling up and down her spine, while Hunters deep baritone whispered prospects of a soon recovery.

Remaining a few heartbeats over it, she feebly pushed his hand away, sinking back into Hunters arms with a pathetic huff. Sniffling at how little relief it appeared to provide.

He noticed how his brothers exchanged worried looks at the sight of the red contents of the bucket. Tech knew he had to intervene their thought process.

"Swallowing large amounts of blood and thus large amounts of protein can cause vomiting. Nothing to be concerned about." He nonchalantly concluded, attention back on the preparations for the medication.

“Sure-“ he said curtly. Hunters voice dripped with venom as he snorted ironically. Tech firmly resolved to be angry with Hunter later for his distrust in his ability to make judgments.

As if to compensate for this cruel scene, Hunter’s attention focused solely back on consoling Omega. He drew long, large circles on her back. Circles that by the looks of it, were probably meant to not only calm her down but entailed a chance of reassurance for himself.

Tech gave her more pain killers, hoping she wouldn't show any more bouts of nausea and could keep them in her stomach to dissolve. At least for a little bit.

Given the loss of fluids, he ordered Wrecker, who reappeared, finally composed enough to help, fetch a glass of water from the kitchen. Wrecker, bringing a cup with a handle instead. Easier to hold on to, Tech noticed a little impressed. "Good thinking, Wrecker-" He nodded knowingly and carefully lifted the mug to her mouth. All his brute strength compelled in the gentlest of motions. She thankfully nodded, trying to smile for him. Being Wrecker, he obviously returned it. 

“Whoa easy there kid-“ Wrecker said, tilting the mug away at her hasty sips and following choked coughs. Crosshair, also returning from his short time off, exchanged the cool packs for new ones. Tech fixed the bandage around her head again under her grumbling commentary. Finally, she let herself fall back onto the cushion on the armrest and closed her eyes. She sighed, blissfully this time and with no further strain in her tone. Opening her eyes briefly once again and glancing into the faces of her siblings before falling into an exhausted doze.

Tech himself tried to breathe away the exertion, knowing that all would be well eventually, as long as they had each other at least.

Chapter Text

He kept one eye on the Tv, whilst mindlessly scrolling on his smartphone. Startling Gonky, who was sprawled out fast asleep beside him, he scooched forward, clicking the cellphone shut and putting it face down on the table. The only bad part of his night shifts was this.

Having nothing to do on nights off while the others were asleep, enduring the deafening silence all alone- That shit just sometimes didn’t mingle well with his post addiction brain.

His sleep deprived hand fumbled for the nicotine gum packet Hunter had bought him to break his smoking habits.

Be a good example for the kid he said.

Shove that up your hypocritic ass Crosshair had given in return.

But fucking hell, Hunter the midget little bastard of a pain in the ass had been persistent. Somewhere down the line Crosshair just gave up to Hunters constant nagging- Amazing how Hunter could on one hand be the striking image of advocacy but on the other hand not taking care about any of his troubles. He briefly wondered whether Hunter had thought about himself taking a therapy on, before driving Omega to all sorts of mental health evaluations and counseling sessions.

Disaster in the making. Throat clenching up, he swallowed heavily as he plopped the gum in his mouth, earning another hiss from Gonky. Tail stiff and head held high, she arched her back and then hopped from the couch.

“You too Love-” he said hissing back and saluting her with the empty gum packet in hand. Gonky, giving him one last angry, green-eyed glance from across the living room, slid out the door he had left open. Just a creak though. Couldn’t let the others know he would miss their company or whatever-

He turned the Tv volume down when he heard, or rather didn’t hear, the missing rattling sounds of Gonky's cat flap. He paused, head turned aside, listening in very carefully. Something rustled down the hallway- What the hell?

He shot up, electrified. Every muscle fiber taught with suspense. Just as he was about to get up, the empty non-alcoholic beer -thank you NA- in hand, ready to beat the shit out of a possible intruder, he caught sight of his sister's blond mop. Chewing his bottom lip, he let himself drop heavily back onto the couch. “Oh, it’s you.”

“Crosshair?” his sisters 3 foot 6 inches stood empty gazed in front. Dressed in the pink pajamas Echo had gotten her for Christmas, she clung to her stuffed animal. A little black Teddy bear called Lula. Previously belonging to Wrecker, he had gifted it to her upon moving in. Though it was an open secret Wrecker sometimes snuck into her room to make sure Lula was doing alright and giving her a little cuddle himself. Crosshair didn’t dare to make fun about that. About all the things he found funny about his brother; the Lula thing wasn’t one of them.

With a quick but unobtrusive movement, he turned off the latest episode of 'Love Island'. With Hunter's parenting style, he couldn't risk Omega seeing anything she shouldn't see.

Perhaps another negative side effect of his night shifts. Everything that ran at night was trash TV... at least it didn't require brain cells and was repulsive enough to be distracting. Sometimes he couldn't help but count the hours until breakfast.

Eyebrows raised- he mastered to repress any further sarcasm. “Omega?“

“Can’t sleep.” She sheepishly dragged her bare foot over the living room parquet. Crosshair all the while not missing the fact that she probably hadn’t been on the lookout for him.

He picked his cellphone back up, turning it over. “Omega it's quarter past two.” Glancing towards Hunters door, he took great care to lower his voice. For all he fucking knew, that man was part dog.

Omega, face scrunched up, set with determination huffed, drawing her shoulders upward. “I can read the clock just fine.”

“Right.” He retorted; voice pressed crisp. He could only weakly stifle a proud smile at her pissy answer. She had gotten a lot better at clap backs since the creative swearword’s contests, they held throughout the day. Not what Hunter had in mind, as Tech mentioned ‘strengthening the sibling relationship’- but it worked. Omega had grown on Crosshair. Basic rule was: whoever had the most creative swearword, won. Sometimes Tech or Wrecker gave the judge whilst Hunter stood beside them, sighing and pinching the bridge of his nose. Hunter wanted him to be more responsible. Fine- Crosshair thought.

“What do you want me to do ‘bout it?”

Another embarrassed look hit him from below his usual line of view. "Can I watch a little TV with you?"

"Absolutely not-" Given the previous tv program he watched would be the most youth-free at this time of day, that was completely out of the question.

"Pretty please?" She kept her hands folded underneath her chin. Plush in between her elbow and chest, she dipped her head slightly forward. Bottom lip sticking further out as seconds ticked by. Big, shiny eyes illuminated from the light behind the couch. He knew what she was trying to do, pulling an adorable little pout like that- But he wasn't Wrecker or Echo. Or Tech for that matter.

He shook his head. “Nope- You’re far too young for what I‘m watching.”

Omega’s put-up gaze dropped a little, and with that Crosshairs heart as well. “Then watch something that I’m allowed to see as well.”

He must say, she had Hunter’s nagging stubbornness paired with Tech’s negotiation skills. Part of him couldn’t wait to see which screwed up traits she’d inherited from himself. “Omega-“ he drew out her name in a low voice “ I said no.”

Omega defiantly stomped her foot on the floor, sniffling. Wait, sniffling?... that didn't fit. Though Crosshair had to say he didn't know his sister that well yet, he could tell she rarely turned on the waterworks. At least not in his presence. His jaw tightened, almost uncomfortably so. When she finally turned around, one foot toward the door, completely defeated, he grudgingly noticed her limp, unstrung posture.

Damn him.

 “Alright-“ he mustered a sigh. “But no TV-“ Hunter would most definitely kill him if he found out. “I’ll put you to bed.”

Where before he had felt tightness and inhibition, it became a little easier at the sight of her head jerking up. He knew that she had expected this answer the least of all. The idea that Crosshair ever brought anyone to bed sounded imaginative. It had been true. Somehow, he had always been able to pull himself out of such situations. He just wasn't good at this parenting crap.

But for now, his grumpy bastard-self had to be enough. Hunter was off limits. As well as Echo, Tech or Wrecker. To say he had absolutely no fucking clue on what to do would have been the understatement of the century. Realizing that she probably had no better choice, she accepted it. He even bothered to press the now tasteless gum into the wrapper before standing up and following her into the dark hallway.

He stopped in front of her door as he heard her crawling under the covers. How did Echo tell him to tuck her in again? This single limbed man was almost as mother-hen-like as Hunter. Crosshair insisted they leave her more freedom but apparently, given her strict bedtime rituals and weekend plans, he was quite clearly alone with this line of thought.

When she called him in from inside with a sigh, he carefully pushed the door open. Maybe he could make it to the follow up episode. “Got everything you need?”

He patted the blanket down, where it seemed to fall of the edges, tucking it around her little form. She nodded, Lula brought up to her ceek, eyes half closed on the fluffed up pillow. He glanced over at the nightstand. Glass of water only a third of the way empty. That would last her through the night, he concluded. “Good night, Omega.”

As soon as he had turned around, walking toward the door, he heard another blanket rustle. He rolled his eyes. What now? He stood there, palms defensively pointing upward. Blinking at her with a more than annoyed expression. She returned it, glaring daggers at him with arms crossed in defiance. “I can’t sleep like that.”

Mind reciting the previous seconds, all he could get out was a silent "Huh?" very eloquent, he scolded himself.

“You didn’t tuck me in right!!!” She had one corner of the blanket, he just pressed down, flipped open. “Echo always gives me a goodnight kiss.”

He couldn’t suppress a groan, shaking his head. “No kid- ‘m not doing that.”  

He regretted his entire existence. Crosshair resisted the urge to just give up and run away. Not like he usually did with other things – she should be worth more than his usual faulty way of living.

"Well, I can't sleep like this." Omega repeated. Crosshair grew desperate, ruffling his pale blond hair.

He swallowed hard and worked his jaw, only coming up with a quick, snarky reply. “Why? Are you falling out?”

Omega rolled her eyes, crossed arms getting tighter around her chest. “Haw-Haw-“ He face grew serious again, she flipped the other side open, patting down the mattress. “Can you stay for a bit?”

He noticed how her tone changed from begging to pleading. She just wanted a little company, but he wasn't the kind of person one could have a good conversation with. He wasn’t loving either. Something in him always shied away from tender gestures - secretly he hoped that maybe one day, he could overcome that.

”Ugh, Omega-“ he paused, recollecting himself. “I don’t know-“

“I don’t bite.” Instead of making puppy eyes, this time, she let her head drop to her chest, beginning to fumble with her hands. That didn’t work on him- he said to himself. Although he couldn’t deny her presence to be inviting and warm and something in his chest - No. Fuck no.

“Pfft! Says you.” He bent down to the outlet at her door, switching on the nightlight Tech used to sleep with.

Maybe that’s why she had been up at this odd hour. Wrecker must have forgotten to turn it on as he tucked her in. TV night out the window, he reluctantly stepped toward her bed and plopped down onto the edge.

Again: Damn him.

Omega didn’t even need a Second. As soon as he perched down, her hand was already thrown over his waist, head nestled at the side of his chest. Not knowing what to do, he held his hands up, unsure where to put them down. He let one dangle beside him, with the other hesitantly patting her back- or what the hell Wrecker did when she had a tantrum at night. Making some space for himself, he removed Lula from between them, setting her beside Omega’s feet.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw that Omega watched him. He glanced back. She quickly squeezed her eyes shut. “What now?” he asked, gently tapping the length of her spine. It did feel rather comfortable.  

“Now- ‘m sleeping.” She sighed.

“So?”

“So!” She grinned, wide victory smile on her lips.

“And you couldn’t do that without me?”

No reply needed, she looked at him from the side, just as she thought he wouldn’t notice. But he did. She gave him a little giggle. His friggin’ soft self couldn’t be helped and he gave her a smile in return.

He often wondered how the hell she got so comfortable so quickly around five basically fucked up adults. Reverse Stockholm-Syndrom he wondered. The more freedom they left her, the less she seemed to need. As soon as they let go, she followed. Something weird bubbled up in his throat, masochistic thoughts only interrupted by Omega's tiny yawn.

“Not that well though, no.” Her eyes slid closed, grip around his waist becoming firmer.

“Fine then. Go ahead-“ he teased. “I’m counting on three!”

As he tried that, she seemed to be getting more nervous. Omega stirred back and forth, head tossing and turning on his bicep. She extended her arms to then retract them again, mere seconds later, seemingly in her way, no matter where they were. Crosshair tried to stand up to give her a little more space. She squirmed, gripping his wrist so tightly, it almost hurt. Not that he would ever let her know that.

“No don’ go.” The desperateness she tried to hide in her tone came through and stung like ice needles on his skin. He shivered, the awful feeling rising back in his throat. This wasn’t one of her usual hissy fits. This was different. He gave her an affirming nod, letting himself be pulled into a hug on her bed.

Head tightly pressed on his chest; he began scratching her head with his long fingers. Hand calmly opening and closing, fingernails softly dragging over her scalp, she blissfully exhaled making little ‘mhh’ sounds. He knew better than not to press her about emotional trouble she wasn’t ready sharing, but he just couldn’t think straight, mind wandering to all sorts of gruesome places. Then he heard a rumble from down below.

“Knobhead-” she yawed.

“Excuse me?”

“Knobhead!”  She repeated rather proudly. "I couldn't think of one earlier, remember?"

Crosshair, smile growing faintly on his lips, returned “Filthbucket-“

Omega chuckled in his arms. “I guess that is pretty good.” Another yawn followed, as she ever so slightly lessened her encompassing grasp. “You win.”

“Nah” he waved off “Yours was way better.”

Crosshair would let her have this one. Just this once though.  

Chapter Text

“Come on, Omega!” Crosshair blared from the front. “Let’s go”

Gosh, that dude had an unbelievable pace. Damn his long legs- why had she agreed to this again?

Her thoughts wandered back to the previous week. To the fight. Her first real fight with one of her brothers. It had been ugly, no doubt. Many things said, for which both of them had to apologize afterwards.

She didn’t even remember how things had started off. What had burned into her memory, however was, how Crosshair and she yelled at the top of their lungs at each other. Eyes glaring wild daggers, tempers through the roof with agony, throats sore from shouting. Hunter standing between them, like the diplomat he always was, palms up, trying to calm them both, but he had been ignored.

The fight had ended as he proposed for them to split up. Each of them in a different room. Just to cool off and keep the temper low. Hunter followed Omega, Tech and Wrecker followed Crosshair. Omega had admitted it had been her fault. She knew Crosshair to be easily provokable, but nevertheless she had irritated him. Had spoken mean to him as he just asked her a normal question. Right then and there, she was certain Crosshair would never forgive her. But he had proved her wrong.

Hunter had called them back in the living room after fifteen minutes. That’s how the rule went in their house. Fifteen Minutes of cool off, then: making up. Didn’t matter what had been said. Didn’t matter how bloody the fight had been, they were a family and as that, they had to stick together. At least that was what Echo always told her.

Omega had been all snot and tears as she apologized. Crosshair had listened, had acknowledged the difficult situation with homeschooling and social distancing. At the end, he'd even given her a short hug. It wasn’t one of his usual hugs. Normally, Crosshair would shuffle against her side and, at some point, slowly but surely, put his arm around her shoulders, pulling her closer.

It had taken him a long time to get used to her, at least enough to show her an occasional loving gesture. Probably even more a reason she’d regretted her temper. This hug of reconciliation had been different. It had been short and limp. It almost broke her heart.

But that seemed long forgotten as he proposed to take Omega with him on his morning jogging rounds. Not wanting to disappoint him again or make him mad, she had agreed. Not quite sure if jogging would be up her alley.

Tech had supplied it to be beneficial for her mental health, especially as soccer practice had closed its doors due to rising case numbers. Hunter had agreed. Visibly facilitated by their reconciliation. She knew Hunter hated fights, or any conflict for that matter, though he didn’t hesitate to back her up on this.

Now, however, her lungs burned like ember in the cold spring morning, trying to keep up with Crosshair running in front of her. The clacking of the zipper on her soccer jacket set the pace, one clack meaning lifting one foot. Alternating with each step.

Click, clack. Click, clack. Left foot, right foot. Don't trip Omega.

For all Omega knew, her brothers had all kinds of left-over training habits from the army. Echo had once told her about all the fitness-stuff a person must have gone through before they went out in the field together. Echo made her aware that the most cadets who came back to the states lacked a significant amount of routine after their deployment. Two months into the pandemic, Omega understood that now.

Every brother of hers had kept a certain kind of sport from the Army they practiced long after they had been back. Hunter’s and Wrecker’s were weightlifting, Tech’s was swimming and Crosshair’s -apparently- had been cardio training.

At some point, after every thought had been exercised to the max and to distract herself from the gurgling in her stomach, the glass of water had caused she drank before they went off, she started counting her steps.

She’d gotten to 428 before the side stitching started again. Crosshair had told her to breathe through her nose, deep into her stomach. Omega tried to follow his suggestion. Sucking air in, holding it for a moment, and then release. She had to concentrate; it was way harder than she thought, and it seemed to do the opposite of what it should be doing. Every breath fought its way in, supplementing her with only the smallest amount of fuel her body needed to continue, not to entirely collapse on the spot.

She’d recognized the strange looking oak, which indicated she had now reached the halfway point of the jog. Crosshair noticed that as well and dropped into a slower pace, turning around and running backward, facing her.

“You okay there?” he said, looking amused at her red and sweaty face. Her brother didn’t look exhausted at all.

Still focused on her breathing exercise, she nodded. He wasn’t convinced and dropped to an even slower pace so she could rest for a little bit. “Important is that we keep going, okay?”

“Yeah-” Omega gasped for air. Trying to tell him how bad her lungs stung, and her diaphragm cramped up. She tried to speak but instead, further chopped breaths left her mouth. He seemed to understand anyway.

“Okay” He sighed, realizing that continuing was out of the question for the time being. “Let's pause for a sec-” He furrowed his brows. A deep line appearing on his forehead as he bent down.

Crosshair gingerly grabbed her wrists, dragging her arms upward until she was fully stretched out and in a flowing motion, bringing them down again. After a minute or so of doing this, she already felt better, while telling her to exhale. She nodded her thanks, and he returned it.

“You have to breathe more deeply.” He said, putting her hand on his stomach. “Feel that?” Her gaze lifted as he demonstrated how abdominal breathing really looked like. He put her hand on hers. Doing the breathing exercise with her.

“You're out of practice,” he said, pulling a crooked smile. Sadistic self returning, he laughed. “We’re going to do that every day now-”

She didn’t think he heard her whining noise- but upon the pathetic grumble she gave, his look became firmer. Lips pressed tight, she nodded. Omega knew he meant it for her own well-being. She couldn’t deny that it felt good, getting rid of all the frustration that had pent up over the last couple of months.

“Come on now, breakfast is waiting, and most importantly: I want to sleep.” He said, a little more impatiently this time. He made a beckoning gesture with his arm, and Omega knew, if she didn’t want to cause another scene, she’d have to follow along.

The way back became a lot easier. After the breathing exercises, the muscles in her chest had relaxed again, and the effort, while still great, was better distributed and didn’t strain her as much. Also, instead of being in front of her, as in the first half of the lap, Crosshair was now at her side, glancing over every so often and making sure she kept a good, steady pace.

As soon as they reappeared on the front lawn, Omega let herself fall face down first onto the wet grass, supporting a makeshift cooling system for her heated body. Behind her, Crosshair couldn't suppress a snort.

"Crosshair for god’s sake-" Hunter came strutting out. Two full glasses of water in hand. By his tone Omega thought him to be a bit more angry, but he laughed.  "please don't break our kid."

Crosshair chimed in, supplying "If I don't push her, nobody does." He shrugged, gulping the glass of water down in one go and shouldering past Hunter into the house.

“Kid- You nauseous or anything?”

She had been at the beginning, but now she wasn't. Omega shook her head. Ends of her ponytail clashing into the soft grass beside her head. Meh, she had to shower anyway now.

Rolling her head around, she let it rest on one side, one eye directed at Hunter. She smiled, all the while oxygen seemed to refill her lungs, slowly but steadily.

“Come on, kid-“ Hunter said, grasping Omega's shoulders. “Up you go-“

She let herself be turned around, giggling as she saw Hunter's expression. “'m fine, 'm fine” she panted. Hunter helped her sit up.

“You know kid- If it makes you feel better- None of us could ever keep up with him either.” He gave her a tender smile, pushing the damp curls out of her forehead. “He's just always been the fastest. Even in the army-“ Hunter's look turned to reassurance as she finally took the glass and started to drink.

After the glass had been finished in large, desperate gulps, Omega scrambled back on her feet. Blood rushing through the lower parts of her legs, she realized how dang much they hurt already. From soccer practice she knew that the soreness would return full force, come next morning. Both hands rubbed over the part of her knees, trying to massage any strain away.

It helped a little. She stumbled her way back into the house, surprised to see Crosshair leaning in the door frame. Omega was sure he had gone to shower already, but there he stood. Towel thrown over his shoulder, one eyebrow testily raised, Echo like smile put up.

“I’m fine, Crosshair-“ Omega admitted, eyes traveling away from his probing gaze. A little ashamed of her own lack of fitness. It felt like ages since the last soccer training.

“I can see that.“ He threw Hunter behind him with a knowing gaze and then turned his focus back on her, holding his index finger out. “Like I said; again tomorrow, same time.”

It wasn't intended for her ears, but she heard it anyway. Crosshair turned to go up the stairs, and Hunter mumbled an approving “Good job” behind her back.

Crosshair paused for a second, not turning around but seemingly acknowledging it, then slipping to the upper floor bathroom. Looking out of the corner of her eye, Omega could have sworn she saw Crosshairs neutral expression twitch into a gentle smile. Maybe she was mistaken, though.

Chapter Text

 

“Move it.” Crosshair sneered, a little more impatient than usual. He gestured to the bin underneath the sink, where Omega stood.

Hunter moved his gaze from the book about co-parenting for teenagers Tech had gotten him for Christmas. It was a normal conversation for Crosshair to have with someone. Nothing could ever fully shake his testy tone.

“No-” Omega gave back, at least equally as pissed off as Crosshair’s demand. She didn't even raise her head and continued to scrub clean the dishes they had used for dinner. Hunter cleared his throat deliberately, trying to cut through the mounting agitation.

“What?” Crosshair said.

A shiver went down Hunter’s spine. That sounded dangerous.

Omega, against his expectations wasn’t impressed with Crosshairs low growl. “I said no. I gotta do the dishes.” Fair point Hunter noted, but he knew Crosshair wouldn't leave it at that. He closed his book, shooting his brother a watchful look.

Crosshair returned a snarl, eyes twitched into slits. His head snapped back, not easily giving up. “Just step aside-“

Out of the corner of his eye, Hunter saw Crosshair reaching around his sister, trying to get a grip at her arms, lifting her up and putting her aside. But she wouldn’t have it. She flinched away in such a protectiveness, it almost scared him. He knew Crosshair looked menacing with his face tattoo, but she never had anything to fear. Not with them at least. Resentment spread through his veins. Thoughts about her life previous to living with her brothers were interrupted-

“I said NO.” Omega’s voice lifted. Shaking in anger, she turned her whole body, looking up at Crosshair, not impressed in any sort of way.

Hunter, in the aftermath of her detonating shout almost let the book tumble out of his hands. His sister had been in a bad mood all day. Pandemic and not seeing her friends had really gotten to her.

“Wow- you really have an attitude-” Crosshair held his words sharp; lips curled into a threatening expression.  “I'm not repeating myself again Omega, Move your leg.”

“I don't either-” she spatted back, eyes getting alight with fury. Hunter saw how she balled her fist in the way-to-big kitchen gloves.

Finally, Hunter managed up the courage to intervene. “You two should sort that out later-“ Two sets of eyes, previously glaring daggers at each other, now turned on Hunter. His distraction only served briefly.

“I don't really think we have much more to discuss here Hunter.” The two siblings turned back face-to-face.

“That works for me!” Omega mumbled under her breath, probably not meant for either of them to hear, but he was certain, judging by his brother’s stoic expression, not to be the only one who heard it. Omega, deliberately not looking up from her studious task, slouched forward, hands gripped tightly on the sink.   

He had never heard her talk to any of them like that. In retrospect, it shouldn’t surprise him that even a person as calm and otherwise cheerful as Omega would eventually get fed up with Crosshair’s blunt ways. Hunter knew he for sure had before.

Crosshair, keeping his jaw so tight, a vein at the side of his neck stood out, shook his head seemingly in defeat. He went out the kitchen, only to come back in mere seconds later. Mind set with what the hell it was this time. “You do realize we could have given into social services right?”

Crosshair!” Hunter heard himself bark. Within a second, he had jumped up and stood between them, arm thrust outward to keep them apart.

Omega turned, face pale. “Why didn't you since I'm always such a burden to you anyway?”

“I was against keeping you here.” Crosshair spat, like he was talking about a useless object.

The urge in Hunter to throw fists grew.

“WELL, WHY HAVEN'T YOU THEN?” She shouted; throat raw with strain, temper running wild.

Crosshair’s golden eyes darkened up. “BECAUSE THE OTHERS DESPERATELY WANTED YOU-“

Omega sniffed, stomping her foot on the tile. “I HATE YOU-” She tried to scream back just as loudly but couldn’t hide a slight tremor in her voice. She swallowed further angry tears, taking off the dishwashing gloves and peppering them in the sink with force. Hunter knew she was seconds from storming out.

Woah- that's enough-“ He tried to intervene, now fully inserting himself between them. “Crosshair. Go. Out. Now.” He threatened, eyes upon Omega’s stature.

Crosshair gave an ironic sounding chuckle. “If you don't stop pampering her Hunter-“

Hunter noticed his own patience disappear. “Crosshair if you don't fucking shut up- I swear to god-“ A certain sharp pain spiked behind his left eyebrow, so painful and so sudden, he almost had to gasp.

“Then what?” He gave his iconic bastardly little laugh, lips curled up in a look of superiority- Hunter, again, found himself almost throwing fists.  

“Don't test me-“ Hunter snapped. “Keep yelling at the ones who can't defend themselves.” He gestured at Omega, leaning with her back against the sink; tears now flowing freely across her face. “Very grown up of you man-“ He hissed at Crosshairs retreating back.

Hunter almost jumped in fright as he noticed Tech following him. Through all the drama, Hunter forgot, Tech was also present as a silent observer. He shrugged; palms turned outward defensively. Hunter nodded, Tech disappeared, and Omega dropped into her chair with an intermitted sigh.

As if he had knotted a brick to her head, she let it fall forward onto her folded arms. Hunter’s chest tore wide open at hearing her sob. He’d come to curse his brother a tenfold that evening.

Some urge in him wanted to feel productive but at the same time not overwhelm her emotionally. He turned to the counter, getting her favorite tea ready to calm the mood down.

“Omega-“ he started softly, putting the mug down. He brought one thumb to her cheek, wiping excess tears away. She lifted her head, big wet circles on her right forearm. Omegas puffy brown eyes stared desperately into his.

“I ruined everything” she hiccupped out; hands curled tightly around the mug. She wiped her eyes with her sleeve, head hanging low. “He hates me now.”

Hunter, always slightly uncomfortable with very emotional conversations, suppressed a laugh. If Crosshair hated every one back that, at one point, said they hate him, he wouldn’t talk to anyone in this house anymore. In an effort to stop her shaking, He put his hand on top her palm. “No kid- he doesn't.”

Omega, not entirely convinced, let out a frustrated sigh. “What if he does?” She bit her lip, trying to cover the quiver in her face as regret settled in.

“He knows you didn't mean it Omega-” Crosshair as thin-skinned of an explosive dick as he was, deep down hated conflict more than anybody else. Hunter knew that much. Therefore, he was certain, he couldn’t hold a grudge for too long. Especially not if it considered Omega. He didn’t let it on often, but Hunter knew she had gotten herself into his heart. Despite all of Crosshair’s initial insecurities of handling a child. “You're under a lot of stress right now-”

Omega, clearing her throat from snot built-up, interrupted him. “That's not an excuse.” She mumbled; gaze drawn to her thighs. The words of their mother- he wondered.

Another tear rolled down the tip of her nose, Hunter scooched closer, catching it with his finger. “But reason enough.”

She gave a miserable excuse for a shrug, halfway losing all tension in her body. “I guess”

Hunter, not being able to resist her distraught demeanor any further, turned his chair sideways, holding an arm out. “Come'ere kid it’s alright.” Omega slumped forward; head pressed into his chest. She let out another sob. Sweeping his palm up and down her spine, he tried to soothe her. “He'll forgive.“

Omega made an insecure sound of uncertainty. Hunter’s hand traveled up her neck, coming to a stop at the sides of her face where he knew, tension could gather after crying. He tried to sigh it away, dragging index and middle finger to her temples and massaging them in circle motions. She held still; enjoyment of the provided solace turned her frown into somewhat of a slight smile.

She moved her head slightly to the side, better for him to reach. “We had worse fights in this house believe me.” He said, earning a sniff in return.  

He remembered that one particular thanksgiving dinner...He’d never seen Tech that erratic- or Wrecker for that matter.

Omega, cupping Hunters hands on either side, dropped them into her lap, holding them tight. “What do I do now?”

Hunter, squeezing her hands back, stroke his thumb across her knuckles. “You apologize.-“ Simple, but could be quite effective sometimes, he knew that. “Explain your situation- accept consequences.” With Crosshair, he was certain, there wouldn’t be too big of a sacrifice.´

She nodded slowly, coming to the realization the worst part was yet to come. “Can you come with me when I apologize?”

He shook his head. “No kid- third party’s always in the way.”

He heard her swallow thickly, but gathering herself, like the brave kid she always had been, she drank the rest of her tea, hopping down the chair. She shot him one last unsure glance before opening the kitchen door. He still noticed how she trembled.  

 

--- Same time---

 

“Anger and rage in children mean excess energy.“ Tech said in a low voice, astute and smug as always, Crosshair figured. “Since she’s spending everyday away from school now, it isn’t surprising for those feelings to pent up.”

Crosshair wasn’t dumb. He knew exactly where that stemmed from, but nevertheless, it hurt, and a small but not indistinguishable part of his soul wanted to take revenge and make her feel the same way. It was childish and now, regret seemed to eat him up alive, gnawing through every cell of his body.

“Great Tech-“ He breathed heavily, listening in to the deep murmur that arose from the kitchen where Hunter and Omega had remained. His eyes travelled to the door. “Now I feel even worse.”

Tech cleared his throat. Wrecker beside him nervously shuffled on the couch. “It is only partially fault of yours.” Tech readjusted his glasses, pushing them up with his index finger. “Challenging words do trigger such emotions.”

He remembered. Oh fuck- he rolled his eyes. The image of Omega, stomping her foot on the kitchen floor, tears flooding down her cheeks. Tears he had caused. Yelling that she hated him because no other outlet could accurately describe her emotions for him-

Something hot crept its way up his throat, stopping to linger behind his pressed shut eyes. He dropped his head into his palms. “Why the fuck did I say that?” Hands beginning to claw at his own hair. “It's not even entirely true-”

He initially had a lot of concerns when Omega moved in with them, but they more than quickly dissipated as he realized how much good she had brought into their lives.

Fucking moron, he scolded himself.

Tech’s head perked up, seemingly prepared for such occasions- Or maybe just used to it. “You've always been easily provokable-”

His hands clamped um, white knuckles grasping for nothing but himself. “And you've always been a swellhead.” Hissing back, he briefly looked up to meet Tech’s non-judgmental gaze.

Not quite hiding his own offendedness in his voice, Tech said “Well, starting an altercation with me now certainly won't benefit yoursituation.”

Crosshair pressed his palm into his eyes, hoping to relieve some of the hot, built-up pressure. “What will? Harm's done. Guess I'll have to move out now-”

Wrecker, slowly awakening from his loomy behavior, leaned forward. “She'll forgive you-”

“Hunter won't.” Voice clamping up, he swallowed heavily, not at all bringing up the effort to hide a sniffle. “He’ll never forgive me for what I said.”

“You've said worse things.” Tech answered quickly.

He had to stifle a shocked snort. No, he thought. Not to her.

No matter how much his brothers tried to sugarcoat this situation, Crosshair knew, something in Omega would always remember what he had hurled at her head. No matter how much time would pass, he doubted she could ever forget that. Especially when she looked in his face.

If she ever would again at all-

Wrecker’s large palm found its way to cup Crosshair’s shoulder. “Kid knows you're a great brother Crosshair-“ He squeezed his shoulder. Crosshair fought the urge to shove his hand away. “She's a good kid. She won't forget what you've done for her.”

He shrugged. What the fuck had he done for her other than being a mean little asshole? Omega had talked about being a burden to him, but quite realistically, he couldn’t deny the thought that she may be better off without him.

Wrecker’s voice grew insistent. “Ya can't push her away because you once said somethin’ stupid.”

Crosshair wasn’t at all a religious man, but god damn, in that moment, he prayed for it to become true. Looking up, he met Tech’s gaze only shortly, before letting his view fall to the floor in shame. Tech, being as alert as always, recognized his masochism immediately.

“She is indeed quite stubborn.” Tech managed a small chuckle. Wrecker chimed in.

“Get's that from you Cross-“ He snickered, hand patting in circles between his brothers shoulder blades. Crosshair knew what Wrecker was trying to do- He saw him do it countless times to calm Omega before. He’d admit, it felt nice.

His head swiveled, meeting Wreckers one eyed face. ”We don't give you nearly enough credit man-“

A deep but warm and endearing laugh rumbled out of Wrecker’s chest. “Hell nah- you don't.“

Crosshair let himself be coaxed into a smile, expression faltering as he heard the familiar sound of two light feet, making their way across the hall. She knocked, timidly pushing the door open. Not raising her head, she walked into the living room, sitting opposite to him on the other end of the couch.

Wrecker raised his voice, hand held at his neck, trying to massage the tense mood out. He gestured to Tech. „We’ll leave you two alone.“

Crosshair didn’t miss the way her eyes lifted from the ground to look longingly after her two brothers. Was that how it was going to be from now on?

After Wrecker pulled the door shut, she pulled her knees to her chest. Burying her face behind protectively. For a moment he just let her be, sulking in what was his responsibility.

“I-I’m so s-sorry for w-hat I said to you-“ She sniffed, gulping in between to get enough air back into her lungs. “I didn’t mean- a-a-nd I-I’m sso sorry.”

He knew she tried to sound brave. That made it so much worse.

"Omega-" He wanted to formulate it comfortingly, but it came out like a plea. The burning sensation behind his eyes slowly but surely found its way back. Crosshair did everything in his power to not let it show, being the fucking adult that he should have been from the beginning. He should have been the mature person she needed right then and there. Asking what was wrong instead of yelling his head off like a young boy-

She lifted her head, blonde curls stuck to the wet parts of her face. “You don’t have to forgive me-“ Forgive her? It sounded like a sick, twisted joke. “but I really didn’t mean it. I was just angry.“ Maltreating her lip with her teeth, her gaze fixed straight ahead.

Her choked voice throbbed like a million little knifes on his eardrums. Uncertain and frightened eyes searched his, after all that had happened still on the lookout for him? He didn’t deserve this girl, that was for sure. Omega mastering an apology, whereas it should have been his job to beg for forgiveness.

Omega's face was red and contorted, indicating how much and how deeply he had hurt her. He couldn't make up for it. Never again.Such words lingered forever. Crosshair wasn't so disillusioned as to convince himself otherwise. Still… he had to try.

“Me neither.“ He mumbled, voice way tinier and way more pained than he would have ever expected it to be. He leaned forward. “You know that right?“ He added, hoping whatever he was trying to do would at least provide a permanent band aid.

Omega twitched her shoulders, and there went his heart. If he hadn’t been in agony before, he sure as hell was now. He didn’t manage to just push anyone away, but his little sister. The one that meant the world to him. The one he had vowed in court (and to himself) to protect at all costs. This must have been his worst nightmare. Something inside him sincerely hoped his alarm would go off any second now. Gripping his shoulders and tearing him out of this fucked-up dream.

“No- for real-“ He started, fist opening and closing to provide relief for his mental tension. “I have become accustomed- to you.” Crosshair paused, silence suddenly washing over him as if it tried to drown every further thought.

What a fucking stupid way to say that- What a fucking Tech way to say that. Couldn’t he do better for fucks sake?

Closing his eyes, he breathed, trying again. “I couldn’t tell you how much you leaving us would be a pain in the – you know what.” Better. Maybe.

She nodded, quickly laughing at his almost emitted curse. He liked her much better that way. She didn’t say anything, neither of them ready yet to break the occurred silence. Not able to fight the instinct for bodily contact, he reached with his hand for hers. Still silent, only needing gestures and looks to communicate.

She didn’t hesitate, freely and willingly giving herself in his care. Her hand felt so unimaginably little in his large grasp. A painful reminder of how small she still was. Not only physically but emotionally as well. He dragged his thumb across her knuckles, lovingly outlining them in an effort to further underline his claim.

He heard her sigh, blinking upwards to him. “Am I grounded now?” Again, a sheen of anxiousness crept through her voice.

Crosshair found himself utterly at a loss of words. “What?” He gasped out, absolutely no clue as to why she still feared negative repercussions.

Omega’s eyebrows lifted in surprise. “Won’t you punish me?” Exhaling her posture finally relaxed. Crosshair made circling motions across the back of her hand, trying to keep her anxiety mechanism at bay. “Hunter said I have to accept consequences for my actions.”

“Omega, no-“ To his surprise Crosshair felt the corners of his mouth twitch upward. Of course, Hunter had said that. “-not that way.” Crosshair couldn’t bring himself to fool her and himself in taking on an authoritarian role that handed out punishments. Thinking about what Tech had said about surplus energy, he cursed himself, not coming up with the idea quicker.

“Know what?” he asked, unsure of her response. “You should tag along jogging with me some time- If you want.” He added. Insecure, like he was asking a girl out he really liked. Afraid she’d say no- what he would have deserved.

“You sure? Thought that was your thing?” Omega pulled her hand back. His grab closed, holding nothing but thin air. Crosshair nodded.

“Well- Then we make it our thing.”  He twitched his shoulders, as if it had been all to obvious. “Maybe that’ll help you get out of this damn house sometimes.”

Before the pandemic hit, Crosshair came to despise his job from time to time. Odd hours, mostly alone, nothing to do- but with social distancing, not being affected by job loss had been a blessing. He couldn’t even begin to imagine how Omega must feel, being trapped in their house with nothing else than schoolwork to do. Maybe physical activity would bring her thoughts into happier territory.

“M’kay” She wiped her face with her sleeve. With that said, he knew she craved a hug. He scooched closer, arms held out, ready for her to settle in. Nothing could have prepared him for the flash in his eyes upon her arms reaching around his back. Memories of Omega jumping away from him, visibly anxious at his loud voice. Crosshair’s mind wandered back to another person who always used to shout at them like that. Although, much worse had usually followed any of Nala Sé’s scolding.

He couldn’t hold her tight. He just couldn’t.

Chapter Text

“Why are you not sick?” Omega moped scratchy voiced at Echo, bringing her a glass of vitamin juice to the couch they had inhabited for the last couple of days. “That's not fair.”

“Echo's never been-“ Wrecker sniffed, blanket around his shoulders and Omega’s head in his lap.

“That's not true-“ Echo protested, pouring out another round of cough syrup in shot glasses. “Legs don't count.”

“And arm.” Crosshair reminded him, index finger raised. Almost delirious and slumped over with his head on Omega’s shins.

“Yes-“ Echo bit down a smile at his sluggish appearance. “And one Arm.”

Normally he'd curse the poor fucker, but not this time.

After Omega’s first couple of months of school, never being exposed to any sort of viruses hadn’t done her immune system any good. Or theirs for that matter. Flu season gripped them tight. First down was Hunter. Spending most of his free time with Omega, it wasn’t a surprise to anyone. In return, since Omega stuck like glue to her brother, she caught the virus she pinned on him days later.

Next was Tech. Though with the power of his cleanliness and pedantic measures of disinfecting every single surface in the house, overcame it quite quickly. Now Wrecker and Crosshair were the only two ones left. Despite Omega still being sick, Echo, for any reason whatsoever, managed to dodge the virus.

He filled the glasses. Any precise measurements aside, he just poured a little more for Wrecker and Crosshair, and a little less for Omega. Tech would shake his head, Echo thought with smile, not entirely sure about his own abilities in administering medicine.

“Alright, down the hatch, guys.” He said. All three of them looked at each other with a slightly disgusted face, knowing what was coming. He raised his eyebrows expectantly. “Come on, you never said no to a shot before Wrecker.”

Wrecker held his glass out in mock toast.

A round of sputtering and pale faces with lips curled upward followed at the taste. He couldn’t blame them. Nothing was as sickeningly sweet as that syrup stuff. Crosshair made the most fuss out of all, gulping down his glass of water dramatically afterward.

“Echo, you fuckin’ sadist.” He coughed; eyebrows furiously drawn together.

Being the older sibling, I.e., having responsibility to bear, Echo didn’t let himself be deterred from taking further medical actions. He went around the couch, reaching with his backhand for each of their foreheads.

Crosshair gave him a menacing grumble. Wrecker was half asleep already and squirmed upon the cold contact with his hand, only Omega held still.

He didn’t fight the urge to shake the irony that a 11-year-old schoolgirl took his measures of care better than two men more than twice her age. To his dismay, she was the warmest out of all of them. He crouched down beside her face, the ends of his legs squealing in agony. Had to wait, he told himself. Omega was more important. Her gaze was bleary and unfocussed. He was worried to shit.

“Hey,” he started softly, getting a grip on her shoulder. “You okay? You’re burning up.”

“Mhh-“ she nodded affirmatively back. He wasn’t so convinced. Fixing the blanket around her form, he got up, ready to search for the in-ear-thermometer they kept around somewhere in this goddamn house.

After 15 exasperated minutes of scrambling through countless prescription medicines from him, Hunter and Tech, Echo found it in one of the lower bathroom drawers. Not having to use it until now clearly didn’t do the thing any good. He didn’t even know if it had any battery charge left. He pressed the button and thankfully, the thing beeped up on his demand.

Echo’s feet clinked as he walked back into the darkened living room. Not making the same mistake as before, he opted to perch on the living room table this time. 

“Move your head aside for me kid-“ She did so, almost with military like obedience. Ears red and swollen, he made sure to be more than careful. Omega was a brave girl, once more reminding him what her background with medical equipment must have been. He sighed, waiting.  “104 degrees Fahrenheit.”

Not as high as to be dangerous, but still too high for her fifth day of flu. Wrecker out of the deepest pits of his unconsciousness, stroked Omega’s head, mumbling, “You’ll feel better soon, kid.”

Omega gave a pathetic little sniff and rolled her head back from Echo, curling onto the side with her back against the room. Echo pinched the bridge of his nose, hot seeping worry spreading through his chest. Almost calling himself out on his mother hen like tendencies, he thought to give Hunter a call, in hopes of him affirming Echo on what to do next.

Echo scrambled the equipment and the used shot glasses together, heading for the kitchen to give the threesome on the couch a little rest. Loading the dishwasher, he bit his lip as he searched for Hunter's profile picture and tapped it.

Hunter didn’t even need a second to pick up.

"Hey Hunter it’s me." stupid he thought. As if Hunter couldn’t obviously tell that by Echo’s name on the screen.

"Hey Mate, what’s up?" Concern resounded through the speakers. Echo shuffled, Smartphone pressed tightly between shoulder and ear. His hand and the prosthetic gathered fixings for a round of herbal teas.

“Nothing just-“ he paused, thinking on how to phrase the following as not to alert any of Hunter’s overprotective instincts. “Omega's still kinda feverish and doc said to come back if it’s not down by the end of the week. Just wanted to inform you.”

A long pause, then “Huh-“. With that, Echo knew he had messed up. Hunter couldn't fool Echo with coolness. Poor man always wanted to be at the front lines, ready to help. “Thanks for letting me know-“ Echo heard the dull thud of a jackhammer. Hunter on the other end of the line seemed to stray away from the noise. He coughed, still not entirely over the illness himself. “Need any help down there? I could call out early today. I could drive you and Omega.”

An incredibly nice offer. But Hunter's boss Cid would certainly not approve if he left work early after the days he had to take off. Shaking his head, he managed “No- Tech's coming home soon anyway. He can drive us. Stay put.”

"Mh- okay" Hunter wasn’t entirely convinced, Echo knew that much. Still, he understood his half-brother only wanted to help. “are they behaving ok? Crosshair can be quite a whimp when he’s sick.” Hunter’s dark laugh rumbled through the phone, voice still sounding like he was gurgling pebbles.

Echo chimed in, stating “Yeah Crosshair’s giving me the dying swan here but everything else is okay.”

“I HEARD THAT!” Crosshair yelled from the living room. Hunter apparently did as well, laughing until he fell into a coughing fit.  

“Yeah- yeah- shut your trap Cross-“ Echo gave in reply, shutting the kitchen door and moving to put cups down. One handedness always proved to be a challenge. Hunter on the other end paused, unwrapping what Echo thought to be a cough drop. Echo initially wanted to hang up, but as always, waited for Hunter to finish the call, leftover military obedience and all.

He sensed Hunter was hesitating.

“No phantom pain today?” he mumbled.

Fuck, was he so easy to read?

“No-” Echo tried, not even convincing himself with that answer.

"Honest-" Damn, Hunter just knew him too well. That guy was a human lie detector.

"A bit, but I've already taken ibuprofen." Not feeling like he could recover from that little lie, Echo added "Look mate, I'll give you a call back, once I went to the doctors with Tech."

"Great thanks- What you guys wanna have for dinner?"

This was one of the moments when Echo was incredibly grateful for his brother. As much as he hated not being able to have any secrets, he couldn’t deny the hyperawareness to be utterly helpful sometimes.

“Oh just some pizza or something. Can't keep them sustained with soup all day. Especially not Wrecker.” He huffed a short laugh. Hunter returned it.

“'Right mate. Take care.” Hunter said as a farewell.

“You too.”

Clicking the cellphone button shut, he put the thing face down on the table only coming to realize seconds later that he still had to get himself and Omega a ride. Huffing, he clicked on Tech’s profile, typing a message in perfect English, otherwise, he knew Tech would correct him for the next half hour.

Omega needs to go to the doctor again. When are you coming? We need a ride.

I just got out of the building. Give me about 40 minutes. Tech typed; speech bubble flickering. Give her a cap of dayquil.

Echo groaned. Tech always stated the obvious. Already did.

Good. See you soon. Speech bubble disappearing, Echo thought Tech to be on the way home already. Better not disturb his driving mannerisms. He was as bad of a driver as is.

Okay. Echo gave back, calling their family medicine office next.

Echo remained in the kitchen for the time being until Tech showed up. Forgetting all about the tea, he had addressed his own pain while he waited. The right prosthetic leg leaned against the table, Ice pack where his knee had once been. It helped. At least a little.

He foolishly wanted to jump up as he heard Tech's key in the door. Swaying vigorously on one leg, he sat back down. First Tech investigated the living room before wandering down the hall to the dim light in the kitchen. It was getting dark quick outside.

He glanced at the ice pack in his hand and said nothing. Taking off his jacket and shoes, he slipped back into the hallway and came back with a pack of pills, throwing them at Echo’s chest.

“Thanks.” he grumbled. Shame, which he knew shouldn't be necessary in his brother's presence, spread through his chest, accumulating hot behind his cheeks.

“You should have told me.” He said, big brown eyes blinking with uncertainty from behind the glasses.

“Pff-“ Echo waved off, not having any of Tech’s lessons today.

“Let me rephrase: You need to communicate your discomfort.” Tech adjusted his glasses, stifling in his chair. “We cannot lessen your pain if you don’t make us aware.”

Echo finally understanding it as worry. “I know.” He let his head droop slightly. “Guess the past days have been straining on my muscles.”

“You should have taken Hunters help as he offered it.” He cided.

Gosh this family really had no secrets, had they? Echo shook his head, cracking a pill into his mouth. “Hunter needs his job.”

“Affirmative-“ Tech gave back. “Nevertheless, I don’t think your health to be less of a priority.” He concluded, bringing his chair into its usual position. He bent down, grabbing Echo’s prosthetic. In a swift motion, he began to reattach it. On any other day, Echo normally would have protested and insisted on his own ability to perform this measure himself just fine, but today was different. He couldn’t begin to fathom how thankful he was.

“Let’s get Omega ready.” Echo offered, nodding Tech a sharp thanks. He didn’t miss the wave of concern flickering in Tech’s eyes as he came to stand.

Echo took great care in waking Omega up. Blearily coming out of a fever dream, she had passed out on Wrecker’s chest. She blinked, asking him what went on. After explaining calmly they would get her rechecked by the doctors, she nodded, dread already beginning to fill the silence in her tone. Echo swallowed. Sadly, there was no other way.

Omega’s fear of doctors was a well-known issue around their house and a reasoned one at that. Affirming he and Tech wouldn’t leave her side, she finally agreed. Still, Omega only hesitantly got up. Deliberately taking twice as long in the process of procrastination. 

Echo, strained, tired and achy, almost lost his cool, as he pushed her slow-moving body in front of him, and escorted her to the small bench. He reached for her rainboots on the shelf. Tech grabbed her yellow hooded jacket. Omega gave a noise of complaint as he guided her arms through the sleeves.

It had been raining cats and dogs for several days, which certainly didn't make them feel any better. He sighed. Tech stood at the door, already holding her folder of medical documents.

“Do I really have to?” Her gaze fell pleading with uncertainty between Tech and Echo.

Echo cupped her cheek, nodding slowly. “We're worried about you.”

“I'm not.” She said bravely, unable to hide the slight tremor in her voice.

“People who experience pyrexia over a long period of time are often not able to assess their situation correctly.” He opened the door.

Omega stared at him with big brown eyes, oblivion clouding her judgement she usually used to decipher Tech’s claims.

“Come on,” Echo intervened. “It's not going to get better if you drag it out.”

----

“Well” Dr. Koon stated, putting the stethoscope around his neck and gesturing to Tech to button Omega’s pajama top back up. Her head collapsed against his chest, begging for a hug instead. Tech carefully rubbed flat circles between her shoulder blades, letting her rest for a second.

“For a child with- Omega’s -medical history” he paused, careful as what to say next. He sat across Echo, eying the little patient from behind his desk. “It is not unusual that, given her immune systems lack of antibody’s, an aggressive illness like the flu lingers around for longer.”

Omega behind him squirmed. Tech shushing her, reached around to fasten the buttons, carefully slipping on the jacked afterward.

“But I do agree with your concern about the fever.” Dark brown eyes never leaving Omegas puny form, as Tech cradled her in his arms to bring her back over to the desk and rested her in his lap.

She wanted Hunter; Echo could see that. But he was thankful Tech at least tried to be equally as attentive.

“Given her age and weight, I would suggest an over-the-counter medication such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen. There is no reason to believe that the medication shouldn’t take affect within a few hours. “ He held his hands folded on the table. “But no school yet. Fever has to be gone for at least one day.” Echo nodded, making mental nots to tell Hunter later. As Omega’s guardian it was Hunter’s job to deal with school matters.

“Thank you.” Echo said curtly as Dr. Koon handed him a prescription. The gray-haired man smiled kindly and escorted them to the door.

Omega still hung limply in Tech's arms, reluctant to be released and walk on her own, despite Techs many proposals.

The man leaned down, voice low and calm. “I wish you a quick recovery.”

“Mh'anks” she said, mouth twisted into a yawn, head lulling against her brother's bicep. Echo couldn’t tell if Omega was even awake as they sat her back in the car.

Driving by the drugstore, Tech had parked the car near to the entrance. Better to get the medicine sooner rather than later, Echo remembered. He couldn’t count the number of times he’d cursed himself for not getting a refill earlier.

He offered to stay in the car with Omega. After all, even under normal circumstances, one couldn’t leave a child alone in a car. Echo turned and smiled to himself, looking down at Omegas slumped, sleeping form. A moment of panic jolted his insides as he inspected her closer, but thankfully, she was still breathing. Echo let out a tense sigh, leaning back in the seat, hand dragged over his face, listening to the rain patter against the windshield.

Tech didn't take long. He brought a brown paper bag, already speckled with dark spots from the rain. “I got you some, too.” He said casually, paying no further attention to Echo.

Echo immediately knew what he implicated. "Thanks, but you didn't need to do that."

Tech's voice became serious and for a moment he even sounded ... angry? "Yes, I did." he returned, voice pressed and sharp. “Echo, we’re brothers. Stop trying to be invincible. I assure you there is no need.“ He turned to the steering wheel, brows still furrowed behind the thick glasses.

Echo pressed his lips together, searching to say something, that didn’t sound like a blatant platitude. “Alright- I promise, I won’t anymore.” He mumbled sheepishly, falling into a frown as well and saying nothing for the entire way back.

---

Hunter's head snapped up as he heard Tech's trademark screeching tires in the driveway. A klonk knlonk knlonk of Echo's prosthetic legs was followed by silence as the rustle of a set of keys unlocked the front door.

Echo greeted him, leaving the door open for Tech with Omega in tow. Hunter leaned down, eyebrows drawn tightly together. He held one hand pressed to her forehead, shuddering at the hot contact.

“Huh- Kid? How're you feelin'?“ he said, probably too loudly. She suddenly began to stir in Tech’s grasp, arms outstretched to Hunter and making little grabbing motions. Tech handed her over with a gentle smile.

“Headache-“ She admitted, mumbling.

Hunter, not a stranger to migraines or other sensory issues felt a wave of anxious empathy. “I understand. But kid-“ He stated, carefully readjusting his grip around her figure. “You need to be awake a little. At least for now-“

Omega sniffed. “No” she said, interrupting a head shake with a wince. “Wanna sleep- tired.”

Now those were three words he hadn’t heard from her in a while, if ever at all. He sighed, tension finally subsiding. “I know kid-“ He grabbed her underarms to prop her up on the sofa next to him. “You can’t sleep all day Omega. You won’t be tired enough at night.”

“I negate your perception.” She said, giving him a huff.

He almost laughed out loud. That was a Tech quotation if he ever heard one.

“Omega’s getting delusional.” Crosshair snickered and broke off into a cough, choking on his own words.

“’Mnot Cross.” Her feverish glaze slid onto her brother; eyes locked with tired determination.

“Come on now-” Hunter pushed Omega’s chin up only for it to be flopping back down mere seconds later. Hunter huffed, trying something else. “Dinnertime- got your favorite pizza.”

“No dinner. Jus’leep.” She nestled her head against his side.

“No Omega-“ Hunter attempted, setting her back straight.

Omega pouted, bottom lip stuck forward, arms crossed. “Yes Omega!” She retorted, growing a little frustrated. Hunter wished he would’ve had the self-control not to snort at her pissy answer.

“You can sleep after dinner.”

Even Crosshair couldn’t hide his smile as Omega met him with a grumbled “Mhh” .

---

Hunter held the slice of Pizza to Omega’s mouth, indicating her to take a bite. “Com’on kid. One bite for Wrecker“

Wrecker, waving and giving her a big smile, put his own carton aside. Omega tried to take the biggest bite she could. “Good.” Hunter praised, kneading her arm with the hand he placed around her. “Now one bite for Tech-”

Omega pleadingly blinked upward, knowing she had close to no say in this. Again, she grumbled as she took yet another bite for Tech. Hunter didn’t let loose, turning the slice in his hand. “Echo’s turn. Biiig bite for Echo.” He emphasized.

Almost finished with her piece left Crosshair’s name to be said next. She blinked in his direction, gaze drooping she shook her head.

“Com’on kid!” Wrecker cooed. “Ya make Crosshair sad.”

You have emotions?” Echo sarcastically ascertained. Crosshair gave him a little shove.

Hunter made plane sounds with the hand that held the pizza, trying to coax her into eating some more. Dumbstruck, the others just stared at Omegas slightly grinning headshake. Finally, she took the tiniest bite and stuck her tongue out to her brother.

“Well at least we know now she’s not a stranger to favoritism.” Tech stated bluntly, a bit of irony sprinkled within.

Crosshair leaned in, pinching her foot lightly until Omega gave a little giggle. “I think the med’s are kicking in.“ He made a feeble effort to bite back a grin.

“Again kid-“ Hunter said, earning massive amounts of protests from his little sister. Halfway through another bite for Tech, her eyelids fluttered closed. Greasy mouth resting on Hunter’s chest, her body seemingly lost all its composure at once.

Always witty, Tech couldn’t hold back a comment. “I think that’s her way of stating she had enough nutritional intake.”

“Let the kid be-“ Wrecker blew his nose in between his large mouthfuls. “She’s had a rough day.”

“Hunter-“ Tech shot Hunter a disapproving look as he put the rest of Omegas piece into his mouth, he frowned. “No wonder why you got sick-“

Hunter twitched his shoulders. No need in wasting good food. Germs or no germs. Putting the carton aside, he scrambled Omega’s knocked out figure up, careful not to contort her head too much.

Omega didn’t even stir as he put her to bed. He reached for her Trooper doll and Lula, Wreckers old Teddy bear, putting them into the crook of her arm. Just in case she should need them tonight. Turning around to pluck in the nightlight, he noticed how a little hand clung to his sleeve.

“’Untha” she mumbled as he pulled the blanked over her body, tucking it in at all sides.

“Yes kid?” He pushed the curls out of her face. Not as warm as she had been, he noted in delight.

“I love you.” She mumbled, blissfully sighing.

A hot flush crept through Hunter’s chest, up his neck, finally coming to a stop behind his eyes. Luckily Omega was half asleep already. “Love you too kid. Sleep tight.”

“ou’too.” Omega yawned, rolling onto her side.

Chapter Text

Omega had no clue what it was.

All she knew was this hurt like hell. Not in the grumbling way her stomach hurt when the cooking was left to Wrecker -her brother wasn’t the best cook- rather like someone desperately tried to push their fingernails into the soft flesh of her insides, determined to rip her apart.

Another stomach cramp nearly brought her to tears. Hunching over in the school’s hallway, Omega tried pushing a hand against the pressuring pain. The following heat flush left her so nauseated, she only had one objective: find a bathroom. Fast. Whatever it was, she hoped it would work itself out there.

She didn’t even notice how her feet carried her downstairs. Brain running on automatic, her body activated some kind of bizarre survival mode. An incredible rush of relive and adrenaline doused her brain as she discovered the downstairs bathroom.

Toppling to the door, Omega’s grip around the handle was feeble at best. The ground beneath her feet swayed vigorously. Her hands, drenched in cold sweat, didn’t seem to get a good grip,  so she pushed herself against the door until the hinges gave in and it swayed open.

Wobbly knees dragged her hunched body to the most outer stall. Throwing the backpack into the stall first, she lunged for the toilet. There she waited. Three, four more of the wavelike cramps- The last one so strong, it almost made her gag in agony. Nothing happened. No relief whatsoever.   

A fling of curiosity took over, and she looked down. It took every ounce of self-control Omega had to not outright scream. The insides of her thighs were covered in a red, sticky substance she had never seen. Much to Hunters dismay, she had hurt herself countless times before, but this type of blood was different.

Is this the thing that Tech referred to?

Gasping in shock as the first tears left the corners of her eyes, she gripped for the toilet roll, cleaning herself off as best as she could. There was almost no use. It just went on. Swallowing a couple of sobs, she realized the strange kind of blood not only stained the most upperparts of her legs but drenched her underwear and even the crotch part of her jeans as well.

Still sitting on the toilet, Omega folded over, beginning to whimper, all by herself. She had never felt so alone in her life. Not even in her mother’s laboratories.

Not being able to stop the tears, her blurry vision recognized the outline of her schoolbag from the outer corner of her periphery. Something fought its way to the forefront of her brain.

I need new clothes. She had to call home.

A sudden enormous amount of shame nearly emptied her lungs out of all air and made her cry even harder. What should she tell her brothers? As far as she was concerned, men didn’t have monthly cycles. At least not by the definition Tech had given her.

I have to call someone. Anyone.

No matter who, as long as they made the dreadful feeling of loneliness subside. Mind incapable of forming any coherent thoughts, she scrolled her call log and clicked the first name she could find.

Tears already managed to find their way between her face and the smartphone, making it hard to cling to. A few heartbeats throbbed in her throat, then a certain voice brought the chaos in her head to a standstill.

“Hello?” the voice said, clearly surprised she had called at this hour.

“Echo?” she mastered. Every ounce of courage she gathered to put herself on the line faltered.

 

————

“Echo?” Omega's voice resounded through the speaker.

“yah kid- don’t you have class?” tone implicating an Why-are-you-calling?. He thought to have heard a sniff. Echo immediately backtracked into something less strict and military like. “What's wrong?”

“I think- I- I’m bleeding.” She said, voice pressed to keep further emotions at bay.

Echo blinked, leaning in. “From where?”

“Echo-“ Her voice broke off, muffled by a few hiccupped sobs.

Then, it dawned on him. The same sudden, strange feeling he got when he first bought her a training bra returned. Not embarrassment…rather alienation?

“Crap.” He bit his tongue, already sorry for the emitted curse. He knew he shouldn’t talk like that in front of Omega. Hunter had told him thousands of times not to. But Hunter wasn’t here right now. “Crap.” Echo repeated, quieter this time. Still ignoring Crosshairs pestering looks from across the coffee maker.

“Yeah.” Her small voice gave back as she tried to stifle another sob.

“What do you need? ‘re you in pain?” Crosshair’s post shift morning-to-noon-nap self seemed to have perked up at that particular part. His gaze became sterner as his eyes searched for Echo’s.

He heard another sob, followed by a rustle of fabric as she sniffed.

“Omega it’s okay-“ He retorted, Crosshair scooched closer. “You’re okay. I promise.”

An awful silence clenched Echo’s throat as a wave of incompetence washed over him. On the other end, he could still hear Omega hiccup. “Kid- listen to me.”

“Uh-huh.” She managed to get out.

“What do you need, Omega?” He tried again. Firm but still calm.

“A new set of clothes.” She said, voice almost falling into a whisper. “And those things Tech bought.” She added, agitation and all kinds of emotions running wild. Echo couldn’t even begin to imagine what she went through.

“Pain?” He just asked, deliberately making it easy to answer.

“yeah-“ She mumbled sheepishly. “pretty bad-”

“Okay.” The conversational part of Echo’s brain now ran on automatic, leaving space for further thoughts to occur. For example what the hell kind of medication could he even give her for that kind of pain?

Fuck. Where is Tech when I need him?

He swallowed, apparently having no other choice to figure it out than on his own. Well, except with Crosshair. But that man was as helpless as Wrecker in a math course regarding his sister's problems.

Another sob stuttered through the speakers, making his heart squeal in agony. “Hang in there, kid. I’m coming.”

“O-okay. I-I’m in the bathroom downs-stairs.” She stammered, harboring a gulp. “Bye-“

“Bye kid.” White knuckled hand clenching his smartphone, his auditory system filled with the sound of his own throbbing pulse. Never ever in my life did I ever think to-

“Echo? What's up? Where’s the fire?” Crosshair tried to mask his own uncertainty about the snippets of conversation he caught. Needless to say, he miserably failed.

Echo still held the phone pressed to his ear long after Omega hung up. His mind racing on astronomical speed, his eyes widened. Aghast, he shot Crosshair a glance, now fully unsure as how to rephrase his sister’s occurrence.

He couldn’t deny that dancing around the topic wouldn’t be an option anymore. “Look mate- She’s having her first period.”

“What?” He could have sworn to see a sheen of redness creep up his half-brother’s cheeks as realization settled in. “Already?” Eyes wide, he just stood there in stunned silence, mouth slightly agape.

“She’s thirteen.” He gave back, more casual than he’d expected from himself. “It’s normal. Com’on man, we knew this was going to happen eventually. Basic biology.”

“I know…I’m not stupid-“ Crosshair rubbed his hand on his neck. Mind occupied with so much information at once, his gaze didn’t concentrate on anything specific.

“Right.” Echo said, slowly losing patience and surely not willing to argue with his brother.

“What’re we going to do now?” He knew Crosshair’s soldier instincts tried to mingle with each other. Assessing an unknown situation as soon and as accurate as possible.

“Slaughter a goat at full moon-“ He retorted, obvious sarcasm glancing with amusement at Crosshairs narrow brows. He wasn’t sure if the irony in his tone came across. “No dimwit. We’re picking her up.” Echo gestured impatiently to the door. “Come on, get your ass movin’” He pointed down Crosshair’s pajama bottoms. “And put on some pants god dammnit. We're going to a school.”

Crosshair, apparently experiencing some kind of shell shock, stood blank faced in the door. For whatever reason, probably due to the fact of the upsetness in Omega's tone, Echo snapped. “You driving me or not?”

Echo, second commanding officer in the army, apparently got some kind of reaction out of him. Maybe it had been the urgency in his tone, maybe it had been the authoritative persistence, but something in his brother’s mind seemed to click as he pulled himself out of the trance-like state.

“Sure.” He mumbled, putting the coffee cup down with a thud, bolting for the stairs.

Echo shook his head and went for the laundry room to grab Omega some freshly washed jeans and underwear. Rolling his eyes at the way, Crosshair was utterly lost under the façade of cool he so desperately wanted everyone to recognize. Not that he could’ve fooled them. This was new to everyone. Echo scrambled around the different laundry baskets. Maybe he could even find her ones still warm from the dryer, hoping the provided warmth would make her feel a little better.

Next, he headed for the bathroom. He didn’t quite know where Tech thought the most logical place to keep the pads would be. Not being Tech, meaning not having a billion extra brain cells running automatically at the same time, Echo couldn’t sometimes get behind the logic his half-brother used to organize things around the house. Echo had no choice but to open each bathroom drawer individually.

Sunscreen, band aids, shower gel, razors, allergy medication, unused toothbrushes…

He pulled open the next- hairdryer, scissors, toothpaste, nail clippers…

No-No-No he huffed, pulling the beanie down in frustration as his gaze fell onto the one, he hadn’t opened yet.

He pulled open the bottom left drawer under the sink and was left in relieved surprise. A heating pad, medicine against cramps and, of course, pads that were silently waiting to be used. Everything ready, everything in one place. He couldn't help a short, disconcerted laugh. The fact that Tech didn’t label the drawer “Period Stash” was everything.

He couldn’t deny that Tech was the most knowledgeable and most matter of fact about any kind of medical predicaments, therefore best suited for giving Omega advice about her new situation, but he for sure didn’t always have the best emotional approach. Echo remembered the day his half-brother came home from work, putting the pads in front of her tired post-math-homework face. He’d sat her down and had started to explain why it was time she knew about why she would eventually need them. Omega, red-faced, humiliated and slightly frightened, had tried her best to listen, but still seemed too uncomfortable to deal with it beyond this conversation.

At the time, he had doubted that his little sister could follow Tech's explanations about the four different cycle phases and the diagrams he drew, but apparently his brother seemed to have gotten the basic points across. 

He grabbed one of the old backpacks at the door, stashing everything he had gathered inside.

“What do you want with that?” He asked, as Crosshair, now more appropriately dressed, handed him his grey sweatshirt.

“She likes wearing it.” He said with indifference, shrugging his shoulders.

Echo was taken aback for a second, not having expected that amount of generosity. He knew Crosshair absolutely despised it when someone else wore his clothes. Omega had often snuck up to his room to search for this particular sweater. Every time getting in a fight with her brother until he let her wear it anyway. Crosshair had no more consistency than anyone else when it came to denying her big brown eyes.

“Thought you didn’t like it when her hair’s on your clothes.” He raised an eyebrow, soft gesture, and real concern behind it already figured out. He decided not to press further. Even Crosshair should get his moments of emotional growth.

“I know-“ he paused, biting his lip as he folded the sleeves inward. “I think I can make an exception.”

“How kind of you.” Echo teased. Crosshair rolled his eyes.

“You know me, tin man.” He sneered, zipping the backpack closed. He gestured toward himself. “I’m the impersonation of kindness.“

The silence they shared in the car on the ride to Omega’s school had been more than strange. Every time Echo thought of something to say, he ended up even quieter than before. He could tell Crosshair was worried. White knuckled hands gripped the steering wheel so tight, they almost ripped it out of the dashboard. He would’ve crossed every red light if it wouldn’t cost them their lives.

Crosshair took the nearest parking spot to the entrance available. Echo stirred in his seat, turning to his brother. “The whole situation is unpleasant enough for Omega.” He paused, watching his stoic face closely. “Please don’t make it worse.”

Crosshair emitted an insulted snort. “Who do you think I am?”

Echo swallowed, adding dryly. “Someone who can't refrain from making stupid comments even when no one asked him to comment?”

His brother gave a wry chuckle, expression soon falling into something truly genuine. “Not in a situation like this. Echo, I promise.” Upon Echo’s eyebrow twitch, Crosshair retreated. “Even I have that much empathy.” He spat as if it should insult Echo.

It didn’t.

He gave him a sigh. “Good to know.”

Crosshair nodded ready to get out of the car. Echo held his arm back. “If we get into the school, let me talk to her first. I don’t want her to get overwhelmed.”

His brother gave him a cheeky ironic salute. “Yes sir.”

 

————

 

With a nod, Echo left Crosshair outside the bathroom. Wandering in, he immediately recognized two little feet in familiar sneakers in the most outer stall. “‘Mega?“

The two feet moved. He heard a pathetic little sniff. “here-”

“Wanna come out kiddo?“ He carefully moved to the far right, now knocking on the door. He heard her startle.

“No?“ she answered, sounding truly unsure. But still the lock turned. He stepped back, Omega immediately slumped in his arms. He tried to swallow the concern he felt at her violent shivering.

Echo leaned down, pressing a kiss on the top of her head. Didn’t seem to make her situation better though. He kept rubbing down her arms and spine, providing solace for her heartbreaking sobs. “We came to pick you up.”

She moved away, gulping in horror as dread settled in her eyes. “We?” She repeated.

“Yah, Crosshair and I. Figured Schools over soon anyway.” He shrugged, not giving it a single further thought. “You wanna get some ice-cream after this?” He heard a gulp and immediately sank to his knees. “What’s wrong?” He asked, tone kind and reassuring.

Omega, obviously overwhelmed by the unexpected turn the day took, hid her face, audibly shaken with tears. “Oh god-” she muffled from behind her hands. “I don’t want you guys to see this.”

“Why?” stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Of course, he knew why. Gosh Echo, why make her say it out loud for Christ’s sake?

“’cause it’s embarrassing to me.” Her shoulders drooped in defeat, head following to hang limply forward as she let out another few sobs, searching for his shoulder to lean on. “I feel…disgusting.”

“Meg’s, kid. No-“  He reached around, ripping some toilet paper of the roll. He gripped her tight, pushing the tissues in between her fistfuls of his sweatshirt. “It’s not disgusting. It’s normal.” He cupped her head to his chest, stroking the thumb across her cheek. “Look, even if we do look like a complete incompetent group of losers-“ -that seemed to get a small chuckle out of her- “We’ve all had girlfriends before. We know this. You don’t need to be embarrassed. Especially not in front of us, okay?”

Omega gave a hearty sniff. “Okay.”

Echo pressed his mouth into her hair again, this time, it seemed to soothe her a little. With the prosthetic he reached around, putting the backpack in her hands. She thanked him with an appreciative nod.

“Now get changed kid, I’ll wait outside.” He said, turning around and giving her the privacy of not seeing her stained backside while she still had the jeans on.

“Wait-“ Omega came back for another hug, this time standing on her tippy toes so she could reach around his neck. “I don’t think you’re losers.” she whispered into his ear. He returned the nod Omega had given him earlier with a crooked smile.

————

 

Echo sighed, as he let his head collapse backward against the wall, waiting for the minutes to tick by. Omega had been in there for at least fifteen minutes after he had left. Crosshair next to him, slowly getting impatient, started mindlessly scrolling through his phone.

Both heads shot up, electrified as they found someone small, hunched over and blonde in the doorway beside them. Omega gave Echo the backpack back, whilst shouldering her own. Crosshair indeed appeared to have made a good call. She looked way more comfortable in his sweatshirt.

Omega’s eyes didn’t leave the floor. Face slightly reddened and eyes puffy, she scraped her sneaker across the floor. Echo exchanged a worried glance with his brother. Crosshair, interpreting it as a call to action, stepped in front of Echo and gave his sister a gentle nudge with his elbow.

Seeing a tear roll down the tip of her nose, Crosshair, in one swift movement, pressed her little figure against him. Omega immediately clung to him. Tiny hands grabbing the back of his shirt as she turned her head to quietly let out a few more sobs.

“Everything’s okay.” Crosshair's hands moved stiffly over her back. Nowhere nearly as natural, as Wrecker's or Hunter's did. But it seemed to be enough. Soon Omega recomposed herself and the grip around Crosshair’s waist lessened, though she didn’t fully let go.

She moved away, wiping her face with her backhand. “Sorry I jus-”

“Bullshit-“ Crosshair interrupted, dragging her chin upward so her eyes met his face. “It’s just us-“ he wiped her face with his thumb. Echo put a steadying hand on her back. Traveling upward to stroke the curls she had thrown into a messy bun.

“I wanna go home-“ she said with a sniff. Crosshair reached around, grabbing her backpack and carrying it himself. He nodded, probably making the most tender smile Echo had ever seen.

“Good idea.” Echo encouragingly managed a grin. All the way to the car, Echo noticed how his brother never once pulled his arm back from Omega’s shoulders.

————

 

“Oh god what do I tell Hunter?” Omega pulled the hood of Crosshairs grey sweater over her blonde hair and shuffled underneath the blanket, covered in Gonky’s cat hair.

Legs pulled tight to her body, she leaned against Crosshair on the sofa. She had been equipped with a mug of her favorite Tea, a pair of fuzzy socks, pain killers and a heating pad.

Since they had picked Omega up, Crosshair had somehow developed a kind of strange protective instinct. Apparently now determined not to let her out of his sight. Probably not being quite sure if she was indeed comfortable enough. He circled his fingers around her shoulder.

Echo cleared his throat, holding her feet in his lap. “One obstacle at a time kid.”

She wiped a tear at that, still not entirely over the shame.

“I can tell Hunter for you if you’d like?” Not having a clue as to how he should, Echo thought he’d figure something out in the moment. Poor man didn’t know what was coming for him.

Upon her small but indistinguishable nod, he mouthed a silent “Okay.”

Omega, slowly getting more comfortable, got her thoughts back into place. “Is it-“ she swallowed heavily and directed her gaze into the mug until Crosshair gave her shoulder an encouraging squeeze. “-always like this?”

“We don’t know kid.” Echo said, reaching for his own mug of tea.

“We don’t have your kind of-“ Crosshair paused, eyebrows knitted together. “-equipment.”

Omega huffed a short laugh until her face contorted and she fell silent again. Her head collapsed onto his bicep. “Tech said I’d get my-“ her voice broke off, too disconcerted to say it out loud.

“Period.” Echo supplied, adamant to not let shame be a regular guest. “Omega-“ his gaze grew stern. “It’s a normal thing. Call it what it is kid.”

She gave a little sniff. “Yeah- sorry. Guess I’m not used to it.” Tears returning, she put the cup down on the table and dabbed her eyes with her sleeve. Crosshair’s other arm pulled her tighter to himself, shushing her and rubbing along her spine. “I-I was jus’ s-so surprised.” She stuttered from behind her brother’s arms.

Echo scooched closer as well. “I guess being prepared is sometimes not enough to avoid a certain surprise.”

Crosshair rested his chin on Omega’s head at her displeased murmur. “That sounded an awful lot like Tech.” she said followed by an angry grumble. Echo wasn’t quite sure if it was because of his own incompetence or her raging hormones. He landed on 50/50 and let it go.

“Tech would’ve rubbed off on you too if you would’ve lived with him for as long as we do.” Crosshair scoffed, not being able to suppress a sarcastic little smirk. “That man is a public nuisance.”

————

 

Hunter immediately knew something was different. Usually, Omega was the first one to greet him at the door. But, upon his entrance, she was nowhere to be seen. Just Echo, who shuffled uncomfortably against the banister.

Hunter tilted his head, almost asking what the hell he was up to. Echo seemed to have made up his mind, striding to Hunter who fought with a tangled shoelace of his work boots.

“You have a sec?” he asked, hand unsurely gripping the hilt of his right prosthetic.

Hunter raised his brows, speaking low voiced into the dark corridor. “Yeah sure.“

Crosshair, appearing from behind Echo folded his arms, leaning against the doorway to the living room. “That should be interesting.” His mouth twitched to something Hunter had seen so often before.

Slowly finding his way into agitation, Echo turned around. “Don’t you have somewhere else to be?” he sneered. Probably meaner than intended.

Hunter couldn’t mask a short laugh, at Crosshair’s blunt “No, that’s better than anything I’d planned tonight.”

But seeing as Echo wouldn’t continue until he left, Hunter let out a sigh. “Cross- please?”

Crosshair rolled his eyes, turning back around to the living room.

“What's the secrecy about?” Hunter pressed having enough with whatever it was Echo was dancing around. He ruffled his hair, shaking sawdust out. It was a long day.

“Omega had her first period today-“ Echo bluntly said, letting the words sink in.

What?

Hunter was taken aback for a second, not sure if Echo wanted him to comment. He looked down, not entirely sure what to make of it.

His brother resumed. “She's called us from school. She was pretty upset.“

He could picture that. Soon, his mind started the old treadmill of worry and guilt. He couldn’t shake the desperate feeling he should’ve been there.

“- Cross and I went to pick her up-“

Crosshair?

Echo's voice slowly faded into the background as Hunter's thoughts tried to catch up and sort through what had just been said. Somehow, he had already suspected something of that nature. Some things had been off about her.

Like a strange epiphany, the memories of the last few days came back. His little sister had been more irritable and tired than usual. In addition, she had developed quite a strong craving for chocolate. However, Hunter had suspected that this was just due to another growth spurt.

Cringing, Hunter thought about the weird talk his walking Wikipedia article of a brother had with Omega.

Suddenly, his thoughts were pushed aside as Echo cleared his throat. He didn’t notice the way his half-brother mustered him with an expectant gaze.

“Excuse me, what?” Hunter said, astounded he zoned out that much.

“I said-“ Echo reiterated. “You should go talk to her.” He grabbed his shoulder, bringing Hunter fully back to reality. “Like now.” he pressed, to make his demand more urgent. “I think Omega needs your comfort.”

Being swapped by the same, sudden wave of guilt he had experienced before, he swallowed. “Where is she?”

“She went to bed. She’s pretty out of it.” Echo said with a tone of regret in his voice.

“I can imagine.” Hunter clenched his jaw, obvious. “Thanks mate- I owe you one.” He tossed his boot away, stood up and pat Echo’s shoulder, determined to make it upstairs as fast as possible. But first, he had to at least change his clothes.

He couldn’t console Omega while having a shirt on that a day’s worth of sweat, motor oil and whatever else on it. He went through the living room heading for the attachment where his bed stood. He came to a halt at Crosshair on the couch, undeniably noticing his pestering gaze.

“Thank you-“ Hunter said.

Crosshair pretended as though he looked indifferently up from his smart phone. “For what?”

Hunter couldn’t be fooled.  “You know for what. Nice to see you grew up man-“

His brother gave him a lengthy stare, lips slowly curling into only a half serious snarl. “Yeah yeah, go fuck yourself.”

Hunter managed a breathy chuckle as he went into his room to redress himself. Being equipped with a pair of sweatpants and an old hoody, he bolted his way upstairs. Internally mapping out conversations and answers only to dismiss them seconds later.

Making his way up, a thousand thoughts seemed to occupy his mind at once. In his head, he scrambled everything together he had ever heard about any kind of women’s health topic. To be fair, he never actually thought he would need it. His thoughts went back to the basic biology topics Nala Sé hat taught the boys in their time. For the first time in over a decade Hunter wished to go back in time. He would do everything to be the help Omega needed, even if it meant facing this bitch of a-

He came to an abrupt stop in front of Omegas door. Allowing himself to catch a breath or two, realizing it might not be best if she saw him completely out of breath, as if he was running from something.

He knocked, already opening the door with a creak.

“Mega? Kid?“ Hunter called out softly, getting almost no response besides a silent “Mh?”

Something heavy turned over in his stomach. Violently rocked by another wave of guilt, Hunter only came to one conclusion. She must be so mad at me.

He must admit, it would’ve been deserved. He should have been there. Work or no work, Omega needed him today and he had left her all to herself. He turned around to quietly close the door.

Omega’s small figure was curled up with the back turned to the room. Her fingers absentmindedly picked at a piece of wallpaper. She sniffed, not turning around. He swallowed again, trying to sort out what he could say next.

“I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for you.”

His heart broke at the tiniest sob she emitted. Not coming up with any other way to soothe her, Hunter crawled into her bed without further commentary. He coiled himself around her figure, careful not to push the heating pad out of place she had on her stomach. She was so small and fragile. Still.

Upon pulling her toward himself, he thrust his arm outward, resting her head on his bicep. His throat clenched, as he felt wet tissues beside her face. Voice almost cracking like a teenage boy, he asked “What’s wrong?”

Omega, sniffled more, shaking against his upper body as she rolled further inward. “Don’t know.”

He pressed her blonde mop underneath his chin, voice box vibrating against her trembling back head. “Still in pain?” He hesitated, unknowing if she even wanted to talk at all. “Echo told me.”

She sniffed and shook her head. “No” she managed. At least something- he thought. He didn’t know what physically hurt him more; Omega’s pain or her sadness.

She fell silent, clutching his wrist to her chest. Hunter felt it rise and fall unsteadily as the tension seemed to take over, cries trying to burst out whilst not ripping her apart completely. She sobbed so hard; he could have sworn to feel the bedframe shake a little.

His hand stroke along her arms, fingers traveling upward to comb through her hair. He felt absolutely helpless. He never thought twice about what certain parts of growing up felt like to a girl. Hunter had no other choice but to make another guess. “Bit much huh?”

Omega nodded, holding his other hand even tighter than before whilst she quietly hiccupped.  

Hunter pressed his lips into the crook of her neck, whispering an “I’m here.”  

Hitched breaths and further sobs tried to fight their way out of Omega’s chest equally, leaving her to almost choke. Hunter shortly contemplated if it had been his fault. Maybe it had been something he said?

“Shhht.” Hand traveling up and down her arms, he shuffled underneath the blanket, grabbing her even closer- He couldn’t imagine anything worse than not being sure what she needed.  

“I hate this.” Omega said, between gulping for air. She gestured downward. Hunter was at a loss once more.  

His empty brain just retorted a “What?”

“This.” She repeated with a tad bit of annoyance in her voice. “I’m hungry and nauseous at the same time. I’m tired yet I can’t sleep. I’m sad and crampy and angry.” She agitatedly fiddled with the hem of Hunters sleeve until he cupped her hand, stroking the thumb across her knuckles.

He huffed a short laugh. Tension subsided whilst sympathy for her situation remained. “Kid- I don’t know a single Person who likes having to deal with that.”

Omega sighed, tone getting even more frustrated. “It’s not fair…I just feel like…crap…sorry.”

“Nah, you’ll get a free pass. But just for today.” Hunter accepted, stroking blond curls away from her face.

Omega emitted a short giggle seizing her chance. “Fuck.”

“Okay now- Don’t push it.” Hunter feigned with a horrified voice. Who cares? If it made her better, she should be allowed to. At least on those days. As long as it wouldn’t become a usual occurrence, they should be fine. He certainly didn’t want another Crosshair in the house.

“Okay.” Omega sniffed a laugh. “Sorry.” She mumbled, turning in his embrace.

With her face now pressed against his chest, Hunter sighed, scooching the heating pad back to its place. “I’m sorry you have to go through this.” His hands began usual rehearsed circling motions around her back. “-And I’m even more sorry I might not be a great help.”

At that, Omega gave a feeble shrug.

“But you should know you can always come to us, no matter what okay?”

She nodded, wiping away another tear.

Hunter’s chest clenched inward, struck by sudden realization. “That wasn’t all of it right?”

Omega curling into a ball, began to cry once more. “No.”

Hunter pulled her upward a little, relieving her from the self-protective, frozen state. “Shht, it’s okay.”

Her head quivered on his chest, heavily sniffing. “It’s just...I don’t feel right.”

Hunter paused his circular motions, trying to decipher on his own what that message entailed. Like usually, since his sister hit puberty, he failed. “What do you mean?” He murmured.

“I don’t think I feel like I should.”

Hunter was left bewildered, not having a single clue as to what she could possibly be on about. He decided it would be best to let her keep talking. He heard Omega harboring a shaky breath. “I don’t want to give this up.”

“Give what up?” Hunters rubbed circles into her back became firmer, his tone a little more probing.

“This.” She simply said, expecting him to pick up the puzzle pieces.

Luckily, he did. He realized what she meant and completed her sentence in his thoughts.

Comfort. Consoling gestures. Cuddles. Just like the one they were currently embraced in.

“Why the hell do you think you have to give this up now?” He was only a little sorry for the emitted curse. It helped highlighting his sincere disconcertment.

“Tech told me, that having a menstrual cycle means I turn into a woman. And being a woman means you grow up.” She concluded, not entirely wrongful. “But I don’t feel grown up at all and I don’t want things to change.” Hunter’s heart almost broke at her wavering tone.

“They don’t have to change.” He said. Omega sniffed, finally getting a little more relaxed in Hunter’s hug. “You can take all the time in the world to grow up. No one rushes you Omega.”

He noticed a little sea of tears on his shirt, right where her head rested. He swallowed, continuing to rub big circles around her shoulders and back.

The initial amusement of her statement was blown away once he realized that perhaps the sadness not only stemmed from any kind of hormonal imbalance but rather from grief and fear. A hot feeling crept up behind his eyes and throbbed behind his temple. There it was. A sign of her unstable upbringing. He scolded himself. It was only logical that Omega was afraid to say farewell to her childhood. Having spent almost her entire life in her mother's captivity, she of course didn’t want to give up her newfound stability.

“Besides, we'll still cuddle with you. Even when we're already way past fifty. I promise you that much. Anything else would break Wrecker's heart.“

Her heartbeat underneath his hand seemed to finally approach something regular. She gave a short, soft laugh, wiping her nose with her back hand.

Hunter smiled. “You don’t have to fear growing up.”

Omega shrugged, falling silent once more. She wasn’t very reassured, and Hunter saw no way of making her be.

————

 

As Hunter trudged back downstairs into the kitchen, unsureness, previously only accommodating him on some occasions, slowly managed to rent out a permanent hiding spot in his mind.

He approached the kitchen.  Dozens of pairs of Jango’s brown eyes obviously directed on him, each of them looking just as helpless as he felt.

Crosshair stiffened up, strangely enough the first to speak. “How is she doing?”

“Pretty downbeat. Poor kid had a tough day.” Hunter sighed, glancing unsure to the floor, still wreathing with guilt. “I don’t even know if I made it better.” He added, not able to mask a certain sadness in his voice himself.

Crosshair, handing him a cold beer from the fridge, cleared his throat. “Well, you couldn’t certainly have made it worse.”

Earning an angry glance from Hunter, Crosshair cupped his shoulder. Hunter let himself fall down into a chair; cold bottle held to his head to soothe his throbbing temple.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Tech chimed in. “Menses usually occurs for about three to seven days until her hormone levels balance themselves out again. Meaning then well know if any of the initial sadness remained.”

“Tactful as always. Thank you.” Hunter grumbled, reaching for the bottle opener.

Wrecker didn’t manage to hold back a proud tear “Our little girl… so grown up.” He swallowed, reaching for a handkerchief. Echo patted his shoulder.  

Hunter took a sip. His gaze fell on the table top ahead. “She’s worried about that.” He mumbled. One hand reached around his head to untie the bandana.

Echo and Crosshair perked up at the same time. “Why?” they said in unison.

Tech, looking up from his iPad, probably on the hunt for further information, only shrugged. “Attachment issues.” He supplied; gaze drawn back to the page he scrolled on.

“Yeah, something like that. She’s afraid childhood’s over and we won’t be there for her the same since she’s technically-“ he paused, making quotation marks with his fingers. “-grown up. She said she fears losing our affections.”

Wrecker bolted out of his chair, ready to prove Omega’s worries otherwise. Echo held him back with a headshake. Wrecker protested. “The kid’s sad- lemme help.”

“It’s nothing you can fix.” Crosshair said, swirling the remainders of cold coffee in his mug.

Wrecker seemed to take that personal. Echo pushed Wrecker down his seat, before he could lunge at Crosshair. His strict and loud voice was set in resolve. “Let’s figure this out first.”

Hunter watched his bear of a brother for a second until he resumed. “I told her that wouldn’t happen, but I guess she wasn’t convinced.” He shrugged, suddenly feeling very very lost. “I should’ve been there. I knew something was off-“ A hot, uncomfortable sensation in Hunter’s chest managed its way to the forefront.

“It is certainly impossible to foresee such situations in advance. Even if one has a heightened perceptive ability such as yourself.” Tech noted, setting his iPad aside. “The sudden onset of menses often cannot be predicted. Especially not for outsiders.”

Wrecker leaned forward, dabbing his eyes with the handkerchief. “That’s Tech’s way of tellin’ ya it isn’t your fault.”

Tech’s head perked up, shooting Hunter an aghast look. “Obviously not. You couldn’t possibly have known that.”

“Thank you. See? That was helpful.” Hunter gave back, rolling his eyes.

“I seem to possess this quality just as everyone else.” Tech said, tone sharp.

“We’ll figure it out.” Echo intermitted. “Together.”

“On Omega.” Hunter said, raising his beer. Wrecker gave another hearty sniff.

“On Omega.” Everyone joined in, drink in hand or not.

They couldn’t believe how much time had already passed since she came to live with them. For the first time in that night, Hunter let out a sigh that truly relaxed him, knowing whatever battles lay ahead, they would be working together. As a force, a batch and ultimately a family.

 

Chapter Text

“HUNTER!”

At that sound, he bolted from the couch. He had no clue as to what went on, the world still spinning underneath his feet. With summer temperatures getting higher, and days getting longer and longer, his migraines became way more prominent.

It didn’t help that he was a construction worker, spending all day with heavy and loud machinery. Jack hammers, drills, and saws penetrating his eardrums like nothing else until his brain had finally caved in.

Noticing his empty gaze upon coming home from work, Echo had equipped him with his usual cocktail. Then he had escorted him to the couch, a glass of water and a bucket, should the attack get any worse. Luckily for him, it didn’t.

As the medicine took effect, he slowly felt the pounding in his head lessen, the vision straightening out again and the throbbing pulse in his eardrums fading out to nothing except Omega’s joyful yelps as she played outside with Wrecker.

Experiencing her first summer out of captivity, the brothers had made sure to include every fun activity they could think of, compensating for the lack of unhappy childhood memories. From swimming in lakes, to grilling in their small garden, to water balloon fights. Every possibility they got was put to good use. Well, except for the days Hunter was basically knocked out of consciousness.

He swallowed against a familiar faint taste of bile in his throat. Listening in, he waited. A moment of silence, then another cry. “Hunter?” this time fainter and of less urgent nature.

Omega.

His feet carried him out the front door in the driveway, where he sent her to play. Running into a wall of heat and wincing at the bright summer sun, Hunter immediately closed his eyes. He heard something small approach carefully, gripping his waist tight. Eyes still closed, he cupped her head to his stomach, sensitive sense of smell noticing that someone must have covered her in sunscreen.

Tech.

Another much larger hand gripped his shoulder, putting a pair of sunglasses on his nose, consequently allowing him to open his eyes without passing out or vomiting straight onto Omega’s head, for that matter. The poor kid had gone through enough. No need in traumatizing her further.  

Hunter slowly and very carefully opened his eyes. Biting sunlight, otherwise hitting his retina unhindered, was now pleasantly shielded by the dark lenses of Crosshair's sunglasses. Lungs filling with the 95-degree Fahrenheit air, his body steadily acclimated itself as well as it could.

He first caught sight of Echo, smiling at him from a lawn chair next to Tech. His brother had put up a temporary sunshade, made from an old tablecloth and stretched out by strings and wooden sticks across the small portion of front lawn. 

His gaze fell onto the driveway, tired eyes taken aback at the sight of colorful pictures of sidewalk chalk.

Close to the road was a picture of a devil with a grimace and triangular teeth. Crosshair's work, Hunter estimated. Next to it, in stark contrast, was a picture of a stick figure with prosthetic legs holding the hand of a little girl with yellow hair. Both surrounded by a large heart. All the way around the driveway, multicolored lines sneaked in tandem.

Omega, dressed in her blue and red striped summer dress and sunhat on, lessened her grip around hunter and skipped back to her shirtless big brother. From the chalk on Wreckers' knees, Hunter concluded that his brother couldn’t be stopped from assisting Omega with the drawings.

A ray of sunshine fell onto where Hunter and Crosshair stood, making his skin prickle. “What’s going on?”

Omega, hopping back to where Hunter stood, gripped his wrist, and pulled him over to a bush. “Here look-” she said, crouching down and leaning into the leaves, reaching for something.

What the hell?

Crosshair, coming up from behind him, scoffed. “The child plays with vermin.”

A certain instinct in Hunter told him to pull her hands back out, but Omega seemed determined to grasp whatever it was that lay in the bush. Her tone grew angry. “It’s not vermin Hunter, look.” She pleaded, stating “Vermin doesn’t meow!“ .

Her eyes widened as she finally got a grasp of something. Hunter stumbled backward as she pulled out a small cat, clutching it to her chest immediately.

“Isn’t it cute?” she beamed, putting her other arm around its hind legs so it wouldn’t fall right out of her grasp.

By all means, it wasn’t. Actually, it was the furthest thing from it. The little kitten looked dreadful. Green eyes, crusty and bleary, glanced cluelessly up at Omegas face. Parts of its ragged, grey fur were missing and even the mangled tail didn't proportionally look as long as it should. Hunter wasn't sure if it would even make it through the weekend and the last thing he wanted was to expose Omega to grief.

“Uhhhm Omega-“ Hunter sighed, trailing off and pinching the bridge of his nose where the pressure slowly returned. “Please put it down.”

Omega, stubbornness accommodated by resolve, either didn't appear to hear him or chose to ignore his insistent request. “I guess it’s thirsty- I’ll better give it some water.” Confidently Omega pushed past Hunter, wobbling back inside.

Echo jerked from the chair at the same time Hunter tried to reach Omegas shoulder, both yelling in unison “NO OMEGA NOT IN THE HOUSE-“

Crosshair shook his head, almost falling in some sort of laughing fit, visibly amused at Hunter’s and Echo’s dumbstruck glances. “There she goes-“ He patted Hunter’s shoulder, following Omegas little stature. “Good parenting.” He beckoned from inside.

_______________________

 

Tech had put the kitten on a towel on their kitchen table. After a quick exam, he concluded it to be healthy, except for a little dehydration and possibly malnourishment.

Omega, eyes wide and fists underneath her chin, watched the little kitten in awe. “In movies cats drink milk.“ she said, reaching over the table to pet the head.

Tech pushed his glasses back, holding a shallow water bowl, trying to animate the kitten to drink. “Normal cow’s milk contains a sugar called lactose, which some cats react very allergic to. If a cat has been fed with milk from an early age, then it should have no problem digesting it normally.” He paused to any indication Omega hadn’t understood what he had said. It appeared as though she had. He cleared his throat, moving on. “However, we cannot confirm this in her case.”

His fingers slowly caressed its head, trying to enable some trust. “My quick research estimates she should be able to have some tuna instead.”

Wrecker understanding the request went to open the fridge, pulling out a can and cracking it open. The smell made Hunter nearly gag. He focused on breathing from his mouth instead.

Wrecker gave the can to Tech, tasting the tuna first, of course. “Why’d ya ‘now it’s a she?”

“From the lack of testicles between her legs.” Tech answered unfiltered and probably dryer than the Sahara Desert itself.

Crosshair, slight mischievous grin on his lips, chimed in from behind. “Could be castrated-“

Tech nodded. “My thoughts exactly, but female cats have a slit underneath their rectum indicating a-“

“-Tech, for goodness’ sake, we don’t need an anatomy lesson. We need to find out who this cat belongs to.” Hunter interrupted. Exasperation of the smell and the bright light taking over, he closed his eyes, rubbing at the point between his eyes where the pain originated from.

Eyes turning to him, he shrugged, shuffling a little deeper down the chair. His blurred periphery made it unable to recognize who of his brothers handed him a cold can from the fridge. He pressed it to his head, sharp pain immediately giving in. He sighed blissfully.

Omega lowered her voice a bit, not entirely sure what to make of the matter. “Why can’t we keep it?” Pursed lips fell into a pout. She began playing with the hem of her dress.

Echo, bending down to her level, stroked her saddened face with his thumb. “Maybe she has a family kid-“ Eyes carefully searching her face for any tears or other signs of sadness. “We can’t just keep something that doesn’t belong to us.”

Crosshair gave a small chuckle, gesturing to Omega. “Why not? We did that with her.”

Hunter, nearly losing his patience at the many stimuli, frowned, rolling the can over to a colder spot. “Crosshair-“

At the growl in his voice, Crosshair immediately backtracked, holding his palms up in defense. “Just kidding. Sorry-“

“Can't you reconsider keeping her? She’s so cute.” Omega begged the group.

Hunter still didn’t know what could probably be so endearing about this fur-spitting half-naked rug with a too-short tail. Personally, he had always been more of a dog person.

However, he had to admit that she hardly smelled at all, which was more than pleasant for his sensitive sense of smell. Wait, no. There was no way they could take care of a cat. Omega needed all the attention she could get. Adding a cat into the mix surely wouldn’t be the best idea. Let alone if something went wrong. It would only cause further heartbreak.  

He looked around; all gazes magically drawn to the lump of fur on their kitchen table. As the purring under Tech’s pats got louder and louder, the siblings ended up moving even closer to the table than before, being reeled in by some sort of gravity pull. Dumbstruck smile on each and every single one’s face, they huffed a snorted laugh as it rolled onto its side.

Hunter cleared his throat, trying to take their attention away. He had to be the bad guy. Again.

“We can’t keep a cat in this house-“ Searching for an excuse, his post-migraine-attack mind landed on something.  “Tech.” His brother’s eyes widened comedically from behind the thick glasses. “Tech, you have allergies-” He concluded, uncertainty about what he was trying to do reemphasizing his statement and almost making it sound like a question.

“Against pollen to be factually accurate-“ Tech looked a little miffed, not pleased to be blamed, his tone switched into moralizing territory. “Also, a couple of different sources have brought to my attention that pets can be quite beneficial for both the mental and physical health of a growing child. Which would be more than reasonable in our case.”

Hunter was deeply aware the different sources he referred to where in fact books about parenting, which his brother probably was too shy to admit. Nevertheless Tech’s more or less expert opinion on the subject, eventually it was upon Hunter to make the decision.

He sighed, already biting himself in the ass for their saddened faces in advance. “I don’t know you guys-”

Echo, the only other person with somewhat of common sense in this house, finally bridged himself back in the foreground. “The best thing would be to post flyers just in case someone misses her.”

Hunter almost emitted a snorted ironic laugh at that. He doubted whether anyone would even recognize the animal, let alone want it back.

Wrecker leaned forward; eyebrows knitted in confusion. “Ya mean like a missin’ child?”

Tech nodded approvingly, smartphone drawn and ready to spread knowledge no one asked him for. “Excellent idea- Upon further research, 72 percent of run-away animals get returned within the first week upon disappearing.” Tipping hastily on his screen, scrolling forums, national databases and whatever else Hunter couldn’t exactly catch a glimpse of.

Echo was the only other person to notice Omega’s saddened look on the floor. He bent down, cupping her hand, and mumbling something into her ear Hunter couldn’t catch, but it made her frown twitch. He sincerely hoped Echo hadn’t promised something he couldn’t keep.

In the meantime, Tech wrapped the now fed and rehydrated kitten into the blanket, gesturing for Omega to sit down so he could place her in his sister’s arms. She carefully clasped her palms together, cradling the burrito of fur and towel.

She didn’t take her eyes off her, even pressing a quick kiss onto the head. Much to Hunter’s dismay, he smiled. If cute would be a word, he’d use in his everyday vocabulary repertoire, he’d say it might it would apply to this situation. Wrecker, obviously thinking the same but not sharing Hunter’s sense of word choice, openly “awwww”ed at the sight.

“How should we even name her in the meantime?” Echo leaned in from behind, approvingly nodding at Omega’s soft pets.

Omega broke out into a beam, one hand holding the cat, the other moving in circles, caressing its head. “How about Gonky?”

 

[Quite obviously (and much to Hunter’s dismay), no one ever contacted them for Gonky.]

 

Chapter Text

“I’m not sure about that ocean stuff.“ Omega said quietly, handing her brother a picnic blanket to put into the trunk of Crosshair’s car. Somehow, Hunter managed to almost pack the entire household up in their two vehicles. He shook his head. Omega was just learning to swim but Hunter, ever the prepper, had thought it to be necessary to pack just about every damn thing he could think of.

“You don’t have anything to fear, Omega.” Tech came up from behind them, giving Crosshair a stack of towels.

Crosshair startled upon seeing his brother’s face. Tech challengingly stared back; one eyebrow raised questionably. His older brother looked normal… just something was a tad bit off. Only seconds later he realized his glasses were missing.

Oh right. Contact lenses.

Tech, making another grimace, ripped Crosshair out of his trance. Quickly he looked away, letting his gaze travel over his car, double checking the contents.

“Except Nessi-“ He mumbled under his breath, pulling the side door open and waving for Omega to get in.

“Cross-“ Echo started from the passenger seat, dragging a hand over his face.

Omega’s eyes immediately light up with curiosity. “Nessi? Whats that?” she timidly asked.

Crosshair sucked in a dramatic breath in feigned shock. “You haven’t heard of Nessi?

Checking the rear-view mirror as he pulled out of the driveway, Omega shook her head, biting her lip. Echo beside him moaned.

“It’s a giant sea creature. At least 65 feet. A long tail- Usually residing in Inverness but some people claim to have seen her in the US as well.”

Omega’s mouth fell slightly agape, staring at Tech beside her in order to confirm what he just said. His brother just rolled his eyes.

“Crosshair-” Echo warned in exasperation. “Shut your trap.”

“What?” Crosshair gave a short shrug, barely able to hide the grin so threateningly close to the surface. “It only eats children. So at least we’re safe.”

Throwing a short glance over his shoulder, he caught a glimpse of Omegas I’m-not-buying-it face, peeking from behind crossed arms. Then again, he saw a short flicker ripple through her set demeanor. Grin finally breaking out in full, he smiled to himself.  

_____________________

 

After they had unloaded half their houses’ worth of equipment from Hunter's pickup truck, Wrecker and Crosshair went to look for a free space, beginning to set them a camp. Echo, being not much help, soon began to make himself comfortable. He couldn’t participate in the activities himself, anyway.

If he was to be thrown into the water, he would probably drown faster than Tech could recite an entire Wikipedia article. He suppressed a dark chuckle. Staying on the sideline on this particular day didn’t bother him much. Of all the things he hated about being an amputee, swimming in the ocean was certainly not at the top of the list. The waters were always way too cold for Echo, not to mention the burning sensation in his throat and nose if he accidentally swallowed a little water. On top of that, sand always stuck to everything, especially wet skin, and annoyingly found itself in every nook and cranny, even months later.

He shuddered at the thought, glad to have a valid excuse for not participating. Echo leaned against the pole of the parasol Wrecker had rammed into the ground, hand beginning to undo the strap on his left shin prosthesis.

Out of the corner of his eye, he watched Wrecker, Hunter, and Crosshair turn around. To preserve appearances, his brothers quickly tried to occupy themselves with something else.

False shame- Echo always called that behavior. Although he knew his brothers meant well, he sometimes wished they didn’t tiptoe around him and his disability like he was fragile.

Good thing Omega wasn’t that alienated. Every time he untied his prostheses, she waited with widened eyes, sometimes even offering her help. Echo didn’t know what Omega expected underneath. Whatever it might have been, didn’t seem to deter her. She never showed any fear of contact with his disfigurement. He couldn't help but notice it to be calming.  

Tech crouched down, helping him with his other leg and finally his right arm. Sharing a bedroom, his little brother had witnessed many of Echo's worst moments. Nightmares, pain fits, PTSD related panics attacks...

Not to mention that it was impossible for him to even shower without any help. Left fingers curling into his palm, nails digging painfully deep into the skin, Echo swallowed against the tightness of his throat.

This was what he hated the most. This was at the fucking top of the list. Not being able to take basic care of oneself- so often taken for granted, but so important in preserving one’s dignity.

Echo nodded a sharp thanks, biting his lip and Tech, usually blunt and straightforward, twitched his mouth into a rare, warm smile.

With his index finger, he made a beckoning gesture to Omega, now adequately dressed in her red swimsuit he had bought her the previous week. Her smile quickly faltered as Echo picked up the tube of sunscreen.

“No-” She shook her head, their other brothers turning back around to witness her defiance.

Hunter snorted a short laugh, gripping at Omegas shoulders and pushing her further toward Echo. She shot him an angered look of betrayal, trying to stem her heels into the sand.

“Yes, no discussion.“ Echo raised an eyebrow as Omega defeatedly slumped before him. Skillfully pressing some of the white cream onto her shoulder and rubbing it one handed in circle motions around her back.

Omega tensed upon the cold contact. “I don’t like it-” she grumbled. “It’s sticky.”

“It has to be-“ Echo sighed, now moving to her arms. “I don’t want you to get sunburned.”

“Hurts-“ Wrecker chimed in, nodding, probably remembering the summers spent at the lakes back in their childhood. Even then, Echo had tried to avoid the sun at all costs, taking massive amounts of pride in never having dealt with a sunburn his entire life.

Suddenly, a loud, elongated yelp rippled through the group. All heads snapped, soon finding its origin. Grabbing Crosshair from behind, Wrecker threw his brother over one shoulder, heading for the water. Crosshair, jostling a string of curses at his brother’s bald head, tried to squirm his way out of Wrecker’s enormous hands. Echo knew there was no use.

“Cross watch ya mouth-“ Wrecker yelled back, continuing to run toward the ocean. “There's kid’s ‘ere-“

Hunter, usually pinching the bridge of his nose at those two, laughed in unison with Tech as Wrecker more or less yeeted Crosshair into the cold water. Crosshair, noticeably pissed and now thoroughly wet, launched a counterattack. One he couldn’t possibly win. Wrecker gave a hearty laugh, shoving his little brother off. How those two occupied a room without murdering each other seriously wondered Echo.

Crosshair’s sneer soon resolved into something else, only rarely seen by the others.

Upon Omega’s aweing glace on seeing her two brothers wrestle in the water, Hunter untied his bandana, tossing it beside Echo.

“Last one in the water’s a lame chicken-“ Hunter challenged, receiving a giggle from Omega, who bolted for the waters, screaming as the coldness hit her feet.

Hunter, ever the poser, dived in headfirst, earning a few blushing looks from some other women. Echo shook his head, wondering if Hunter would get himself another bimbo once the day was over…Maybe, just maybe, he would get himself together one day- for Omega’s sake, Echo hoped.

“Come on Tech-“ Omega beckoned. “You don’t want to be a chicken-“

“Yah Tech-“ Shaking the wetness out of his hair, Hunter crept up behind Omega, trying to pull her further into the water.

With Hunter and Omega now both making clucking noises, Tech took off his shirt.

“Genetically impossible.” He said clipped, bolting for the two hunched over with laughter statures.

Echo shook his head, reaching into a bag for the book he had brought.  

These kids. Echo moaned, rolling his eyes. 

_____________________

 

Wrecker-“ Crosshair’s hoarse grumbling got caught off as Wrecker pushed his brothers blond head underwater. Small bubbles forced their way to the top. 

“Wrecker I beg you-“ Tech tsked. “Crosshair can be strenuous, but I do suggest we keep him alive- for the mortgage’s sake.”

Wrecker laughed, loosening his grip. Sneery grin on his face, Crosshair shot back up, nearly coughing his lungs out and launching for his burly brother, apparently not having learned a single thing out of their previous altercation.

Omega laughed as they continued to wrestle, attention snapping back as a horrible, cold sensation made its way down her legs.

“Ahhh!” Omega yelped. “That’s so cold Tech-” She looked up, pleading, but her brother seemed determined. Lips pressed tightly together; he shook his head. Knowing instantly what her next request would have been. She grumbled in frustration.

Hunter had been adamant; Omega had to learn how to swim. Even Tech had confirmed it to be necessary for her basic survival skills. Omega had huffed, arguing she would never ever be in a situation where swimming was the only way out. Her brothers couldn’t be convinced.

Seeing no way out of it, and not coming up with a quick enough excuse, she had agreed.

There she was, leaning against her tall brother, now in waist deep, and steadily losing the grip beneath her feet. Slowly but surely, they made their way further in, avoiding the path of their other two fighting siblings.

Tech gingerly cupped the water with his hands, letting it travel over her shins and thighs to accustom her to the low temperature. She gripped at the hem of his swimming trousers, terrified of letting go. Omega had never feared anything in her life, but seeing the vastness of the ocean made her feel a little unsure about herself. The thought alone these waters might not have an end to them was enough for her old anxiety habits to kick back in.  

Tech-“ She croaked, almost stumbling against the unknown sensation of paralyzing heaviness. As her stomach came to a halt beneath the water’s surface, she squealed again.

“It is quite alright, Omega.” Tech stated, gripping two hands on her waist, and carrying her through the water surface to Hunter. “You have no need for fear.”

Thinking about what Crosshair had told her earlier in the car, she was only ninety percent sure about not having to be anxious.

“Tech’s right-“ Hunter murmured, taking his little sister and letting her settle on his hip for a few shaky breaths. “I’ve got you.”

Omega nodded, pressing her face into his wet neck. Hunter made repetitive dancing motions, ducking into the water until it was right beneath Omega’s chin, slowly emerging back out again.  Upon her shivering, Hunter craned his neck.

“You okay there?” he asked, voice laced with serious concern.

She couldn’t mask her teeth chatter anymore- “Y-Yes ‘Mm ff’fine…” She apologetically met his side eyed glance. “’S c’cold” She shrugged, eyes starting to become itchy from the saltwater. Omega pressed her wet palm into her socket, Bad idea- she soon realized.

A laugh rumbled out of Hunter’s chest, extending his arms, and holding her out before him. “Well kid- time for you to get goin’ then.” Omega squirmed at his grip on her sides. No. She wasn’t ready. At all. Hunter steadied his grasp, hands almost reaching entirely around her middle. Water flooded her ear canals as she tried to keep her head above the waterline.

“Look kid-“ He said, chin jerking into the direction of his brother. “Just swim to Tech, alright? Nothing’ll happen. We’re here.”

She made a feeble attempt at a nod. Needless to say she wasn’t convinced…at all.

“Remember the motions?”

Omega nodded again; this time more confident. Still steadily held in between his hands, she began making circles with her arms, bringing them together. Her feet kicking outward and pushing against the water’s own sense of gravity.

“Good kid-“ He paused. An unknown silence spread between the two of them. “Now go-“ Hunter said, giving her a little momentum in pushing her away from him. AHHHHH NOOOO Omega’s brain managed to get out as the rippling sensation of panic made its way to the forefront. If she hadn’t been so focused, she might even have cussed at him.

Oh-Wow- she muttered to herself. Heart racing and almost coming out of her mouth, she tried to focus on the repetitive motions her brothers showed her. Was that what swimming felt like? Man, that was tiring.

Realistically, it couldn’t possibly have been more than three meters, but it felt like an eternity. Tech extended his arms, catching her underarms and pressing her exhausted figure against himself to provide a little rest. Still catching her breaths, Omega was desperate for an air composition that contained something other than a substantial amount of sodium. Tech rubbed comforting circles in between her shoulder blades.

“Great job kid-“ Hunter cheered from behind, biggest smile on his lips she’d ever seen. “Now back again to me-“ He gestured, making grabbing motions with his hands. After a reassuring nod from Omega, Tech extended her out again.

Second time was easier. Much easier. Maybe it was the fear lessening or the acclimatization in how the water moved, but Omega made her way across even faster this time. After coming to another halt in Hunter’s arms, she began to look around, retaking in her surroundings.

Pants slowly subsiding, she glanced up from behind Hunter’s back only to see her entire family staring at her. Wrecker and Crosshair, now coming to a close on their brief WWE sequence, stood to Hunter’s left. Meeting her eyes with a broad grin, Wrecker gave her a thumbs up.

Not only that. Head turning toward the beach, she caught sight of Echo, holding his smartphone out, presumably zooming in on Omega’s and Hunter’s figures.

Quickly, she turned her head the other way around to escape his lens. “No use kid- He got what he wanted.“ Hunter laughed, indicating Echo had been filming for as long as she was in the water.

Ugggghhh. Omega groaned, biting back a comment that wouldn’t certainly help her situation. Slowly turning in her brother’s hold, she braced herself for another attempt.  

“Hey, not fair-“ Omega complained, pouting. “You were closer just now.“ She pointed about three meters from where Tech stood. Hunter shot him a raised-eyebrow-look of mischievousness. His otherwise bespectacled brother seemed to understand.

“Can’t be.” Tech said with a smirk, waving toward himself to get her to swim.

Reluctantly and if her life depended on it, she clung on to Hunter’s wrists while he held her out before him, ready to start another attempt. “Yes, I saw you move.” Omega tried to negotiate fruitlessly.

“Perhaps your spatial perception is off.“ Tech, not wearing any glassed he could push up, dropped his hand halfway. “Probably caused by the reflection of the water, spatial differences are not-“

 No end in sight, Hunter craned his head, murmuring into her ear. “Kid, if you want him to stop talking, you have to swim.”

“I know.” She growled, biting her lip in agitation as fear returned. She could do this. She had done this before-

_____________________

 

 

Although his two littlest brothers were initially preoccupied with themselves, Omega's swimming lesson soon became somewhat of a group activity. Initially, Hunter and Tech faced each other and let Omega swim simple, short lanes. Soon, however, Wrecker and Crosshair joined in, forming a square that Omega had to move between.

Although he knew Omega found it difficult to move in the water at first, she seemed to become more confident. Hunter's chest filled with pride at the thought. His little sister was doing well considering what she had been through. He’d suspected his mother hadn't given her much love or any thought about teaching otherwise necessary life skills. This woman never did anything that didn't benefit her primary purpose, research. Everything else was deemed unnecessary.

After the stretch of Crosshair to Hunter, he grabbed Omega under the armpits. Pressed to his chest, he felt her heartbeat develop into tachycardia, and her breaths become shallow and quick. Cupping her head, Hunter gently he stroked her back and noticed how the strength in her hands started to lessen and she soon gripped on to nothing, except thin air.

Not wanting to drain her completely, he decided to leave it at that. He couldn’t risk her forces to dwindle, not being able to make a full round anymore and ultimately scaring herself. Parentage is all about the small wins, Hunter. his cousin Boil always said.

Small wins, he recited in his mind. He nodded to his brothers, making his way back out the water. Omega, arms thrown around his neck, still hitched breaths once he set her on the blanket between Echo’s thighs.

Being his usual solicitous self, Echo held out a towel, ready to engulf her in it. Hunter smiled at the sight of Echo drying Omega off. His hand motions were quick and precise. Towel ruffling over her hair, she giggled as Echo’s hand traveled over her arms and side.

He admired his brother’s handiness. Hunter didn’t know if he himself would be that skilled with only one hand. You make do with what you have- dark turn for such a lighthearted statement, but none the less, it seemed to fully apply to his half-brother.

Omega, now wrapped like a burrito of blonde curls and towel, sighed blissfully as Echo scooched her back into a reclining position, letting her relax against his chest. Hunter didn’t know how many seconds it took for her eyelids to flutter shut.

Letting his chin rest atop her head, Echo continued to travel his hand along her arms, his other shortened arm firmly across Omega’s half slumbering stature, keeping her somewhat upright. She gave a hearty yawn, snuggling further into her brother.

“Oh-oh-“ Hunter teased, pinching Omega’s toe a little. She retracted her foot, shooting him an annoyed glance. He laughed it off. “Sounds like someone’s getting tired.”

“mmmmhh-” she grumbled from behind Echo’s hug. “Mnot” she slurred, though barely audible. Waves crashing upon shore slowly snatched her consciousness away. Her face distorted into another yawn as she nestled her head into her brother’s bicep. 

“Kinda exhausting, wasn’t it?” Echo softly asked. Upon Omegas slow nod, he pressed his mouth into her hair, making the corners of her mouth turn upward immediately. “Come on-“ Echo straightened up, Omega complaining in a hum as a result. “Chow time.”

“Ya know the rule- after that no swimmin’ for an hour-“ Wrecker mumbled between his mouth full of sandwich. He reached over, handing Omega a carrot stick. She nearly couldn’t lift her hand up enough for it to meet her mouth.

“Wrecker- That is a blatant old wives' tale.” Tech intermitted with a disgruntled look on his face, stating, “Light nutritional intake only causes slight energy deficiency. Not enough for someone to drown.”  

“Still-“ Hunter said, ripping off a piece of sandwich and putting in her hand, encouraging her to take a bite. “She’s tired- and inexperienced. We leave it at that.” Omega groggily held her fists up in victory. “-for today, at least.” Hunter quickly supplemented. Omega’s fists fell, and a partially pouty, partially angry look spread across her face.

His half-brother smiled, seemingly proud of the inherited hatred for anything that resembled a large quantity of water. No doubt she came after Echo in that regard.

“You did amazing.” Echo praised kneading her shoulder. She grumbled something neither of them could understand. Had something Crosshair-eske.

Especially now, with the damp light blond curls, he could quite clearly tell a resemblance between his two youngest siblings. Omega had not much of Jango in her. Mostly, all his father’s children were of a bronze complexion. Hazel eyes, brown hair, and warm skin to match.

Those two, however, not so much. Omega and Crosshair inherited Jango’s hazel eyes and golden skin, but where everyone else had brown, curly hair, those two seemed like the sun itself had kissed their heads. Crosshair had apparently been the first blonde to come out of Jango in Years. Though, Hunter noted, it was impossible to ever get to know every child their father decided to put into the world.

Needless to say, those two didn’t exactly fit into the phenotype of their family. He clenched his jaw, thinking that the light hair might be on Nala Sé.

The name of his mother echoed like a dark force, trying to suffocate the smiling summer sun in a cloud of smog. Hunter wouldn’t let it.

Omega, now asleep for good, snuggling sideways into Echo’s grasp, breathed deeply as her half-brother hummed into her ear, simultaneously rubbing big, wide circles around her shoulder blades. He gently rocked from side to side, slowly lulling her to sleep.

Hunter watched his repetitive movement for a short while, reaching for his bag pack to grab his smartphone and snapping a picture of their cuddle break. Taking in the sight, Hunter swallowed against a challenging tightness in his throat. Feeling how every muscle fiber of his heart swelled up, he couldn’t help but blink a tear away.

It will be okay, he had said to himself in the first night Omega spent at their house. Shaken to the core about learning of her existence, quietly standing in the door to their living room, watching her tiny stature asleep on the couch, he had feared that if he’d turn away for even a second, she would be gone.

During the process of countless police station visits, doctors’ appointments, court trials, appeals from Nala Sé, a small voice came to live rent free in his head, yelling if he took as much as one misstep, that would be it. It would be over, and he’d wake up and never see her again, prisoner to his usual routine.

Sometimes, he liked to convince himself that they weren’t the ones saving her. Rather, she was the one coming to aid them. That solely Omega was the reason their family stayed so close. Ultimately holding the bunch of borderline scatterbrains together like the joyful little firecracker she was.

Now, it really was okay.

He let the word roam around in his mind for a short while. Filling every crevasse, the commotion of the past year had ripped open. Soothingly it wrapped itself around him, drowning out every ounce of worry, still left behind. He couldn’t be more thankful for how the things had played out. Hunter didn’t notice how he’d let out a sob. A hand on his shoulder snatched him back into reality.

“Awww-“ Crosshair, ever the alert one, shot him a mocking glance. “Getting’ fatherly feelings, Hunter?” Face pulled into a challenging sneer; Crosshair exactly knew when the situation was of serious matter. This wasn’t one of them.

His mouth twitched into a smile, as he quickly dragged a hand across his eyes.

“Go fuck yourself Cross-“ Hunter quietly hissed back, one eye watching Omega. Thankfully, she seemed to have fallen victim to the deepest sleep ever. Last thing Hunter wanted was to be the one personally responsible for teaching her swear words.

She had Crosshair for that. Oh, and Tech.

_____________________

 

As the sun set, and Omega awoke from her peaceful slumber, Wrecker proposed her the idea of collecting seashells. After promising Hunter, they wouldn’t stray away for too far, Omega had gripped Wrecker’s hand, pulling him toward the coastline.

Now, she was happily skipping alongside him, crouching down whenever she thought to have seen something

“Wrecker here look-” Omega eagerly pointed at something in water, letting go of his hand in the process. She bent down, reaching for a clam, and holding it high above her head in victory. “That one's for Tech.”

“Kid- so nice of you.” Wrecker reassured. Omega, giving him a smile that could melt the hearts of a million seasoned men, delicately placed a brown shell, adorned with swirls, into his large open palm.

“I'm gonna find one for every one of you.” She quickly added, obvious concern traveling through voice in not wanting to let anyone feel left out. Running just a little in front of him, he caught sight of little markings her feet had left in the sand. Having inherited Tech’s stubbornness, Omega, of course, had vehemently protested against shoes.

“Come on!!” Omega eagerly gestured. Not wanting to lose track of her with only having one working eye left, he took quicker strides, catching up.

“Yah kid 'm comin'” He gently called back with a smile, looking at her skip happily in front.  

Afternoon nap had done her good.

Wrecker almost bumped into Omega as she abruptly stopped. “Got one for Crosshair-“ she smiled, holding up a particularly spiky one. “Oh-“ She ducked down again, fishing another out of the sea. “And for Hunter.”

Wrecker mustered them a little more closely, coming to wonder what made her pick these particular ones. Crosshair’s was light, thorns adorning the outside making the shell look way more defensive than it actually was. Hunter’s was dark and a little rough around the edges. Wrecker rumbled a laugh at the strange allegory.

They searched for quite a while for the respective shells for their other brothers. Until she suddenly sought for Wrecker’s hand, going further into the water and fishing out a striped one for Echo.

“C’mon kid, Hunter ‘prolly wants to know where we’re at.“ wanting to back around to the others, he stopped as two tiny hands clung to his wrist.

“No-“ she objected, eyes growing wide. “I don’t have one for you yet.”

“Oh Kid-“ Wrecker dragged his free hand along his neck, going down on one knee to meet her face. “I’m don’t need one- it’s okay.” He winked, not adding he already had everything he could’ve ever wished for.

Omega persisted, her face suddenly twisting into a grin. She reached down into the water, her other hand rushing to help as she pulled out a particularly large one and handed it to Wrecker.

“For me?” he asked dumbfounded, redundant question with an obvious answer to match.

Omega bit her lip and nodded sheepishly. 

Again…the look on her face nearly brought him to tears.

“Thank you kid-” he said, leaning down to give her a hug. Offering Omega a piggyback ride, they soon found their way back to the other brothers. 

_____________________

 

After handing out the respective clams to each of her brothers, and earning a couple of aaaw’s, hair ruffles and a sharp 'thanks' from her brother Crosshair, Omega had redressed herself in Wrecker's extra-extra-extra-large hoodie.

Now snuggling up in the crook of Hunter’s elbow, soughing out the comfort of his strong hold, her eyes drooped with the memories of an adventurous day. Hunter pulled the hood over her head in an effort to tuck her in a little more.

“-You warm enough, kid?” he asked, carefully looking down to avoid startling her, should she already be asleep.

Omega slowly nodded an affirmative “Mhhh”, retrieving her arms out of the sleeves and curling further into herself. Hunter rubbed along her sides, gesturing for Tech to place a dried towel over her. Drawing it up underneath her chin, she closed her eyes, sighing blissfully and letting the weight of her head shift to one side on his outstretched arm.

Hunter hushed her, caressing her shoulders with circling motions. On the looks of his other siblings’ faces, he reckoned she must have fallen asleep already. Watching the setting sun’s red and orange colors spread over the sky, slowly turning the bright day into nightfall, he couldn’t imagine a place where he’d rather be.

Chapter Text

PANG. PANG. PANG.

The sound of the air conditioner rippled Crosshair’s eyes open. He quickly shot a look around. Over his face, the underside of Hunter’s metal bunk. Feet dangling out of bed, he rotated with his thumbs until a familiar, feared voice resounded through the Intercom.

“9904 – You’re up next.” His mother’s cold tone let the blood in his veins instantly turn to ice.

He frowned; tongue stuck out at the speaker. His number. He shot the bed above him another glance as Hunter’s emaciated child face peeked over from above.

“We’ll wait for you-“ His high-pitched voice said with a quivered smile.

Wrecker let himself plop down beside Crosshair. “We can try the water trick again?” He pleaded, looking around the room.

Tech’s little head perked up from the game of chess he had to play at their computer. “No- did you forget how she treated us?”

Hunter and Wrecker shivered in response. Of course, they hadn’t. The last time they attempted an escape, Hunter smuggled a water bucket out of the bathroom, propping it up on the door to fall once his mother entered the room. The aforementioned punishment had been… intense.

Tech had been the first one to be ordered out, coming back with a long-sleeved shirt and two thick bandages around his ankles. He hadn’t been very talkative that evening, back mostly turned toward the room, quietly sniffling at the white wall.

Next had been Hunter. Taken out of their barracks in the evening time, usually the only time they were allowed to play. Hunter had been brought back almost two hours later. Crosshair counted the minutes himself. She’d pushed him back in the room, causing his little figure to tumble down on the floor face first. He had been lying motionless for the next fifteen minutes, completely out of it and unable to recognize the outlines of his brothers, due to the sensory overstimulation of his system his mother had deliberately caused.

Wrecker was the third, making Crosshair almost jump as he thought his name would finally be called. Getting punished first was a nightmare, but waiting until his time was up… was somehow even worse. He knew his brother tried to be brave as he clenched his fists, marching out of the room. Minutes later, they heard a desperate howl emitting from the laboratory down the corridor.

“mommy- NO MOMMY-” their brother pleaded.

“WHAT HAVE I TOLD YOU ABOUT CALLING ME THAT?” Her voice thundered back, stifling any further outbreaks of misery.

Through several glass doors, they could still hear Wrecker’s distinct cries for help. Out of agitation, Crosshair gripped the edge of the table he currently solved a math quiz at, so tight, he managed the skin under his nails to burst open and leave tiny, red markings on his sheet of paper. That night, Wrecker had sobbed so loudly, none of them got any sleep.

His mother waited four more days until it finally had been Crosshair’s turn. He pressed a hand against the tight feeling in his tummy.

“9904” The door shot open. Upon Nala Sé’s entering, all the brothers obediently gathered in the middle of the room.

“Crosshair, my name is Crosshair.” He yelled, stomping his foot in defiance, almost blinded by the bright cellar floors walls.

Grip around the clipboard becoming tighter; she snorted. Nala Sé didn’t care. Her lips curled in the most disgusting way. He was yanked by his thin arm, slowly dragged away from his brothers as he called after them.

“Keep quiet.” His mother ordered, giving his shin a light kick. She pulled him into the most outer examination room. He knew that one. It had a treatment table. And shackles.

Crosshair swallowed, frozen to the spot until his mother’s patience ran out, literally hauling him through the door. She reached in her doctor’s coat, pulling out a voice recorder, as she ordered him to put his clothes off. “CT-9904- Specimen is 2248 days old-“

He watched her back, anxiety already dousing him in sweat as he neatly folded every item of clothing he possessed. He knew, if his mother hated one thing more than everything else, it was mess.

“I’m sorry mother-“ He began pleading, unfortunately intermitting Nala Sé’s recording.

She pressed the button, letting it slip back into the side pocket. “I don’t care for any of your apologies.” She gestured, ordering him to hop on the cold examination table. He stretched flat on his back. Upon command, he submissively held out his wrists in front of his chest. He knew what ever came would be inevitable and he would only be asked once to comply. Crosshair sometimes had been unyielding and was no stranger to experiencing sedation. She pulled each of his arms back, pinning them down with an energy that didn’t prospect anything joyful.

“No, please.” he quivered, gulping; eyes pressed shut. Too frightened to be transferred back into reality. “Please don’t. I’ll be good.”

He felt the nails of her fingers dig into the soft skin of his arms. His mother’s breath tickled his ear in the most horrendous way. “Oh, you will be.”

Nala Sé quickly tightened the shackles. So tight that Crosshair thought his legs were about to pop off from the pent-up blood above them. However, nothing could be compared to the actual pain. She rammed a thick corrugated needle into the crook of his elbow. With a jolt, Crosshair opened his eyes, and the tiniest scream made its way across his lips. Ouch. 

His mother shook her head, huffing in annoyance.  

He clenched his teeth hard, hurting his jaw, while his mother changed the device. Hearing a tablet clinker, he felt how tears managed their way out of his eyes, pooling at his ears. 

“I know it was your idea-“ she hissed. Crosshair didn’t say anything in return, not at all willing to betray Hunter’s attempt at finally obtaining freedom. “Don't be selfish.” His mother growled, relentlessly pricking him further. “You’re nothing but a useless liability.” Her cold voice gave with indifference.

The sensations of thousands little needles, digging deep deeper and deeper into his flesh, made him almost numb with pain. He wanted to scream his lungs out, but past experiences reminded him not to. Letting his head roll onto the side, he managed to catch a glimpse of the heart monitor beside him. Green lines springing in tandem; tachycardia indicated an act of terror.

Crosshair reminded himself to breathe deeply. It would all subside. It had to. Another rustle followed, and his head snapped back. He knew, when his mother stashed the medical cutlery away, the ordeal would soon end.

He sighed. “Is it over?” he had to ask, although he knew that questions were rarely allowed.

“You are medical property. You belong only to me. The process is not finished until I say so.”

This time, Crosshair couldn't help but whimper as his mother turned, holding a new device in her long fingers that he didn't recognize. She dabbed cold, burning gauze over her previous pinpricks. Ultimately preparing him for a new round of torturous science. Out of purpose or just out of vindictiveness, that he couldn’t assign.

______________

 

Crosshair closed his eyes, only when he opened them again, he wasn’t his six-year-old self anymore. He laid frozen in a puddle of his own sweat as reality slowly dawned on him.

Just a dream. Just a dream. He repeated. Consciousness and subconsciousness still in altercation, he knew, it wasn’t just a dream. Panic rippling through his chest, droplets of terror dripped from his forehead, he shot out of bed, not entirely sure if he had enough willpower to make it to the bathroom in time. Motor system of his feet failing, his extremities huddled him in a slumped form through the corridor.

Banging the door behind him shut, he didn’t think twice if anyone might have heard him. Hand firmly pressed before his mouth he flipped the toilet seat open, starting to regurgitate against his own anxiety.  

“Crosshair?” a silent call came from outside accompanied by a knock on the door.

Fuck.

Crosshair, fighting another wave of nausea down, gulped. “No.” he croaked back unable to strain his thoughts from the bitter taste in his mouth. His attention turned back inside the toilet. Out of his blurred periphery, he noticed the door opening and a set of feet adorned in pink socks entering.

He turned around, vicious scowl on his face. Exasperation met her unsure glance as she immediately crouched down beside him. “Omega- I said-“  He didn’t came much further than that. Speech broken off by an ungodly retching sound, enough to make any bystander sick themselves. His grip around the ceramic bowl turned painful.

Omega gasped, carefully reaching out to him. He swore to God, if he wasn’t in that kind of compromising situation, he would’ve shrugged her off, commenting something stupid and shooting her a grin. Omega’s grip at his shoulder turned soft as she began drawing her hand up and down his spine and hushing him as retching sounds filled the tense silence.

“It’s okay Crosshair.”

Double Fuck.

The last person he’d ever want to see him like this gave him comfort. What a sick, twisted case of karma. Crosshair knew, he hadn’t always been good or fair to Omega. He loved her, but sometimes admitting that even to himself felt like his stupid heart would be torn into two. He had to be the strong brother she needed, not a whimp that puked his guts out after a nightmare over something that happed decades ago.

He let his gaze travel to the side. Omega, still watching, eyes wide, didn’t seem like she was leaving anytime soon, and for the first time, Crosshair really felt some sort of relief. Way more than the emptying of his stomach ever could.

He groaned in misery. Was there even something as triple Fuck? If yes, it certainly applied.

Omega, now drawing timid circles between his sides, reconsidered. “Are you sick?”

“No.” he hissed. Throat basically set ablaze; Crosshair made a short pause in trying to heave up more to catch his breath. Pressing the flush in between. Smelling it must be horrible enough, but for her to be seeing his sick- NO. He couldn’t bare the look on her face. Crosshair let his head sink sideways on the brim. “Please-“ He dragged the word out just enough as to not strain himself further. “-just go.”

He’d love to have something stronger to bring the chaos in his mind to a halt. Heartbeat still throbbing relentlessly in his throat, another wave of nausea violently gripped him. Omega didn’t even move an inch. Only reaching upward to wet a towel at the sink right beside her.

Gingerly folding it, she held it pressed to the back of his neck. Damn, it felt good. Somehow the racing pulse in his ears didn’t seem as prevalent as before.

Fitting puzzle pieces together, Omegas eyes grew wide. “You had a nightmare.” Omega concluded, almost sounding like a question at the last minute changed into a statement without proofreading it first.

Nightmare might not be the right word. Long past memories of an insane witch, draining ones every will to live fit much better. He knew what it was and the thought of it loomed dangerously heavy in his head. His heart beating so fast as to making him wonder why he hasn’t gone into cardiac arrest yet; a new gush of bile rose in his throat. He seriously doubted he could hold it back. Not even for Omega’s sake.

“Please-“ Crosshair begged through gritted teeth. He basically never begged for anything.

This was completely below his dignity.

Omega met his gaze, set with resolve. “No-“ She insisted, exclaiming “I’m not going anywhere.”

Crosshair, now fully unable to swallow further bile away, sputtered yet another time, wondering when the fuck his stomach would finally be emptied out. Upon that, he reluctantly felt Omega dragging her fingers away from his back.

He heard the fabric of her jeans rustle as she stood up, turning the tab on and filling a glass they had usually stashed their toothbrushes in. He only hoped she had rinsed it out beforehand.

As a pregnant pause came upon the two, Crosshair, let himself fall against the cold brim of their bathtub shower combo. The heat still radiating off his body, slowly smothered by the provided coolness.

Omega, handing him the glass, sat right next to him. She didn’t let it on, but Crosshair knew she was unsure. Pulling her knees close, tucking them underneath her chin, she rested her head sideways on her kneecaps. Crosshair wished she’d be closer. He’d never ask for it though.

He heard her swallow heavily. “What did you dream of?” Omega asked into the crumbling void one might call his state of mind.

“Nothing.” Crosshair emitted in a snide and more annoyed tone that he’d wished for to come out of his mouth. He couldn’t imagine confiding in his little sister about the trauma he had endured. Not that she would have been a stranger to that line of incidents.

“So you're hugging the toilet for funsies?” Omega, giving him an equally as pissed off huff stood up, facing his blearily glance from above. Her face was set in an unconvincing snarl. He’d seen her do better expressions. “Well then, be miserable alone-” She turned her head, blonde ponytail swinging sideways, following suit.

Crosshair didn’t notice himself reaching out for her wrist. Next thing he knew, he clung to her arm like a child, pulling her back down toward him. “Don’t go.” Deep subconscious speaking and thoughts basically toppling over one another, he bit his tongue a second later. What the fuck is happening to me?

Omega, sat back down with a sigh and frustratedly cradled his hand into her lap. “You know, I have no clue what your mask yields for you.”

He shot her a side eyed look. “What mask?” he asked, truly and forcefully dumbfounded. Goddamn my brain is mush-

Omega’s tone grew desperate. “Crosshair- M’ not stupid you know?”

Of course, he knew. She might be smarter than all of them fuckers combined. Still- Was he that much of an open book to her?

“So-“ Omega began again even more unyielding than the first time, scribbling repetitive squiggly lines into his open palm, growing increasingly silent before she mastered whatever thought had loomed in her mind. “What was your dream about?”

Crosshair, holding the cup to his forehead to cool off a little bit, snorted at her question. “Past.” He said, clipped. Adamant in not giving too much information away at once.

Omega raised an eyebrow, watching with those big hazel eyes he couldn’t deny anything or lie to for that matter. Apparently not at all satisfied with the nuggets of information he gave. Damn.

Crosshair, upon realizing Omega’s waiting, cleared his throat. Swallowing against the sour aftertaste the vomit had caused in the back of his mouth. “Our mother.”

“Do you want me to call Hunter for you?”

Crosshair shook his head. He didn’t look forward to what followed a strangely emotional encounter with his brother. Mind coming to a horrible conclusion, he tensed up, head turning the other way. “How'd you know it was because of what I dreamt?”

“I do the same.” Omega bit her lip. “I know those dreams.” Her voice turning ice cold, Crosshair tweaked his head to face his spitting image. Looking almost catatonic, her strokes in his palm became more agitated. “I have them too.” She gulped for air meeting his face with a horrible pleading expression. “Please don’t tell anyone-“

He really wasn’t sure if he could fulfill her favor. The thought of Omega sitting alone and scared in the bathroom in the middle of the night, vomiting out of sheer mental anguish and none of his brothers noticing… that shit made the hairs on his neck stand up.

Crosshair, now having the feeling to console his little sister, closed his hand. Encompassing her gentle strokes in his comparatively large hand. “Omega-“

Before he could say anything further, the person in question interrupted him. “How often do you dream of her?”

Grip tightening around the glass of water, Crosshair raised it to his mouth. Drinking in long drawn-out sips to buy himself some time. “From time to time.” He paused briefly thinking if it’s even his place to ask the same. Normally his other brothers did the consoling. “How often do you dream of her?”

Omega, face set in stone, made him nearly shiver in aguish. “From time to time.”

Knowing his sister, Crosshair instantly sniffed the lie out.  

Meeting his gaze sheepishly, Crosshair raised an eyebrow. Omega, of course knowing what he was getting at, quickly corrected herself. “Often.” She let go of his hand, untying her ponytail and ruffling the strain away. Blonde platinum locks dangled to her elbows. “Sorry for the lie.” she added in respect, retaking his hand in both of hers. Crosshair drew his thumb around her knuckles.

Wrenching his head, both siblings locked faces. “What a bitch huh?” he managed, watching her pressed lips evolve into a huffed laugh.

“Yeah.” She quickly wiped her eyes with her sleeve, putting an arm around his shoulders. Dang near impossible with his freakishly long torso. He couldn’t imagine her to be comfortable in that position. “She can’t hurt us no more.” Omega whispered.

Crosshair felt his gaze fell. In his opinion five years’ probation and a no contact order wasn’t enough to bring this dark witch of the underworld to justice. Astonished by her words, he did his best to keep his composure. Though, he reluctantly noticed for his own vision to get fuzzy around the edges. He bit his togue.

Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry. He repeated as a mantra in his head.

“I know.” He sputtered out instead, like the dumb idiot he was at heart. He heard Omega sigh deeply, shifting to one side and sliding on his lap, both hands now clutching around his neck.

She cradled his head, fighting with what felt to him as upcoming sobs. Crosshair’s heart clenched. He hugged her back equally as tight, playing with the ends of her loose curls laying against her back above her bra strap.

“Wrecker always tells me that if I'm scared-”  

He huffed a laugh, exactly knowing what was coming. “It means you're about to do something very brave.” He finished. Knowing the platitudes of his burly brother like the back of his hand, Crosshair must admit that this particular one was one of Wrecker’s best.

Omega opened and closed her hands at the back of his pale blonde head. Mimicking Crosshair’s own comforting tactics he had usually reserved for her. Fingers running over his scalp, each motion drew out a little more strain off his shoulders.

“Yeah.” She huffed a laugh.

Crosshair couldn’t suppress a sniff. Thinking if he tried, he might start to retch again. He felt Omega’s hold getting firmer. Hugs had been getting better since she'd outgrown the five feet mark a few months ago. “But I’m not scared.” He reassured. More for her good than his own.

“Are you sure?” Omega asked, her voice low and strained. A certain quiver to it as if she was on the verge of tears again. “It’s okay if you are.”

“Pretty much. If dealt with worse.” Crosshair admitted with a frown, leaning his head against Omega’s own. Desperately trying to find some comfort in it.

“But that doesn’t mean you should.” Omega’s pressed voice gave back, mumbling quietly behind his ear. Her chin didn’t move away from his shoulder as he twitched.

“I guess not.” He managed to get out. Her grasp on his hands became lessened. Crosshair, trying to breathe against the tightness of his throat, locked eyes with his sister once again.  “What do you reckon is my 'something brave'?”

____________

 

Crosshair swallowed, throat clenching up almost entirely making him unsure about how he should be able to get enough oxygen in his system. Hunter hand rounded him all evening, throwing several side glances he thought Crosshair wouldn’t notice. He seriously wondered what took his otherwise always overly worried brother so long for his usual PTSD talk. Thinking he might step away and leave it at another day full of obviously unobvious probing looks, he turned, listening in.

“Come in you tosser-“ Hunter called from the inside. Crosshair froze. Damn Hunter’s instincts.

He perked his head through the door and gestured to his bed. Hunter under the covers slid aside making space. Crosshair moved carefully through the half-darkened room to perch at the side of Hunters bed. His brother pulled his feet up. The lamp on his nightstand produced a warm fluorescence, embracing Crosshairs cryptic thoughts.

Hunter ever the silent observer, knew his brother needed time. He rested the book he held on his propped-up knees, continuing to read. Crosshair didn’t miss the occasions Hunter shot him glances over the cover.

“‘The seven no-go’s of parenting’- huh?” Crosshair read the books title in a mocked voice. Hunter’s thinking gaze dropped at that. He twitched his eyes into challenging slits.

“Well, Echo gave it to me.” He mumbled sheepishly and a tad bit of annoyance seeped through his words.

“Okay dad. No need to be so defensive about it.” Crosshair earned a soft kick in his side by Hunter’s left foot, jostling the blanket aside. He snorted in amusement. Of course, his half-brother of a rust bucket had. If it was one thing Hunter needed was more mother hen material to graze through. Apologies at hand or no- Hunter couldn’t fool him.

“Asshole.” He grinned ironically, closing the book, and setting it aside besides his neatly folded bandana.

“Jackass.”Crosshair replied.

“Bastard-“ Hunter said thoughtlessly.

“Likewise-“ Crosshair returned with a feeble smile, thinking of their family tree. “Aren’t we all?”

“Fuckin’ Jango-“ Hunter gave resolutely. Crosshair raised his hand in mock toast. “But you didn’t come down to talk about our dear sperm donor.” Not being phrased as a question, Hunter was adamant to get his answer just as Crosshair thought he might get away with being silent.

God damnit.

“No.” He admitted sheepishly, too shy to meet his brother’s face.

Hunter’s expression grew stern, light brown eyes darkening up. “What was going on up there?” he asked, not leaving Crosshair take a route to an easy way out.

Snitch. He cursed his sister. Reflexively pulling his shins toward himself, he let himself slouch over Hunters stretched out legs backward, leaning at the dry wall.

“Omega was worried about you.” Hunter added, half tattooed side of his face illuminated by the weak lightbulb. A Pang to his heart. He couldn’t bear the thought. In fact, Omega being concerned might be scarier than any PTSD-fit he could experience. Crosshair thought briefly about breaking his promise toward Omega, ultimately realizing he had never made deal on his own. Beginner’s mistake-

Crosshair’s chest clenched inward, as he got defensive immediately. “I’m sorry.” He mumbled, meeting Hunters worried gaze, biting his lip to hide the quiver.  “I’m so sorry.”

Hunter didn’t hesitate. He scooched forward, pulling Crosshair’s figure into his arms, letting him rest there. Something in Hunter’s comfort let Crosshair shake violently. God damnit, he couldn’t stop, even if he wanted to-

“Cross-” Hunter started, hesitation telling Crosshair his brother had no idea as how to finish what he wanted to say. “I just- for fuck’s sake, I just wish you’d tell us beforehand.” Noticing his brothers frustrated tone, Crosshair had to swallow, saying nothing in return. “You don’t have to talk to me if you don’t want to. But I don’t want this shit to eat you up, Mate.”   

“I know.” His hand clutched at his brother’s pajama top. “I’m sorry-“ he said quietly, feeling like a scolded little kid as he sat there, letting Hunter’s authoritative tone wash over him, he usually only reserved for Omega.

“I swear to god, If you keep apologizing-“ A patented Hunter sigh followed as he pushed his brother’s shoulders further in to himself. “Look, I’m not Omega. I know you. You can’t fool me.” He started rubbing firm lines into his back. “What the fuck made you this upset?”

“I had a dream-“ Crosshair began, Hunters light brown eyes pierced from underneath his raised eyebrow, waiting- rather anticipating. “about our mother-“ Not coming much further as the reminder set a new flame of panic ablaze.

In a split second, he pushed his brother away, not wanting to get sick in his bed. He paused, pressing his lips shut as a distinct taste reached a crescendo. He slapped a hand in front of his mouth.

“Cross- What the fuck-” Hunter bolted out of bed, reaching for the wastebasket under his desk shoving his brothers face overtop of it. There he waited, not sure if he was about to see the dinner, he ate a few hours ago, again.

He began dry heaving, but the bile in his throat didn’t rise further. Solely saliva gathered at the tip of his tongue. He pitifully sputtered out, feeling Hunter’s hand steadily at his shoulder. He couldn’t deny but to feel way more comfortable in his brother’s care, than with Omega.

Realizing nothing would come up, he shoved it away, meeting Hunter’s more than worried look. “False alarm.” He concluded. Hunter didn’t look so convinced.

“You sure?” he asked, trash can still in his grip. “I could honestly do without changing my sheets.”

Crosshair made a vague gesture with his hand. “Only about ninety-nine percent.”

Hunter huffed. From the look on his face, he knew exactly what Crosshair was about to say before nausea had taken hold of him. “You know what I’m gonna say-“ he phrased carefully.

Crosshair let his head sink into his palms. “Then don’t.” he taunted. The world spinning in his periphery slowly came to a halt, letting him catch a few breaths.

Hunter didn’t seem impressed. He raised an eyebrow. “I can call the psychiatrists office if you want.” Probably said out of concern, it felt like an insult.

“If you dare-“ Crosshair began to snarl back. “I’m going to be personally responsible you and Echo will be square on the limb count.”

Hunter sighed deeply; finger pressed on the spot between his eyes. “I’m just worried about you. My goodness.”

Now, it was upon Crosshair to get defensive against the tense silence. “Well, you don’t need to be.”

“Don’t say that Crosshair.“ Hunter snapped. “Don’t you fucking say that.”

Crosshair remained revolted at his sudden loss of words. A detonating silence spread over them. So tender, yet so tense, as if a single sheet of paper moving about could slice it apart and initiate something that would bury them both beneath. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Hunter's shoulders heave and slump irregularly. He swallowed, gaze fixating straight ahead.

“The last time you said that-“ Hunter stammered, voice reaching a dangerous amount of desperation. His brother didn’t look at him. “-you were gone.”

“What?” Crosshair heard himself reflexively ask, more out of dumbfoundedness rather than failure of his auditory system.

“You were gone Crosshair.” Hunter drew in a sharp breath. “GONE-“ pulling on his hair, he clutched his head between his hands, seemed like he wanted to rip it out of his head. “9 days. Do you have any clue how that made us feel?” Crosshair remained silent, aghast at Hunter’s shout. “FUCK.” he yelled, as if it would relieve any built-up pressure he couldn’t extort otherwise.

“Hunter-“ Crosshair tried to smooth, moving stiffly toward his older sibling.

Hunter wrenched his neck the other way. From the clenched shaky fist, Crosshair knew his brother was hiding tears. “No-“ Hunter’s head snapped back, sniffing as tears flow freely from his eyes, dripping down his clenched jaw. 

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

“We thought you were dead.” Hunters voice terribly quivered at the last words. Drawing in another deep breath, his lungs filled up, leaving him to pant into hyperventilation, slowly approaching a panic attack. “W-we t-th-thought you’re-“ He gulped, choking the words out.

Wanting to kick himself wouldn’t even remotely describe the self loathe he felt.

Being trained with many kinds of anti-panic tactics from his medical training he received in the army, Crosshair knew exactly what to do. He propped Hunter’s knees up, gingerly pushing his head in between. He ripped Hunters clenched fist open, pressing it flat against his left chest muscle. “Breathe- Come on Hunter- just breathe with me.”

His brother tried his darndest, chest heaving between gulps for air. Crosshair knew that and admired it. “Shht.” He whispered, slowly reaching around his puny form, to pull Hunter against himself. “I’m not, okay? I’m here. See?” He captured Hunter’s hand, still clenched at the breast pocket of his shirt. “Shht- I’m here.” Crosshair murmured into Hunter’s dark curls. Hunter nodded, finally catching a good deep breath. He slumped forward, pressing his eyes against his brother’s neck.

By the slowly forming wetness around the collar of Crosshairs t-shirt, he concluded his brother to still be crying. He felt a few tears escape his eyes himself, rolling past the tip of his nose, dripping onto his brother’s back. His hand closed up. 

Crosshair came to realize that he might not be the only one suffering from a relative induced PTSD. Only in Hunters case, he was the cause. And nothing in the world could’ve destroyed his heart more.

Ever since Omega had first set foot in the house, the brothers had tiptoed around Crosshair’s addiction. Rather the aftermath of it. Even years later, a lot of topics had been left unspoken about.

In Crosshair’s encompassing grasp, Hunter seemed to recatch himself. Sniffling as the tears subsided against his neck. Remaining embraced for quite a while, Crosshair felt his brother going a little limper.

He tweaked his head, a final squeeze reassuring Hunter’s muscular upper arms. “You wanna sleep now crybaby?” Crosshair huffed with the corners of his mouth twitched upward, getting a gentle shove in return. “Must’ve been exhausting to lose that much water.” he teased.

Hunter’s puffy eyed smile did his best to suppress a yawn. Crosshair, wide victory grin on his lips, gave a short laugh as he stood up. Hunter leaned back on his pillow, feet digging underneath the blanket. “Maybe.”

Knowing his brother best, he remained, asking “Do you want me to leave?”

Hunter shook his head, glancing unsurely to the side.

“Okay, scooch-“ He made a wagging gesture. Hunter’s gaze resembled bewilderment. “I’m not joking-“ Crosshair said, arguably a bit annoyed. He shuffled to the wall, holding the edge of his blanket open.

“You sure? I know you don’t rest at night because of your shifts.” He mumbled, shyer than Crosshair had ever heard him talk. Suddenly feeling like experiencing a déjà-vu, he slid underneath the covers. They’d done that a lot as kids.

“Yup- I’m off tomorrow night as well. Sure m’ sure-“ he reassured, fixing the blanket around them, reaching to turn off the light. “Good night.”

Hunter turning on his side as to make more room for the both of them, mumbled “Maybe we should extend to a family therapy.”

Crosshair snorted, resting his head sideways on the pillow to meet Hunter’s face. “Maybe.”

__________________

 

Hunter’s eyes shot open as little tip toe steps made their way to his door. He immediately knew who they belonged to. A familiar head of long blonde curls spreads over top of the brothers. Omega huffed, reaching with her arm around Crosshair and Hunter. He drew his hand around her back in circles as Omega exhaled blissfully.

Crosshair moved beside him, slowly opening his eyes, locking gazes with his sister. “You’ve been lighter once-“ he teased.

Omega, snuggled her head between both brothers shoulders on Hunter’s narrow bed. Too narrow for the three of them to lay in. “Mhh-“ she grumbled. “Shut up, Crossy.”

“Language Omega-“ Hunter admonished.

Crosshair emitted a low, half-serious growl. “What have I told you about calling me that?”

“That you hate it.” She giggled, propping her chin up to show him a devious smirk and a challengingly raised eyebrow. “Crossy.”

“Okay, that’s enough.” He sneered, leaning forward to start attacking her sides with his fingertips. Omega yelped of laughter, curling into herself, helplessly squirming atop Hunter’s legs. “HELP-“ she giggled, trying her best to shove Crosshairs hand away. Needless to say, she was greatly outmatched. “Hunter-“ She gasped out between fits of laughter.

Hunter didn’t even try to refuse, joining his brother instantly. “Well, if you’re so disrespectful to adults-“

“Ok. Ok. I’m so sorry-“ she managed with force as her brothers caused a wave of laughter overcoming her. “Sorry.”

„You sure?“ He curled his lip, asynchronously traveling his twitching fingers up and down her side with Hunter as an accomplice.

“Yeah Kid- Doesn’t seem very sorry to me if you keep laughing.” The two brothers locked eyes, incident of the night previous, and ultimately the reason they’d be sleeping in one bed as grown adults, almost forgotten.

“Sorry- I’m sorry Crosshair-“ she giggled out in between chopped breaths. “I’ll never do it again. I promise.”

“See?” Crosshair finally said, pulling his hands away from her sides. “It’s that easy.”

Omega recaught her breath, letting herself fall back in between her brothers with an exhausted sigh. All heads turned as they heard a timid knock from the outside. “May I accommodate you on the merrymaking?”

Not waiting until either of them called him in, Tech poked his head through the door, already dressed in his work clothes. Not being able to deny the gravity pull, Tech crouched down beside the bed, head rested atop the outer part of Crosshair’s thigh. He trusts his long arm out to mingle with the ends of Omegas curls.

A certain thunder on the stairs already announced the next participant. Wrecker didn’t even knock, storming right into Hunters room, cooing at the sight and smothering all three of his siblings’ legs underneath his body. Hunter seriously wondered how many more people the bed could hold until it gave in to their weight.

All three of them complained with a growl. Wrecker wasn’t fazed and didn’t move an inch, pinning them down like dead weight.

“Sleep well kid?” He murmured to Omega. She gave an affirmative nod, leaning further into Tech’s ginger touch.

All five siblings fell back into a semi consciousness, finding peace in each other’s provided contact. Only gripped out of the trance as a known sound of prosthetic’s made their way through the ground floor, coming to a halt at Hunter’s door.

“What the hell?” Echo mumbled upon finding their huddled figures. “I searched for you guys.”

“Yah found us-“

“Wrecker, Mate- You’re hard to overlook or overhear for that matter.” Echo sighed, moving toward the huddled mountain.

“No need to be gettin’ personal-“ Wrecker miffed back.

“Yah Grumpy-“ Crosshair backed his brother up, more out of instinct than anything else.

Omega rolled around stretching her arms out to Echo. Not being asked twice, he leaned down, pushing his hand into the mattress as support.  With that, the bed finally caved inward, sending the mattress down with thud. Ultimately letting them all crash inside what once was Hunter’s bedframe.

Chapter Text

Rex parked on the pavement. Police car and all Hunter figured him to not expect any sort of reprimand for it. His silhouette, clothed in his work attire, slammed the car door shut. Pressed look on his face, he raised the hand to greet him. “Morning Sarge-”

Glad to see his cousin, but recognizing his face to be serious, Hunter fell into a frown. Returning the gesture, but ultimately giving in to a slight quiver. “Morning-“

Briefly thinking about Tech’s hideous collection of speeding tickets and Crosshair’s history with substances, he feared for the worst. Methodically, he thought back to every little incident in the past few days, looking out for anything that could’ve gotten them into trouble. He landed on nothing.

“What’s up captain?” he asked, as Rex figure slowly approached the porch. A cold breeze made the hairs on his arm stand up.

Rex cleared his throat. “Look Mate-” he took his police hat off, pressing it to his chest. Military practice. Condolence. Fuck. What the hell? The captain swallowed, giving himself courage. “Better get it out quick. Uhm-“ he paused again, pushing Hunter on the brink of panic. Rex, noticing he’d probably made the situation worse, quickly resumed. “This measure of act contains a concern on the behalf of Nala Se.” Switching to his cold, matter-of-fact policemen voice, he stiffened.  

Hunter reared back; his hand stemmed protectively in the doorway. Eyes almost ablaze, he glared daggers at his cousin. “If she want’s Omega back, tell her to go fuck herself.” He snapped, pulling Rex out if his professional demeanor.  

Rex almost laughed out of shock, growing exasperated afterwards. “No mate- Some colleagues of mine, in the Kamino district, had reason to perform a welfare-check on your mum.”

“Let her rot in hell.” Hunter interfered.  “Don’t care how she’s doin’.” He went to turn, inviting him in. He opened the door a little further. “Do you want any breakfast?”

Rex’s voice grew louder. “For god’s sake, just listen. Hunter–“ he emphasized. “She passed away.”

Reflexively, Hunter pulled the door closed. “What?”

“She died.” He reiterated carefully, searching for his eyes under the dark mess of curls, still tousled from sleep.

Hunter, face going as white as a sheet of paper, slumped over to the porch chair. Face held sternly upfront, a few excruciating heartbeats passed. His slurring mind came only to one conclusion. His vision spun, making his palms dousing in sweat. “How?”

Rex swallowed heavily, protectively letting his shoulders droop. “Autopsy determined more than fourteen different substances in her system. Momentarily, we believe in a self-inflicted cause of demise.”

Hunter nodded, not because his mind could follow, rather because it was the only thing his subconscious still knew how to do. He looked ahead, eyes travelling about the wood markings of the rough porch floor.

“Her lawyer should contact you in the next couple of days.” His cousin shuffled his way into Hunter’s periphery. “Her assets must be taken care of-“ Rex came closer. “You understand Hunter?”

Hunter, still not able to direct his line of view away from the ground, nodded.

“There’s still one thing.” He began, futzing with his hand at the keychain dangling from his belt loop. “We still need someone to head to the coroner’s office, confirming her identity.”

Must be a joke- Hunter was convinced… It had to be.

Rex waited. Spinning coming to a stop as he firmly pressed two fingers between his eyes, Hunter’s gaze slowly traveled upward. “You know her, Rex. Can you just?”

Rex, helper complex activated, chimed in. “Sure. That’s what I would’ve proposed as well. I wanna spare you the sight.”

Hunter could imagine. Ultimately, not knowing how many days it took the police to find her. None of them had any contact with her, after all. He forced a breath into himself. “Thank you. For comin’ yourself-”

“No problem.” Rex said, feet striding back down the steps. “Do you guys need my help with anything?”

“No.” Hunter immediately retorted without further thought. Initially wanting to stand up, he paused, coming to a horrible conclusion. “Oh shit.” He mumbled, hand firmly rubbing the strain out of his neck, careful to avoid his bandana in the process.

Being his usual attentive self, Rex picked up on that. “What?”

“I have to tell Omega.” He supplied. Hunter, desperately trying to regain control over the situation, towed with his own sense of vertigo.

I can’t. I can’t. I… can’t.

Rex shot him a look Hunter had never seen before. He didn’t know where to put it. It wasn’t concern. Rex obviously knew he could handle himself. Hunter shortly thought if he had been the one who underestimated his own abilities.

“I’m sorry mate-“ He went to cup Hunter’s shoulder. Reflexively, he pulled back. A short amount of disappointment rippled Rex’s slightly wrinkled face. “Don’t wait on it.” His cousin probably knew they had pissed themselves out of responsibility before.

But not with Omega- Hunter’s brain retorted, the word’s not making it past his lips. I can’t be the one telling her.

 “She deserves to know.” Rex emphasized.

“You’re right.” Hunter quietly turned his back to the captain, making his way back into the house. “But I can’t.”

 

_______denial – Wrecker_______

 

“Didn’t Rex wanna come in?” Echo timidly asked, carefully masking his disappointment.

Wrecker laid a watchful eye upon his brother. Hunter’s face was slack, as if in shock. It made Wrecker’s blood turn to ice instantly. He had to swallow, pausing his duty of loading the dishwasher.

“Omega-” Hunter’s military tone set upon their little sister. Seeing Hunter’s mind struggle for the right words was excruciating. “To your room. No discussion.” He gestured, moving to the sink, and not waiting for any response in return.

Omega’s face fell, and so did the faces of the others. “What? Why?” she started to plead, looking at the back of Hunter’s head with instant tears in her eyes. Wrecker’s chest bent inward. He knew how that tone could affect someone otherwise not used to it. Upon no reaction, Omega resumed desperate. “What did I do?”

Hunter snapped, turning around. Voice traveling even louder than before. “UPSTAIRS. NOW.”

“Sarge-“ Wrecker started to plead on behalf of his sister. Hunter’s gaze didn’t waver. Strict eyes of a commanding officer rippled the air.

Omega gave a huff in return, shoving herself away from the table. She held her fists clenched, chin upright, and gave a grumble as she moved up the stairs toward the attic. Wrecker didn’t miss the way she slammed the door shut extra loud.

“-Think I’m gonna be sick.” Hunter’s half tattooed face twitched into a frown, turning back around, gripping the counter with white knuckled hands.

“Mate-” Echo moved, grabbing Hunter’s shoulder from behind. Hunter, still bent over the sink, shook his head, but ultimately tolerating Echo’s ginger touch. ”What the hell is going on?”

“I can’t-” Hunter muttered over and over again. Seeing him this catatonic was more than scary.

Crosshair, patience running at an all-time low, chuckled ironically. “Why? She committed a hit and run or something?”

The snarling gaze of Wrecker’s baby brother fell as Hunter shot him a side glance so sharp, it could shatter any glass within its reach. “Nala Sé’s dead.”

A blanket of silence threatened to smother them all. Wrecker searched for Tech. He instantly knew what went on behind his glasses.

Crosshair, fumbling with his cellphone, let it slide back into his jeans pocket. “That’s rad. What a bitch.” He gave with indifference, stoic face set in stone. “Probably deserved it.”

Hunter’s groan was covered by a gag as he spit in the sink. Exasperation took hold of him as he hissed back. “I’m not joking, Crosshair. She’s dead.”

“You’re actually serious.” Echo’s voice dropped, hand moving up and down Hunter’s back to console his nausea. Hunter only nodded.

Hunter pressed both hands against the sides of his head. “She’d done it herself.” He declared, not giving away too much information. Still, it was enough to understand.

“I’m going to my room-“ he declared, set of brown eyes not focusing on anything particular. “Fuck ‘m getting a migraine.” He stumbled out, hand over his eyes, proposing a dire effort to block out any light. Tech, not having said a single word until now, followed his brother outside.

Crosshair stood there, frozen to the spot as Echo slowly started to approach him. Guiding him over at the table, he let himself fall into one of the chairs with a huff, mumbling something underneath his breath.

Despite the shitty prosthesis joints, Echo crouched down. “What you say, mate?” he repeated, more calming and comforting than Wrecker ever heard him talk before.

Crosshair’s head shot up, eyes dull and glassy. “What’re we going to tell Omega?”

Echo wanted to speak first, but Wrecker beat him to it. “I’m gonna go tell’er.”

His half-brother’s face didn’t seem convinced at all. “You sure?” he asked-

Wrecker nodded. He doubted he could be any more serious about what he had just said. Leaving Crosshair with Echo, Wrecker made his way across the house, almost bumping into Tech carrying a stack of pills. He sighed, knowing that giving medical care was ultimately Tech’s way of processing the devastating news himself.

A certain gravity held Wrecker’s feet back, letting him lift them with immense difficulty. He came to a halt in front of Omega’s door, covered in glittery stickers he had gifted her for fulfilled chores and good grades. Being his smart and helpful little sister, she had acquired a lot.

For some reason, as his knuckles met the door, he felt every bone in his fingers. “Kid?” he asked against the wood. “Can I come in?”

Half deafness clouding his auditory system, he still heard a blanket rustle from inside. Gaze locked on her feet, she opened, reluctantly stepping aside.

“What have I done wrong this time?” Omega sighed with a waver, wiping a tear of uncertainty away.

Wrecker encompassed her small figure in his arms. He couldn’t believe someone only barely above the five feet mark to be fully grown. His large hands covered her entire back as he got onto one knee. “You ain’t doin’ anythin’ wrong.” He murmured into her long, blonde locks.

Omega threw her arms around his neck, sniffling. Wrecker swallowed heavily. “Kid-“ he began, not quite knowing how to finish. “our mother- Your mother-“ he corrected, never having called her a mother past his teenage years. “She’s dead.” He pressed out, knowing from the army that a direct approach sometimes was the only way to avoid miscommunication. Albeit gruesome, it always proved successful.

“What? No.” Omega didn’t seem to catch up. Though her breath undeniably came out as short, distressed hitches. “Can’t be.”

Wrecker cupped her head to his chest. Lifting her up and setting themselves on her narrow bed. “I’m so sorry kid-“ He said, rubbing big, firm circles around her back. Almost entirely going limp, Omega finally gave into the shock.

Teary wet eyes glanced unsurely up into his. “How?” Her terrified voice proclaimed, asking into the vastness, seemingly struggling against any logical sense.

“Self-inflicted.” Wrecker cursed himself. The words came out way too quickly for him to even process. Shortly, he thought about them being too harsh for a sixteen-year-old. Though Omega was more mature than anyone ever gave her credit for. “Hunter didn’t say much more.” Wrecker added, pressing his mouth into her wavering head.

At the mention of Hunter’s name, her form shivered. “Where is he?” she demanded, shifting her weight in his lap. He knew Omega would inevitably search for her brother. Wrecker didn’t mind though. He knew everyone in their house had a person for comfort. Usually, Wrecker was Crosshair’s. He swallowed, thinking of the frozen state he had left his brother behind in. “Wrecker-“ Omega’s voice pulled his consciousness to the forefront. He paused his circle motions. “I want to see him.”

Again, his heart almost imploded. Pain hummed from his chest, leaving his voice box to tremble. “He’s knocked out, Omega.” Sounds strange. He could count the number of times he had called his sister by her name on one hand. “Leave him be for a sec.”

Under his repetitive motions, Omega slowly breathed her way into sobbing. Wrecker cradled her tighter, hushing her and rocking her gently from side to side as a couple of his own tears threaten their way to the forefront. “But I’m ‘ere. I’m always gonna be ‘ere.”

She nodded, miserably sniffling. Wrecker held the sleeve of his shirt out to wipe her nose on it. Omega nodded her thanks before slumping back, sulking in what no one of them thought would ever think to happen.

 

_______Anger – Crosshair_______

 

Crosshair couldn’t deny feeling utterly uneasy in offices, stuffed to the brim with paperwork. His bitch of a mother was only beneath the earth’s crust for about a week, when a chain of other concerns challenged their administrative abilities.

The brothers only found out about the will she’d written in their favor, as the family lawyer contacted them a couple of days later after the… news. Crosshair himself wouldn’t say they were dreadful. He hadn’t missed Nala Sé, or thought about her, for that matter.

Certainly, he was aware, there were amounts of abuse in the past, they couldn’t certainly break even for, anymore. But honestly, that didn’t fucking matter.

The only concern of his was the demeanor of his sister. Omega’s catatonic state had grown worse. Hunter sometimes managed to get a few words out of her, but basically it wasn’t enough to have one damn conversation. He could live with her taciturnity if it wouldn’t be for the fact that while she didn’t open her mouth to talk, she basically wasn’t eating as well.

Throat clenching up, he tried to snatch his attention back to Nala Sé’s lawyer. The prosperity of inheritance might be one of the better things about her death.

Clearing his throat, the lawyer resumed to read out loud.  "I, Nala Sé bequeath all my assets, financial or tangible nature, to my sole daughter, Omega Sè, living in Marauderlane 501, 77459 Tipoca City."

Excuse me? What the fuck-

An appalled silence washed over the group. All six of them, crammed into crappy office chairs, had sincere trouble in keeping their mouth shut.

Strangely, to her newly acquired tight-lippedness, Omega was the first to manage some kind of verbal reaction. “What?”

The lawyer nodded in response. This wasn’t a fucking joke, Crosshair realized upon his mother’s final move.

Wrecker’s rumbly laugh dragged Crosshair’s mind out of the realm of bewilderment. “Congrats, kid-“ He kneaded her shoulder. “You’re rich.”

“WRECKER” Hunter immediately snapped in between.

“What?” his burly brother retorted.

“Are you certain?” Tech chimed, silencing them both.

Pushing his glasses back, the lawyer sighed. “Of course.” He handed Tech the paperwork, pointing to a passage near the end. Crosshair craned his head but couldn’t decipher anything. He shortly cursed himself for not bringing his reading glasses along.

“Though the financial gain of her assets will be frozen until her 18th birthday.” He folded his hands, waiting on Tech’s reaction.

“Indeed-“ Tech’s eyes managed to double in size behind his glasses.

“I require miss Sé’s legal guardian to sign the documents.” His gaze expectantly fell onto Crosshair. His blond hair and the curls made them look very similar. Almost to the point of looking like-

Hunter stepped forward, taking the pen the small man handed out.

“I don't want this blood money.” Omega quietly mumbled.

“Kid-“ Hunter, pen still in hand and document still unsigned, bent down to cup her cheek. His gaze rippled with worry as Omega flinched. “I know it's difficult, but we won't say no to that sum.”

Omega, anxiety mechanism reaching its peak, couldn’t hold back from starting to fumble with her hands. “Then you take it.”

Hunter’s light brown eyes went as soft as his voice. “That is very kind of you, but it wasn't intended for us.”

Goddamn, Hunter talks to her like a child. She’s sixteen, for fuck’s sake.

Omega huffed falling back in the chair with her arms crossed, and a pout on her face, seemingly unhappy for someone who’s net worth jumpstarted from basically zero to a couple hundred thousand dollars, if not somewhere near of a million. He felt no bitterness behind it though. Tech and Crosshair still payed off their student debt, which made a good college for their smart little sister nearly unreachable.

At least now she can decide where she wants to go.

Nevertheless it felt like a middle finger in the rest of her children’s faces. He seriously wondered what had evoked Nala Se for such an act of… kindness? He shivered, almost growing sick at the thought. Or did she want to drive them apart? If so, he certainly wouldn’t let her. Raising his middle finger on the ground below in his thoughts, he hoped she’d smother in hell. 

He couldn’t let a demised person get the upper hand in this and possibly ruin their relationship. His brothers seemed to think the same. Not a single one protested against what the lawyer had just said.

The lawyer focused his gaze on their littlest sibling. Omega, gaze directed upfront didn’t return his. He nodded a sharp thanks at Hunter, handing the paperwork back. “For now, that would be everything. However, you will need an appointment with the bank to decide what will happen with the house.”

“Can we go now?” she hissed, impatient and clearly hiding anger that led her lip to quiver.

“Yeah” Crosshair offered, covering for her impoliteness. “Come on. We’ll wait in the car.”

Jumping up from the chair, Omega stormed out. Crosshair caught a glimpse of Hunter’s knitted eyebrows. Mouthing an ‘I’ll handle it.’. Upon Hunter’s nod, Crosshair followed suit.

Omega already waited at the old and rusty Mercedes he had parked near the entrance, tapping her foot in agitation. Immediately after unlocking it, Omega slid in, pulling the door shut with way more force than needed.

Crosshair bit his tongue not to emit a growl. On the passenger seat, her head leaned against the window. Face undeniably troubled and only hard to read, even for him. “Omega?”

She didn’t react, not taking notice of anything he had just said. He had had enough. “Omega!” Crosshair called; way too loud for her to miss. 

Snapping her head around, his sister gave a hiss. “What?”

Shocked at the angered tone provoking disrespect, his eyes narrowed into slits as he pointed with his index finger. “Don’t you dare snap at me like that.”

Fucking hell- he sounded like her dad.

Her guilty gaze dropped immediately as she fiddled with the hem of her black summer dress. “Well then, don’t talk to me.” She mumbled back, wanting to sound just as commanding but ultimately failing in every regard.

Crosshair, feeling his fingernails almost curl up in anger, reminded himself to bite back. And. Fucking. Stay. Calm. “Okay-“ he started, turning to face her. “I understand you’re sad and angry and feel like shit-“

Omega interrupted him in a mocking tone. “I understand you’re sad and angry-“ her voice got louder as she met his eyes with a look that could’ve made even the most seasoned veteran’s blood boil. She shortly stuck her tongue out. “You don’t get it.”

A flash crossed his eyes. “I was her child too-“ he started to snarl. “And look who she gave all her money to.”

Coming to a conclusion, his sister let out an aggravated sigh. “Is that what this is about?” He shyly watched her. Angered tears started to waver in her eyes. Her voice raised, travelling into a yell as well. “You can have it. All of it. I don’t want anything to do with that stuff.”

Shithead, he cursed himself, desperately wanting to kick his own ass. “Omega- that’s not what I wanted to say.”

She began to shiver, reaching with her arms around to cling to herself. At the sight, a firm lump began to swell in Crosshair’s throat. That was the exact opposite of what he wanted to inflict. He didn’t mind her being angry with him. He knew from what place her emotions originated. He gladly took a punch if that meant she’d feel better.

Briefly, Crosshair held out his arms, wanting to engulf her in a hug to make the impact he had caused lesser. Omega protectively scooched aside, making it impossible to reach her. “Leave me alone.“

If he hadn’t been a healthy 31-year-old, he could have sworn to experience some sort of heart attack. Her defensiveness against him hurt so much more than the twisted acts of his mother ever could have.

As Echo and Hunter approached the car, Omega immediately fell back into her passive state.

Echo, sliding on the seat behind her, watched Crosshair with a raised eyebrow. “What’s going on?” he asked with a tone that commanded pure honesty. Though Crosshair couldn’t bring himself to.

As if the fucker knew…

“Nothing. Let’s go home.” Gripping the steering wheel tight, he swallowed thickly. Checking the rear-view mirror, Hunters Spidey-senses already picked up on his pathetic excuse.

Omega reeled with rage, arms crossed to the point of her must feeling uncomfortable. “Ugh- finally.” She drawled, striking them all dumb as a result.

 

_______Bargaining – Tech_______

 

Tech admitted, because of the current real estate market, selling the house was ultimately the best decision. Omega's profitable inheritance had come as a surprise, but was undoubtedly and unanimously accepted.

The whole trip down to Kamino, Omega had held Tech’s hand in the car. It was their final goodbye before leaving this dreadful place forever. Coming in, they saw the moving company had truly done their wonders. Only leaving three old cardboard boxes full of old schoolwork behind.

“You want that, Tech?“ Hunter asked, showing him a carton with old research projects he had conducted in spite of his mother’s science lectures. Tech waved off, knowing his younger self hadn’t been the most attentive to detail.

He scooted his glasses back, focusing on his little sister. Omega, head hanging low, sat on the marble stairs leading up to Nala Sé’s bedroom.

Tech had seen this part of the house only once in his life. One of Crosshair’s escape plans had gotten them to the ground floor, when curiosity took over and ultimately, they got caught by exploring the upstairs.

His hands fumbled through countless sheets full of false math equations. He furrowed his brows. Probably Hunter’s or Wrecker's ‘work’. He deemed it as garbage, stuffing the sheets into a large blue trash bag.

He stopped as his hands grazed something spikey he didn’t recognize. A little figurine, crafted of straw from their outdoor teachings, they ironically never went outside for. He held it up, letting his brothers confirm he didn’t suffer of temporary memory loss.

His brothers gave negating head shakes. Then his gaze traveled on Omega. Her eyes sparkled quietly from beneath the curly fringe. Wanting to draw his sister in, Tech cleared his throat. “Omega- What is your juxtaposition on the behalf of your inheritance?”

Omega shot up, stomping her foot as tears bridged their way to the forefront. “I don’t care about any of this crap.” Her voice echoed off the marble walls. “I didn’t want this stuff to happen.”

“Kid-“ his half-brother Echo tried to soothe. He reached out, but Omega shoved him off.

Tears openly flowing across her cheeks, she gulped for air. “Why can’t it be how it was before?” she mumbled quietly at her sneakers, locks falling forward and hiding the tumultuous convolution of emotions behind.

“I do not think that is possible.” Tech’s voice dropped a few octaves. He gestured to the door, the puppet still in his hands.  “You’re free to wait in the car if you’d like.”

Omega, wiping her eyes with her sleeve, nodded. Trudging past the helpless-looking crowd without further commentary. Tech couldn’t hide a sigh, packing the small puppet it into a much smaller box, they had used to store the items they wanted to carry back home.

Hunter retied his bandana, searching for Tech’s face. “She scares me.”

“Shorter individuals can have that effect.” He retorted with indifference. “Commonly referred to as the Napoleon-Syndrome, humans with a decrease in height appear to be more defensive. Mostly assumed by daily struggling in trying to compensate for their lack of-“

“Tech-" He barked. "Dumbass- I meant I’m worried.” Hunter snapped back.  

He inwardly cursed Hunter for his feeble attempt at an insult. After all, Tech’s IQ outranked everyone in his immediate family. He gave a slight eye roll back. “Seeing as care is your primary form of function, feelings of sorrow aren’t unlikely for a highly empathetic individual such as yourself.”

“Thank you.” Hunter mumbled; eyebrows knitted in confusion. Tech absolutely had no idea what had been unclear. “Whatever the hell that meant.”

Hunter, arms clutched at the small box he had repacked, nudged Tech’s side, bobbing his head to the direction of his siblings. “Come on.” He murmured encouragingly. “Let’s get outta here.”

Tech nodded in agreement, turning the key in the lock for the last time. He drew it out of the hole, rotating it in his hand. His stomach turned. It was just a key. So ordinary, yet it had so much tragedy to hide.

 

_______Depression – Hunter_______

 

“Come’on Kid-“ Hunter begged at her back, reaching out to caress her head. Omega didn’t move. This had been the eight day she’d spent in bed. Initially, he’d thought she would come down with a cold. He couldn’t have been further off. “Talk to me-“

She gave a light grumble but otherwise didn’t respond. Arms crossed, she faced her bedroom wall, tightly tucked in underneath her covers. Her arms clutched the little strawman Tech had taken out of the house for her.

Growing desperate, Hunter gripped her foot, wanting to playfully tickle her toe. Omega, hissed, almost kicking his gut in defense. “Woah kid-“ He immediately pulled his hands back, palms facing up and searching for her face. Omega tightly pressed her lips together, still not anywhere within an emotional reach. “I just want to talk to you-“

“Well, I don’t. I have cramps. Leave me alone-“ she mumbled to no one but herself.

To say he was worried sick was the understatement of the century. “You said that last week.” Hunter coaxed his voice into becoming soft and reassuring. He knew the lie about her lady-time to be a cheap ploy. Reaching out for Omega’s ankle instead, he began little circle motions.

Normally, Omega was never the one to refuse physical touch. To watch her experience that amount of psychological pain nearly tore himself apart. Eventually, he was convinced his heart would simply give out. He had never in his life felt something as gruesome as watching his little sister suffer in grief.

 “You should get up for a while.” He tried again, though his encouraging words didn’t have that much of an effect.

Omega’s brows furrowed in irritation. “I don’t want to.”

“Omega-“ exasperation once again took hold of him, drawing every rational feeling out.

“Hunter-“ Omegas voice traveled into something akin to anger. “I said I don’t want to. Leave me alone, will ya?”

Aghast and taken aback by her shout, Hunter stumbled off her bed and quietly made his way to the door. “If you need us, we’re downstairs.” He mumbled into the darkness of her room. He didn’t even hear a blanket shift. If he did, he might have lunged himself on top of her. But now, with nothing but a void to talk to, he shut the door behind him.

His feet dragged him downstairs. Each step an exasperated struggle between worry and helplessness. Head drawn to his chest in shame, he went to rejoin his brothers in the living room.

Upon her figure missing, and his rather pathetic crouched posture, Echo softly asked, “No luck?”

Hunter shook his head, letting him fall on the empty spot he had left behind and his brothers obviously didn’t dare to shift to. For whatever reason.

He fought against his blurred periphery, almost choking at the tightness of his throat. “She doesn’t wanna come out.” Quickly hiding what went on in his face, he covered it with his hands. “I don’t know what I should do anymore.” The smallest tear rolled out of his eye, not providing any relief whatsoever. “Sorry. I just- I feel so fucking useless.”

Wrecker slid forward, reaching with his arm to cup Hunter’s shoulder. “Ya did everything ya could-”

Echo nodded. “Wrecker’s right- Only thing we can do is give her as much time as possible.” He sighed, tossing a packet of handkerchiefs at his half-brother. Hunter caught them midair, mouthing a thank you he never verbalized. 

Echo was right. Hunter had taken Omega out of school for the time being. There would have been no way she could upkeep her daily routine. Momentarily, to even imagine her in any other place than her bed would have been blatant fantasizing. Luckily, the school had been understanding, offering her to take a couple of courses over the summer to make up for the education she’d missed.

As a straight-A student, Hunter didn’t want her to have to ruin her chances at a pristine university only for a bad couple of months. Ambitious as she was, Omega’s grades meant everything to her. Not that any of the brothers pushed her to do it. No, Hunter wouldn't care, even if she only brought home D’s. But indulging in education was Omega’s passion, and ultimately what she could establish a strong bond over with Tech.

Everywhere he looked, she had been missed. Her laughter, the pitter patter of her naked feet on the floor or the silly and humorless jokes. He swallowed, stifling another tear.

Echo’s distant voice snapped him back out of his despair. “She’ll come around. Eventually.”

Wrecker’s hold on Hunter’s shoulder lessened. “But not even the ice cream trick worked.” His voice, too, wavered in pure and honest sadness. The day before, Wrecker had tried to beckon her with a large cup of ice cream. Everything she liked on top. He had been quite hopeful as he strutted up to her room.

Nevertheless, Wrecker came down minutes later, ice cream untouched and eyes brimming with tears.

“Unpopular opinion.” Crosshair gave, bracing himself for their reaction. Hunter knew what was coming. “But maybe we should really leave her alone?” Earning countless sets of stern eyes, he shrugged. “If that’s what she wants.”

Echo shook his head, attention back and focused on his half-brother. “What do you reckon, Hunter?” he paused, harboring a breath. “You think she misses her?”

Dumbstruck, and cursing himself, he realized he’d never come to that conclusion.

Crosshair gave an ironic laughter, masked to fill out the anxious cracks their situation had left them with. Grief wasn’t a stranger to the brothers. Though, one couldn’t exactly say they felt any sadness with their mother leaving the earth’s surface. Quite clearly, that wasn’t the cause of the devastation they had to live with.

It was seeing- or rather not seeing- Omega upset that had turned their stomach’s inside out.

“I don’t know.” Hunter retorted, honestly so.

“Indeed,” Tech started. “Omega’s abilities in showing emotion aren’t located in a particular outspoken approach. Which begs the question on how to proceed from here on.”

Reaching for his back pocket, Echo’s face was set with something that mingled the border of resolve. “I’ll call Obi-Wan. Let’s figure out what he can do.”

Yet another thing that didn’t even come to cross Hunter’s mind in the slightest. Obi-Wan, being Omega’s therapist and a family friend, may have been the most logical to contact. But Hunter didn’t fool himself. Logic had never been his field of expertise.

 

_______Acceptance- Echo_______

 

As expected, Obi-Wan, being a reputable man, didn’t hesitate to help. After Omega’s missed therapy sessions in the last couple of weeks, the man didn’t hold a grudge. Seemingly happy, he had picked up the phone as Echo called him. Of course, he didn’t need to be asked twice as Echo proposed to him the idea of making a house visit.

“She seems stable, albeit still distressed. I will prescribe a light anti-depressant. This should be able to enhance her mood and make the descent of the grieving process less-“ Obi-Wan paused. “-intense.”

A slight smile peeked from below the greying ginger beard. He came to a stop at the bottom of the stairs. The brothers couldn’t help but gather around. The behavior of their little sister had caused too much of a distress.  

He reached into his briefcase, pulling out a prescription pad. Pure doctor’s manner, he scribbled something on it that even an Egyptologist would have trouble deciphering. “Every day- two.” He tore the paper off, handing it to Hunter. “One in the morning and one in the afternoon. Though she should eat something with them. Remember, this might be a way to monitor her nutritional intake less coercively.”

Hunter nodded, immediately handing the prescription to his brother Tech. “Thank you.” His smile was only half convincing. He turned to the jackets by the door, reaching for his wallet. “How much?”

Obi-Wan waved him off. “Hunter, please, you're as much Cody’s family as you are mine.”

“Is there nothing we can do to return the favor?” Almost sounding shy, Hunter glanced at Wrecker. Being the two handy men in the family, they had often returned a favor by helping with certain tasks that concerned handling construction material.

“Well, if you put it like that-“ Obi-Wan began, recognizing the brothers’ desire to be helpful. “My porch does have a hole in it ever since Anakin decided it would be a blast to ignite a firecracker right in front of my door.” His hearty laugh gave a comfort none of them could resist. “I keep telling the boy not to, but he can’t refuse being a super dad and impress his little twins.” He reached for his hat and coat. “Kids, am I right?”

Hunter, completely wrapped in Obi-Wan’s warm presence, sighed, returning the smile. “right”

Shuffling on his feet, Hunter escorted him to the door. “We're free on Saturday.”

“Sounds good.” Obi-Wan concluded, feeding his arms through the sleeves.

“Noon?” Hunter offered.

“Alright then.” Obi-Wan nodded, putting on his hat. “Make sure to take Omega with you if she likes. I think she needs a change of scenery.” He paused. Echo realized that he was hesitating. “Now might be a good time to have a conversation.”

Hunter pushed the door open, holding out his palm for a polite handshake. “We will. Take care.” He retorted stiffly.

“Good night.” Obi-Wan turned to the rest, earning a couple of ‘good nights’ back.

As the door fell shut, Crosshair’s blonde head perked up. “Who did she snap at last?” he jokingly asked, inevitably determining a dibs situation.

Having enough of the avoidance sentiment, Echo volunteered. “I'm going.”

 

Echo, to his surprise, found her completely clothed in a chair behind her desk, scribbling something onto paper. Door already half open, he knocked anyway. “Hey kid. May I come in?”

She nodded. Though Omega didn’t look up. As Echo sat down on the edge of her bed, right beside her, he caught a glimpse of her red and puffy face. Realizing she’d been crying, he opened his arms, inviting her for a cuddle.

Not able to resist the prospected warmth of his grip, Omega timidly trudged over. Sitting sideways on his lap, she made herself so small, she almost disappeared in his hug. It didn’t take long for her to emit a couple of sobs.

Echo pressed his mouth into her hair. “Do you wanna talk about it?” he asked, prepared for a no. Starting his usual big sweeps up and down her spine, Omega basically melted in his embrace, letting go of all the tension she had buried within herself. “I can just hold you if you like.” He muttered, not wanting to destroy her safe zone.

“It's just- It's stupid.” gulping for air, Omega fought the words out of her chest. Heavily trembling, Echo had trouble keeping her upright and tightly encompassed.

“What’s stupid, sweetheart?” he carefully watched for her reaction. Omega sniffed.

“I miss her-“ she quietly confessed.

A big flock of ice pierced his chest. He squirmed against the sensation, trying to fabricate his own bewilderment. “What’s stupid about that?”

Omega let go of a particularly shaky breath. “Look, I’m not bonkers. I don’t miss what she did to me. Living with her was a nightmare.” He felt her shudder. “I have that much sense for my own safety after all, but she was-“ Upon the small voice crack, Echo stopped his sweeps. “still my mom-“ Several sobs made their way onto his shirt, as her desperate demand of safety clung to Echo’s back.

“I get that.” He said, swallowing thickly.

Omega’s breathing paused, her red eyes locked with his. “Really?”

“You know, as my brother died, I was sad too.” Omega snuggled her head underneath his chin, starting her own repetitive movements across his back. “For the first couple of weeks, I missed him so much. But there came a time where I grew angry. He left such a hole in my life that I just-” he broke off, before becoming too agitated. Quickly gathering his thoughts, Echo resumed. “Look kid, I guess what I'm getting at is… grief isn't rational. It's an emotion that doesn't have to make sense. Okay?”

Quietly breathing, Omega nodded. “I just think I should feel something else. The others all hate her. Why can't I?”

Her guiltiness as well as his own incompetence made him feel nauseated. “I don't know. Maybe you should ask that yourself. Mh?”

“Mrph” she murmured. Apparently not satisfied with his answer at all. Echo stifled a laugh, utterly comforted to see Omega find her way back to her usual self.

Echo drew his thumb over her face. “Kid, I don’t have all the answers.”

“I'm sorry.” Omega gave back, looking upward.

“For what?” his mind supplied thoughtlessly.

“My behavior-“ she swallowed, waiting for forgiveness that certainly hadn’t been necessary.

“Kid I love you. You know that. But if you ever try to apologize for having emotions again-“ he gently tweaked her side, making her giggle softly.

She pulled her arms away from his back, letting Echo encompass her further. Both of them fell silent for a while. Just embracing each other, steadily breathing in unison and seeking solace in each other’s hold.

“What do you feel now?” Echo asked, laughing as Omega’s tummy made a loud gurgling sound.

“Kinda hungry?” she smiled.

“Well,” He said, pressing a quick kiss on the back of her hand. “that’s something I can help with.”

 

Omega unsurely approached her brothers in the kitchen. Head hanging low, her shoulders drooped. Upon the sight of his little sister, Wrecker’s face immediately broke out into a beam. “Eyy look who it is.”

Pausing in the doorway, Omega smiled weakly, raising her hand as a manner of greeting. Her arm dropped, covering her eyes halfway. After having spent the last weeks inside her dark room, the bright light apparently was too much.

“Good to have you back, kid.” Hunter was the first to hug and letting her indulge in the reunion. Next was Wrecker, lifting Omega off her feet and spinning her around a little. Then Tech calmly approached her and shut his eyes blissfully as he cradled her head.

Crosshair remained on the sideline. Unsure and as stubborn as ever. Echo rolled his eyes, giving Omega a little shove in his direction. Echo, triggering Crosshair’s instincts, snorted. Crosshair's lanky arms caught her in time, pulling her close immediately. Omega, only being tall enough to reach around his waist, sniffled a little, but let herself held regardless.

Making repetitive circle motions, his hands traveled upward. Caressing her head, Crosshairs long fingers wiped at her cheek, pulling her chin upward. Upon meeting his face, Omega gave the tiniest but indistinguishable nod.

His brother hesitated, but nevertheless pressed a kiss on his sister’s forehead. Earning him a couple of shocked breaths and a cooing ‘Aww’ from Wrecker. Not letting him get away with this, Hunter snickered.

“Damn mate.” He said, nudging him rather hard with his elbow.

Still encompassing Omega, Crosshair was relentless in letting her go so soon. “What?” he hissed, noticing the dopey, grinning faces of his brothers.

Hunter patted his shoulder. “You’re growing soft.” He testily replied. Crosshair, probably fighting a sibling urge, shifted Omega to the side, aiming his foot outright at Hunter’s shin.

“Go fuck yourself-“ he growled, pressing her even closer but ultimately guiding her to his chair at the table.

Omega's stomach made a god-awful growling sound, leaving her red faced. “I’m kinda hungry.” She sheepishly admitted, triggering all five men to stumble over each other in the efforts to be the first in reheating her dinner.  

Putting a can of soda in front of her face, Echo heard the voice of his burly brother from behind. He gestured for Hunter to put even more food on her plate. “The kid needs it-“ He turned, shaking his head at Omega’s little form. “Look how thin she's got-“

Bowl of mashed potatoes in hand, Tech stated, “It is certainly not advisable to set focus upon one’s bodily structure. Especially not with teenagers.” Thin slits behind his glasses shot Wrecker an annoyed look.

Wrecker clumsily put his large palm on the crown of Omega’s head. “Sorry kid.” He mumbled ashamed. Omega just shrugged, seemingly amused at what a chaos her words and tummy grumble had created.

Hunter leaned down, setting a plate in front of her face, heaping with mashed potatoes, vegetables, sauce, and a piece of chicken. “Bon appétit, kiddo. Hope you like it.”

Omega’s eyes widened; her still quite controlled features fell into an unsure grin. “It looks delicious.”

Hunter sighed, letting himself fall on his usual chair. He blissfully watched Omega shoveling her first, long overdue, proper meal into herself. He nudged Echo’s arm, whispering into his ear. “Next time- you’re the first on duty!”

Chapter Text

Hunter’s dark and unobtrusively waiting figure sat in the kitchen, hands curling around a cup of coffee, frowning at the sheet before him. No doubt it was strange to be at home at this time, more than two hours before his usual routine. Cid hadn’t been happy he and Wrecker called out earlier, but neither were the bosses of Echo and Tech. Well, at least Crosshair had been at home, though with sleeping the day away to work at night, their sudden, unpredicted presence proved to be more than hazardous.

Indeed, it didn’t take long for the commotion downstairs to arouse his thin-skinned personality, that without enough sleep, was even worse to handle. Tumbling down the stairs with a yell, Hunter stopped him at the bottom. It took Crosshair a couple of minutes, but after Hunter had explained what went on, Crosshair, strangely enough, had grumbled something low, but didn’t give them his usual Fuck-you’s he normally would. He just ventured to the kitchen, heading for the coffeemaker and pulling cups out for each of them.

Soon after every brother had arrived home, the air fell silent, mood getting more and more tense at what lay ahead. None of the brothers moved too much. Five spear-like columns scattered around the kitchen, waiting.

A certain rustle of keys turned in the lock of the door, followed by a thud from a thrown backpack. “Hey-“ A light voice called upon seeing their shoes in the entryway. “Why are you guys-“

Not coming much further, Omega paused in the door frame, searching each face for any kind of information she couldn’t scramble about herself.

Hunter sighed deeply, shifting uncomfortably in his chair. “Come here for a sec-“

Omega, smile not fully faltering yet, made her way toward Wrecker, expecting to be bear hugged. Before she could reach him, however, Hunter called out again. “Sit, Omega.” He gestured to the empty chair beside him. Brother’s stiffening up even more, wavered their gaze expectantly on the pair. As if playing with an electrical outlet, willingly risking getting struck by a bolt, they held their breaths tight, anticipating the inevitable bang.

Omega’s brows furrowed in concern. Arms crossed; she caught a glimpse of what lay before the both of them. “Okay-“ Her voice already wavering, she shakily scooched her chair back. Hunter didn’t lift his gaze off her.

He shoved the paper further under her nose, pointing at the white sheet. “What is this?” He drawled, dangerous and low. His raised eyebrows betraying him, he knew she could tell he was well aware of what that was and what she had done.

Immediately hanging her head down low in shame, she started to hitch breaths. “I'm so sor-“

Hunter, intermitted once again, not impressed at her tears. “No Omega,” hands folded, he painfully let her retort. “That is not what I asked. What is this?”

She breathed, wiping at her eyes, staring with narrow brows at the sheet as if it had been the one to make her that uncomfortable. “It’s a math test I wrote two weeks ago. Arithmetic Progressions.”

He slid back in his chair, nodding an affirmative “Mhh” and stroking his stubbly chin. With Hunter pointing to the red circled D, Tech almost let his smartphone tumble out of his hands. Omega started to lift her gaze, meeting her brother’s eyes pleadingly. Begging to get her out of there. Naïve like she was, it probably took her a second to understand they were conspiring. His throat edged up. “And what is that?” His fingernail tapped on the paper so hard it left small indents all over.

Hunter cleared his throat in a feeble attempt at fighting the tightness, pushing her into an answer.

Omega’s eyes shot up. “My grade” Stifling further tears, she slowly began to understand. She gulped in horror, knowing the next thing Hunter would point to would be worst of all.

His heart hammered in his chest, seemingly without any restraint whatsoever. Hunter nodded. “Correct. Bottom left?”

Forcing her to take another try, Omega looked up to Echo. Lips pressed together and arms wrapped around himself, he shook his head, nodding in Hunter’s direction.

“Your signature-“ she mumbled.

A pang to his heart or his pride. To be decided.

“Peculiar- I remember you studying for the test but never signing off your grade.” He sneered, not letting her off lightly. “But now, it is on the paper. Can you explain to me how it got there?”

Wrecker rattled a few cups from behind the dishwashing rack as he stumbled forward. “Hunter- enough. Poor kid-“ Cupping his hand on her shoulder, Hunter met his eye with a wild glare.

Omega’s shoulders heaved. Rising and falling like the most unsteady tide one could imagine. She sniffled heavily. “I forged it-“  A guttural sob sounded like she was about to add something, but with air just running out, Omega apparently couldn’t muster much more.

Usual inner turmoil starting to take place, he couldn’t let this one slide.

Hunter propped his underarms on the table. “Right.” He nodded once again. Though nothing inherently positive or comforting could be found within his gesture. “Your math teacher, Lama Su, called me today, noticing my rather neat signature. He got curious and thought it might be a great idea to double check with your enrollment papers.”

Long necked asshole, Hunter had thought, retrieving the aforementioned math test. Not shaking the feeling he kinda looked familiar?

Drawing in air sharp, Omega buried her face behind her hands. “I'm so sorry-“ She hiccupped out.

For the first time, Hunter’s strict features fell, leaving nothing but crippling frustration behind. “Can you even begin to imagine the disappointment I feel right now?”

Face still covered by her hands; Omega shook her head. Wreckers cupping at her shoulder transformed into gentle thumb strokes at the crown of her head. Hunter inhaled, returning his burly brother’s testy gaze. “That's right. You cannot.” Omega shrunk a little. He only hoped his cold tone hit right where it hurt. “Until further notice: go to your room.”

Omega slowly pulled the hands back off her face. Leaving black eyeliner smudges all around her lids. “What no. Please-“ She reached out for his hands, not getting a reply.

Echo, standing behind Hunter, had his face equally set with disappointed confusion. Though it wasn’t nearly as sharp. “Omega, that’s nonnegotiable.” He growled, gesturing to the hall.

Omega reluctantly got up, knowing full well that if she might try to resist further, the situation would prove itself even more dire than it was. Heavy trudges stomped on the stairs, ascending upward.

“Oh, and Omega?” Hunter called over his shoulder. Words causing her feet to come to a halt halfway up. “Wash that gross stuff off your face.” His lips curled up in a disgusted snarl.

Crosshair gave an ironic pat on Hunter’s shoulder. “That was cruel…” raising his coffee cup in mocked toast. “Kinda hurt to look at.”

“That really wasn't necessary Hunter-“ for the first time ever, Wrecker might have been on the verge of aggression.

“Yes it was.” Hunter loosened his bandana. “Lately she looks like a-“

They all supplied the missing word in their minds. Omega’s first eyeliner and ripped jeans phase had been strange, leaving them cringe with déjà-vu’s about their own stylistic choices as teenagers.

Coming down one morning with eyes hiding behind what must’ve been half a pencil’s worth of eyeliner, Hunter felt his heart sink to the floor. All during breakfast, the brothers had stared at each other, silently agreeing at not commenting. Though Crosshair appeared to have sincere trouble in keeping his mouth shut.

Hoping this would be a onetime occurrence, he had forgotten all about it as Omega stood before him the next morning, adamant to keep her new appearance. Not coming up with something nicer to say, he just commented on how interesting she looked. Omega gave him a shrug back, as if it had been the most normal thing in the world.  

Granted, with half of his face covered in black ink, he shouldn’t be the one to judge. Just- he liked her much better without all that stuff on. No ill intent behind it, he just wanted his little sister back.

_____________________

 

Omega sat atop her comforter, watching Hunter’s agitated paces back and forth through her attic bedroom. Initially wanting to wait out his repetitive dance, she couldn’t bear the sight anymore. “I didn’t want to lie to you. I swear-“

As if she had smacked him over the head, her brother’s strides came to a halt in front of her dresser. Ebony curls covering most of the tattooed portion of his face, he left his gaze upfront. Somehow, although she couldn’t see the disappointment in his eyes matching his low voice, Hunter not acknowledging her figure crouching miserably on the bed, was even worse. “I don’t want you disrespecting me like that. I’m a person. I don’t command much of you but to be honest with me.”

Omega felt her gaze fall once again. Somehow between being the newly titled black sheep of the family and faking her brother’s signature in an effort to wipe the bad grade out, her muscles just couldn’t muster up any strength anymore. “Well, I’m a person too. Why can’t you have respect for me too?

Though she didn’t see them, she felt his eyes sparkle dangerously at the last words. Hunter shot around; arms stiffly held to his side. “When have I ever disrespected you?” his voice became pestering.

“I made a mistake. I get it.” She growled back, crossing her arms. “And I already said I was sorry.” She didn’t even bother to control the whininess her tone had evolved into. “What else should I do? Kiss your feet?”

Ouh- too far.

“Don’t-“ He called, seemingly bursting at the edges with suppressed rage. “Don’t you dare ridicule me.”  

“But if you do it, that’s fine-“ she mumbled, rolling her eyes.

Hunter took a step closer. “What?”

“You belittle me. Constantly.” Omega’s voice traveled up as she quickly wiped her eyes. “I’ve never done anything but get straight A’s- but God forbid I write one D in math.”

Palms up, Hunter just stared dumbstruck as if he had been slapped across the face. “Omega, I don’t give a crap about your grades- That’s not what this is ab-”

“I can never go out later than 8 pm-“ She started counting off her fingers, cutting through his argument. “I’m not allowed to stay at a friend’s house overnight.” She swallowed, witnessing the excruciating wake her words had caused. “I apparently can’t even wear make-up...” Temper running wild, apparently galloping uncontrollably without her consent, she shot him an equally hateful glance.

Her brother’s earlier comments about her stylistic choices had been as unwanted as they had been unnecessary. Somewhere deep down, that hurt. A lot. Why couldn’t they accept she was her own person now? How old should she get before being able to make choices on her own?

“I just want you to be safe, Omega.” Hurt seeping through his rock-hard, strained voice, Omega had to swallow. Forcing a couple of breaths into herself, she met his face. The half tattoo twitched to something she only rarely saw.

But you can’t lock me up for life just to make yourself feel better.” She spat. A sheen passed Hunter’s brown irises and Omega knew she had found his achilleas heel.

Exasperated, Hunter clung to his own head. “What do you want me to do?”

Before her brother had the chance to fall back into his angered catatonic state, she quickly grabbed a pillow, hauling it at Hunter’s feet. “Let me live my life!” In the aftershock of Omega’s shout, Hunter winced. She was done for anyway. Might as well make it count.

“Your grounded.” Hunter’s low, resolute voice resounded like an ominous echo off the walls.

Frick. She could already feel tears gathering at her lashes. No- she was determined, she wouldn’t let him win. Swallowing them down as best she could, she turned her head to face the wall.

Likewise, Hunter went for the door. “Omega-“ He growled before leaving. “WE DON’T THROW THINGS IN THIS HOUSE!” A calendar on the back side of her door fluttered off as he slammed it shut, leaving her to smolder on the bed.

With finally having acquired some privacy, her tears were left unbridled. She paused between a few gasps for air, listening in. With Hunter’s steel toed work boots descending, she could have sworn to hear additional pairs of feet on the stairs.

_____________________

 

“What’s even that bad about a little lie? God knows I lied a lot back in my days.” Crosshair said, letting himself fall into his usual chair.

“Don’t you mean: devil knows?” Echo mumbled under his breath, earning an affirmative gesture from his brother. Poor ninety-nine. Crosshair had been one hell of a child to deal with.

Hunter, face between his palms, grew enraged once more. “Are you serious?”

Crosshair leaned forward, matching Hunter’s slightly aggressive energy. “Yes?” Thin slitted eyes searched for the ones of his brother, but being hidden underneath all that hair, they landed on nothing.

Hunter threw his arms aside, almost spilling a glass full of water on the table. “I don't want her to feel like she can't trust us. She should be able to come to any of us regardless of what's troubling her-“

“Given your earlier shouting, you possibly caused the opposite by now.” Tech chided, readjusting his glasses with one finger.

“I know Tech-“ Hunter growled from behind clenched teeth. “What do you suggest I do?”

On the prospect of imparting knowledge, Tech’s eyes lit up. “Teenagers lie out of fear of disapproval. Almost as often, lying is an expression of concern of being frowned upon or scorned.”

Not sure what to make of this, Hunter’s mind just gave up halfway. “But she wouldn’t.“

He couldn’t fool the others in coming to the realization of his statement being made a little too late.

“Well, what did ya say?” Wrecker cautiously asked, deliberately not getting into arm’s reach.

“I said she's grounded.” He realized his mistake in a small voice. Not keen on seeing the disappointment in his brother’s eyes, Hunter instead focused on the knife carvings in the tabletop.

Echo cleared his throat. “I thought we wouldn’t ground her?”

“Back then she was ten not fifteen. I hardly can think of a reason why punishments shouldn’t be reevaluated at that age.” Tech concluded, earning him the attention of countless pairs of hazel eyes.

“But a genius move, nonetheless. Adding more fuel to the fire-“ Crosshair gave, raised eyebrows directed into his third cup of coffee.

Emitting a low, snide chuckle, Hunter turned his focus back. “Are you trying to give me parenting advice, Mr. I-didn’t-even-want-her-in-this-house?”

Crosshair’s mouth thinned out to a line. His resentment toward Omega in the beginning of her stay was long gone. Still, it was a raw point, hitting right below the belt, simply hurting any good taste. Prepared to fight back, Crosshair tensed up.  “No. Why should I?” he testily replied. “Since you're doing such a good job on your own.” Threateningly low, Crosshair’s phrases were filled with nothing but resentment.

Hunter shot up, electrified. Echo thrust his hand out, shoving Hunter back before he managed to lunge at Crosshair. “That’s enough.” Echo’s hard prosthesis hand pushed him back down. “What the fuck got into you?”

Hunter grumbled some more as Tech leaned forward in a desperate attempt to clear the air. “We should draw attention to where it is necessary.”

Echo nodded, his glance switching between the two squabblers. “Right?” He pressed.

Hunter dropped his chin to his chest. “Right- Sorry.” He added, sure he wouldn’t get an apology back. Not from Crosshair.

Tech fell into a brief, self-sufficient smile. “It is obvious that she had anxiety about getting reprimanded for a bad grade. Coming from a place of uncertainty, Omega’s fear about your disappointment might solely stem from her past negative experience with authority.”

Though Hunter knew his brother didn’t mean it, it felt like a punch to his gut, regardless. He pursed his lips. “All of that crap over a D?”

“Even though you had trouble ever scoring higher than that- it would be foolish of us to assume she shares your sense of ‘academic goals’.” Making quotation marks at the end of his sentence, Tech remained half crouched over the table.

Suppressing the urge to kick his shin, Hunter instead threw him a thin eye slit glance. His face curled up, obviously biting back on a nasty curse.

Noticing this, Tech quickly resumed. “While forgiving is certainly not always the first approach, I think you should reevaluate your overly solicitous choices and move a step in her direction.”

“Am I too overprotective?” He asked, getting a few aghast looks and a suppressed grin back. Crosshair almost choked on his drink.

“Nahh Mate”

“ ‘course not”

“I negate your perception.”

“…”

“Goddamn, -“ Hunter cursed. “Honest.”

“Yeah” Echo admitted.

“Mhh” Wrecker grumbled affirmatively.

“Possibly.” Tech sighed, pausing from scrolling indifferently from his smartphone.

Not able to hold himself back anymore, Crosshair stood up, going for the sink to rinse out his mug. “You’ve been babying her ever since Omega set her foot in the door.”

“Well, army veterans aren’t popular for an incredibly anti-authoritarian approach to parenting and rules. Maybe forging your signature hadn’t been as much of a cry for attention, but rather an act of rebellion.”

For the I-don’t-know-how-much-time that day, it felt as if someone had drawn a fricking frying pan over Hunter’s head.

Unsurely, Wrecker shuffled on his chair. “Maybe we should leave the kid more freedom?”

Hunter breathed a deep sigh. “I don’t know.”

“Do you trust her?” slowly reassuring himself no more spontaneous outburst of desperate perplexity would follow, Echo tended to the stove, getting out the ingredients for dinner. Crosshair came to aid, lending a hand in cutting some vegetables.

Eyebrows knitted; Hunter scratched his stubbly chin. “...Yes” He paused, pointing to the bungled-up math exam. “besides that-“

“Then leave her to make her own decisions.” Getting a cutting board and knife from Echo, Tech drew his attention to cutting the most uniform ham squares, only briefly meeting Hunter’s dark look. “Don’t you remember how we were at her age?”

“That’s what I’m afraid of.” Hunter remembered their irrational behavior mechanisms against the aftereffects of his mother’s parentage. Again: poor ninety-nine. No one ever gave the man enough credit for raising six teenage boys all at once. And all alone.

“You can’t smother her. That’s not how this works.” Echo’s words offered a comfort Hunter knew, he desperately needed. All he ever wanted was to make everything right. Be a brother if she needed him to be. Or even a parent if she sought out for another form of guidance. Time and time again, he was thrown back to the first night Omega spent in their house.

Dread settling in, he swallowed against the panicked sensation is his chest, realizing he still had no fucking clue as how to handle this. Sometimes he wondered why his brothers were allowed to remain so careless.

“Echo’s right- leave the kid some room to grow into-“ Wrecker affirmed, reaching for a scrap piece of ham on Tech’s cutting board. Getting hit on the knuckles with the backside of Tech’s knife, he yelped, retrieving his hand immediately.

With the extraction hood’s loud hum, they didn’t notice a certain someone sneaking up on them.

“I know I’m probably not allowed down here.” Tears pooled in Omegas ashamed eyes, Wrecker stood up, pulling a face as if his heart was bursting into two and pulling Omega close was the only cure for his pain. “I’m so sorry I disappointed you all.” She muffled from behind Wrecker’s bicep, shielding her from whatever she had to be anxious about.

Remembering to move a step in her direction, Hunter reached for her wrist, clinging at Wreckers sweatshirt.“Com’ere kid.” He kept his voice soft, reassuring his brother he wouldn’t be harsh anymore. Omega trudged over, now letting Hunter slowly embrace her. She was unsure, but nevertheless let herself be held. He swallowed against his clenched throat. “We accept your apology.”

“And ya ain’t dissapointin’ us kid-“ Wrecker cooed, still reluctant to move his hand away from Omega’s back. “Ya smarter than any of us.” His eye fell onto the rest of his brothers, shortly watching Tech’s posture straighten up. “Right?”

The brothers nodded. Omega protested with a snotty huff against Hunter’s chest. His grip became firmer. “But I know I could’ve done better. Especially since Cross and I studied together.” Her voice dropped a few octaves and for the first time, Hunter realized, Omega might not only fear his disappointment.

Being the smartest at math usually left helping Omega study for upcoming exams to him. Tech not even matching his little brother’s mathematical abilities, Crosshair had no problem with tutoring. Hunter didn’t give him enough credit, but his brother was patient and apparently a good teacher. Better than he ever had been to them, at least.

Thankfully, though, Crosshair appeared to have a good day. “Shit happens. Maybe this guy is just a jerk.” He shrugged, continuing to cut carrots in fine disks. “Besides, question 3 just looks like a bitch to do-“ He offered her a thin mouthed smile.

“It was-“ she mumbled quietly. Hunter rubbed along her spine, letting her fall into his chair. Still, Omega clung to his wrist

“I do remind myself of coming across someone named Lama Su as our TA back then.” Tech said, giving Echo the cutting board back.

“Really?”

“I remember him being not the most sympathetic.” He said clipped, pushing the glasses up with his back hand as to not make them greasy.

“Hrmpf-“ Omega grumbled. “He isn’t.”

Hunter drew his thumb over her knuckles. Upon that gesture, Omega timidly met his face. “Am I still grounded?”

“No-“ The corners of his mouth twitched up. “But damn kid- You gotta work on your counterfeiting skills- Even Crosshair age 10 could’ve done better.”

Crosshair, formerly stirring some onions in the pan, held his wooden spatula threateningly close to Hunter’s face. “Don’t insult me, Hunter. That was hideous.” He threw another glance at the paper as his lips curled down in frowning distaste. “Crosshair age 6 could’ve done better.” He corrected, tending back to the pan.

“Maybe we should hang that on the fridge. As a little reminder- Mh?” Hunter said, giving Omega’s fingers and encouraging squeeze.

Omega, gaze locked with her feet, nodded. “I guess I deserved that.” She swallowed, biting her lip. She shrunk into the chair, making herself even smaller than she was. “Are you still angry with me?”

Fuck, if he could’ve been able bend his leg at an especially awkward angle, he would kick himself in the butt. He didn’t deserve this kid. That was for sure. After all his yelling, Omega never failed to be on the lookout for him. Touching in the most distressing way, it left his heart to freeze.

“I’m not happy with what you did.” He coaxed himself into a smile, cupping her cheek. “but no.” Upon Omega’s relieved nod, he tried to sigh some strain out of his chest. “I have something I want to talk with you about.” This time forming the words way more inviting, he grabbed a seat as well.

“Okay-“ Omega began, not shying away like she did that afternoon.

Here goes nothing-

“I’ve been thinkin’ about what you said and-“ he paused, not entirely sure if he should grant her the way into freedom and … potential dangers. He got an encouraging nudge from behind. “I should raise your curfew-”

Omega’s eyes instantaneously lit up as she fist-pumped.

Hunter cleared his throat. “-to eight thirty.”

Her raised victory fists fell in disappointment. Hunter knew she wanted to complain and argue but given her certain stance on thin ice, she let it go, not commenting.

Echo nudged him again, an aggravated tsk making it past his lips. Hunter sighed, wondering how the hell a thirty-year-old army vet could have possibly gotten into that situation. “Eight forty-five.” He mustered, looking out for anymore nudges, ducking in advance. But the next act of silent protest against his thriving patriarchy came from under the table.

Calm demeanor, Tech lunged his foot on Hunters, making his head snap around. Eyes growing big behind his glasses, Tech was the epitome of innocence. But Hunter knew his brother long enough to be sure from whom he’d gotten that kick from. “Alright” He growled with clenched teeth, throbbing in his toe already starting to press against the inside of his shoe. “Nine. Last offer. Take it or leave it.”

Somehow, he had already suspected one of his brothers to be pulling a chair over his head next and Hunter having to ultimately up Omega's curfew to midnight to appease them, but nothing happened.

Omega eagerly nodded, grinning from ear to ear.

“But you’re not going home alone at night. One of us picks you up.” He determined. Omega’s grin didn’t falter, she didn’t argue, and more importantly, Hunter didn’t have the feeling to have made that much of a mistake. Yet.

Echo leaned in, plates in hand and giving them to Omega to set the table. “Aren’t you forgetting something, mate?”

Cursing the one-limbed tosser in his mind, Hunter resumed, mumbling. “And you can have a sleepover at your friend’s house.”

Doubting her grin could grow even wider, Omega’s mouth fell slightly agape. “Really?”

Gosh those damn brown eyes. Fuck Jango.

Hunter reluctantly nodded, holding his finger out to set some terms. “Only on weekends, never more than one night, and only if their parents are okay with it. No missing out on soccer practice.”

Taking his finger with her pinky, Omega reassured. “I promise, sergeant.” She shot up, giving Hunter a small salute.  “I’ve gotta tell Hera.” She rushed for the stairs. At the last moment, before bolting upward, she came back, pressing a quick kiss on the tattooed side of his cheek. Dumbstruck and left with a light shade of redness in his face, Hunter froze, only nodding as she mumbled her thank you’s.

Oh, how much he hoped not having to regret that in the future.

Chapter Text

“Teeeech” Omega excitedly called, running out of the school building right over to his black BMW he was leaning against. Working a profitable office job, he was soon able to buy his first car, equipped with all the technical nicnacs he loved.

Tech crouched down, thrusting his hands out. Omega barreled in for a tight hug. Undeniably, this was his favorite part of the day. One time he thought about growing accustom and therefore losing this excitement. But as the months rolled by, everyday dropping her off in the mornings and then collecting her again in the afternoon, he was sure he didn’t need to worry about picking up Omega would be becoming mundane.

Tech scooped her up, letting her little stature settle on his hip for a moment. He didn’t miss the way how the other parents eyed them in awe. Tech, although not being the most emotionally approachable, was never the one to refuse physical contact when needed. Omega, basically being deprived of love for the first ten years of her life, desperately needed any amount of affection she could get.

Tech reminded himself to have come across a paragraph of his book stating the exact same in regards to psychological growth and development. “How was your day?” He muffled into her hair as Omega nuzzled her forehead into the crook of his neck.

“Awesome-“ Omega grinned. Being aware she loved school and educating herself, Tech knew the answer to be the same every day. Still, he kept asking. Why? maybe he didn’t know himself. Feeling her growing restless in his hold, he set her down, taking her backpack and putting it in the back seat.

Omega pulled the car door open, sliding beside the driver’s seat.

Tech shot her a smiling, side-eyed glance. Out of his periphery, he saw Omega do the same. “Do you have any homework?”

“Already done.” Omega smiled, reaching for the radio to search for a station she liked to listen to. Upon realizing his questioning look, Omega added, “We had some playtime, but I was too interested in finishing my biology project.”

“Would you care to remind me what it was about?” he asked, obviously remembering the details to a t, still he wanted to hear her recite.

“We grow grass seeds and note the growth stages of the culms. Mine were at one inch today already.” She smiled, seemingly proud at her own work. Like she always did, Omega stretched her index finger out in the manner of explaining. It somehow looked familiar. “We learn about soil erosion and how it can affect natural disasters like landslides and cause trouble for farmers.“

Being so mesmerized by her talking, he almost ran over a traffic light. Luckily, he hit the brakes in time, not eager to risk getting a second traffic ticket that month. “Could you be so kind and explain to me how soil erosion works?”

“Of course.” Omega eagerly nodded, gladly passing over the fact that Tech knew the physical process behind the natural phenomenon all too well. “Soil erosion is what happens if wind or water blow the first layer of dirt away, leaving the floor all-“ She seemed to miss a word. If it were for any of his brothers, he would have corrected them in a heartbeat, supplying the missing link for their statements. But being his smart little sister, he was so wholeheartedly proud of, Tech was sure she would find a fitting substitute. “-crumbly.” Making little hand motions that were too endearing to miss, Omega frowned as Tech passed the exit they usually took to return home.

“Where are we going?” She asked with careful curiousness. Normally, an unarranged route meant a visit to the doctors. Tech noticed his little sister's fingers began to tangle with each other.

“Not to worry, Omega.” Swallowing a growing lump in his throat, he quickly added “I contemplated that, since you finished your homework early and without any of our help-“ He paused, causing Omega’s face to light up with a self-sufficient grin. “It would only be appropriate if the both of us fetch a little treat.”

“Ouuhh, are we getting a snickers?” she asked, knowing Echo only rarely allowed sweets in their house and if one of the brothers did manage to smuggle some in, they wouldn’t usually last long.

Tech shook his head, pushing the turn signal to take the next exit off the highway. “I thought about acquiring some ice cream.”

He couldn’t stifle a snort at Omegas jaw, nearly hitting the floor. He considered for a moment if Omega had ever eaten anything similar and if the high lactose content would evoke some sort of allergic reaction. Concluding Hunter sometimes treated her with a cup of cocoa when Echo wasn’t looking, he figured she might be in the clear for a lactose intolerance.

Being faced with the promise of an adventure, Omega stiffened, gaze plastered to the side window. The rest of the way to the ice cream shop, both of them juggled back and forth about which kind they would get. Omega between the hard choice of chocolate and raspberry finally landed on her pick, whilst Tech landed on the same.

Equipped with two chocolate ice cream cones, they settled outside the store, summer sun shining brightly and letting their sweet treat melt quicker than they were able to consume it. Omega, after finishing hers, giggled at the state her hands looked. Brown, sticky cream ran down the crook of her fingers. Trying to lick it off, she seemed to have made it even worse.

Ever prepared, Tech quickly whipped out a pack of sanitation wipes, cleaning her fingers off. “Are you satisfied?” he asked, watching Omega’s eyes light up. She nodded, squirming as Tech moved to wipe her face next. “You should aim for your mouth next time.” He gave Omega a little smile.

“There will be a next time?”

Oh boy. “As long as we keep it a secret from Echo, yes, there will.”

Omega nodded, immediately assuring her compliance. Noticing he had smeared a considerable amount of grease on his glasses, he took them off, wiping the lenses on his t-shirt. He noticed her watching him, obviously biting back on a thought.

“Tech?“

“Yes, Omega?”

“How much do you see?” Omega timidly asked, shooting him an unsure glance mixed with a certain kind of worry that truly wasn’t necessary. But Tech reminded himself time and time again that she couldn’t possibly account for all the details he thought to have been obvious…

He emitted a surprised snort. “Well, about one arm-length worth.”

“That’s not a lot-“ Indeed he supplied in his mind. “Can you see me? Without the glasses, I mean?” She hopped off from her lean into his side, jumping in front of him. Holding his gaze, Omega hopped backwards, asking him after each step until he finally said no to her blurred outline. Needless to say, she didn’t have to go back too far.

He beckoned her to himself, suddenly anxious to lose track of where she was. Statistically, he knew the chance of abduction in parking lots was rather small, but still, he wouldn’t want to risk it. Omega’s outline came closer until her knees nudged against his.  

“Do you want to try them on?” He recognized Omega’s curious wish; well aware she had been way to polite to ask.

Omega bobbed her head, nervous grin spread across her face. He briefly cursed his bad eyesight, making it impossible to catch a glimpse at Omega’s tiny face with his rather large glasses on her nose. He quickly reached for his smartphone, thumbing a picture to look at later.

“That’s so weird-“ she giggled, waddling her hands in front of her face. Minus eight diopters, he knew any attempts to make her gaze more fixated would be fruitless. “You don’t see anything…”

“That is because your eyesight is normal.” Tech huffed a laugh, quickly thinking about explaining a rather complicated topic. But unlike Wrecker or Hunter, Omega seemed to have inherited the intellectual intelligence of both Crosshair and him. He didn’t dare to credit their origin, Nala Sé. Even after all those years of not-talking, the thought of her never failed to make his blood boil. “Our surroundings reflect light rays that penetrate through the pupils, reaching the retina at the back wall of our eyeballs.” He paused, checking if he hadn’t lost her. “You have normal vision, meaning the light hits the retina in the center. However, in my case, the angle of light rays hitting my retina is curved and the glasses aid to straighten it back out.”

“Whoa-“ she mumbled in awe, stemming her hands underneath her chin, watching him with those big brown eyes that could melt even the most solid heart. “That’s so awesome-“ Tech’s heart swelled with the sensation of pride, truly glad to have found someone who not only listened, but constantly longed for more information.

There was a way to her tone, just casually assuring him he truly had found his equal. Tech didn’t come to think of her as a little sister. Height wise, sure, she was still quite small, but the radiating kindness and wisdom hidden underneath the light blonde curls just left him baffled. Ruffling her hair, Omega reached upward plucking the glassed off her nose and handing them back over.

Tech took her hand firmly in his, making their way back to the parking lot. “Do you really think so?”

Omega’s strut evolved into little skips as he ushered her back into his rather out-of-place looking new car. “mhhh.” She firmly nodded, smile breaking out even more.

“Back in my schooltime, other kids didn’t share your point of view.” He towed with himself- utterly displeased to entrust a fifth grader with his ridiculous manners of coping with the past.

“Well,” she said, squeezing his hand even tighter as she slit back on the passenger seat. “I think your cool, Tech.”

Despite having never felt the feeling of true acceptance for who he was, his mouth twitched into something genuine as he tried to breathe against the tightness of his chest. He couldn’t deny that the unforeseen incident of her existence must’ve really been the cool part here.

 

___________________

 

Arriving back home, they somehow ended up on the couch. With Echo staying at work for longer and Crosshair scrambling about in the laundry room, left the living room untouched and empty for a little break of relaxation.

Omega snuggled further into his grasp, legs dangling over his lap as she fixated on an inconspicuous large object, hidden underneath a white tablecloth and countless stacks of cardboard boxes, filled with all sorts of paperwork.

As she grinned up to meet his face, Tech immediately knew what was coming.

“Teeeeech?” she begged, dragging the middle e out to hide her accent. He’d admit it to be adorable.

“Yes, Omega?” He tweaked a little at her side, leaving her to giggle.

“What’s that?” she said, pointing to the make-shift form holder.

“That’s a piano.” He supplied, fighting the inevitable urge to spill more facts, but Omega was quicker.

“Why are you hiding it?” Omega got up, inspecting it more closely now. She got on her knees, lifting the tablecloth up to peek beneath.

“We are not hiding it.” He stated. “We are simply trying to protect it from accumulating dust that way.” He got up, lifting Omega back on her feet and started taking boxes upon boxes of paperwork off the instrument, knowing how beneficial learning on a touchable object was to a child. “I need to sort through the boxes anyway.”

Now that wasn’t a task, he was certainly too fond of doing. But with his brothers organizing skills, that usually left taking care of administrative challenges up to him.

Omega’s head perked up. “I can help you.” She smiled, grabbing a lighter one he had given her. “I’m good at sorting things…”

“I am sure of that.” He gave back, silently agreeing to her plan. With the last box out of the way and temporarily stored on the coffee table, he lifted off the cloth, shaking a few dust particles loose. Immediately, he fell into a sneezing fit. Damn allergies- he cursed.

“Should I go get your spray?” Omega’s arm tightly clutched on his thighs. He shook his head, knowing this one to be one of the lesser attacks. After a couple more sneezes and heavy breaths, the allergy fit subsided, letting him collapse on the short bench underneath the piano.

He didn’t miss the way Crosshair curtly peeked his head in to make sure he was okay. Being Crosshair, his brother didn’t say anything besides locking eyes. Again, Tech shook his head. “I’m okay” He stated, more for their sake than his.

“You sure?” Omega’s eyes widened in fright.

“Just a small allergic reaction.” He reassured, knowing from his books about parenting how much an unknown situation could endanger a child’s sense of support and safety. The last thing he wanted was to be personally responsible for Omega growing up to be a worried, mentally unstable adult. To take her mind off, he gestured for her to hop on his lap. “Do you want me to show you?”

She nodded, climbing on top of him as carefully as she could. He would explain another time that there was no need to fear for his health. Their hands lifted the lid off in unison, revealing a set of white and black keys. He dragged his fingers across, not sure if he was still able to play like he once did.

Back then when… he swallowed, thinking of his belated parental figure.

Mind travelling to another dimension, time crumbling beneath his fingertips, he breathed in consonance with the familiar melody of chords and half-tones. Feeling strangely emotional, he came to a short stop. Deliberately breathing against the rising grief, he swallowed heavily.

Thinking this to be the end of his performance, Omega clapped, grinning upward. “Wooaaaaahhh.” She drew out, letting go of an astonished breath. “I never knew you could to that-“

“Well… I once had more practice.” He smiled sadly, scooching his little sister back upward on his lap.

“Why don’t you play anymore?” she took his hands around her middle, letting them rest there.

“Because memories of me playing the piano evoke certain emotions, I’d rather not be experiencing.” Omega tensed up on his tone, recognizing the strength it took for him to articulate his choice of words. He sometimes wished to have more emotional insight, knowing what amount of information was appropriate to share. After making the mistake of over sharing a couple of times now, he rather did the opposite.

“About what?” Omega’s voice went unnaturally quiet, before adding, “Echo’s dad?”. Upon her anxiety mechanism kicking in, Tech hugged her tighter, resting his chin atop her head, nodding. He must say, they didn’t nearly give her enough credit for how attentive she was. “You guys don’t talk about him a lot.” She frowned, as if that displeased her.

Ever since ninety-nine’s sudden death, a year prior to Omega’s first visit to their house, the brothers anonymously decided not to talk about their grief. Coping with their misery like each man their own, they only occasionally gave each other solace. Never mind the fact that Crosshair’s addiction problem came in between, basically making it unthinkable to relish in their own despair.

“He taught me how to play.” Tech said clipped, to keep further emotional turmoil at bay. “It served a nice distraction, as my mind was full of information but still thirsted for more activity.” He couldn’t count the number of times he wished to be more simply knitted. Always being deemed the smartest had been nice, no doubt, but it served consequences not easily compensatable.

“I get that.” She mumbled against his bicep. Looking down, Tech briefly wondered if she had inherited the trait he possessed. Once being a child himself, he knew how little he had understood from his condition. Years of court assigned therapy and a couple of IQ-tests later, he finally fathomed the extent of his never tired mind, leaving him restless with the most mundane tasks.

“He did good-“ She laughed. A distraction Tech loved to take. “How was he?”

Undeniably, the corners of his mouth twitched upward. “He was quite a capable man. A well decorated army vet, average chess player and” he paused again, heavily swallowing against the tightness of his rising chest. “-possibly one of the kindest men in the universe.”

“Mhh-“ Omega grumbled blissfully out of his embrace.

“He always recited the most hilarious stories from his time in the war. How he and his bunk mates pulled pranks on their respective officers-“ Tech recalled ninety-nine’s warm, honey voice immediately. Tucking the boys in at night, never minding to disclose some details about his experience in the army. Maybe that had been the reason they joined… He didn’t know. Making the father proud they never allowed to call their own.

“He really sounds nice.” Omega’s tone wavered on the brink of fascinated curiosity.

“I think you two would get along pretty well, actually.”

Out of the reflection of the black ebony, he caught sight of her face, twitching in delight. “You think so?”

“Mhh.” Tech hummed affirmatively, snuggling Omega even tighter. How exactly he managed to navigate the daily hurdles without this child was a mystery to him. Not that he had ever been deathly unhappy before, just perhaps less happy. Never quite grasping at the extend of joy life had out for him.

Omega began to clumsily put her hand atop the chords, holding her breath as she pressed a few keys down. Before stretching Crosshair’s only-recently-aroused-out-of-sleep patience even further, he decided to intervene. “I can show you-“

Omega eagerly nodded, interrupting him and putting his hands on the white keys.

If his little sister caught on as quickly as she usually did, Tech was sure she had the potential to rise to protégée level within the first five weeks of practice. Indeed, Omega managed to memorize the tune of “twinkle twinkle little star” pretty quickly. Tech's fingers, used to the stretch, pressed bass chords, whilst Omega's dainty little hands rustled across the various keys, composing the most enchanting melody. Not necessarily because the tune itself was so beautiful, rather the reason for Tech’s hypnotization was that they created it together.

Even Crosshair had sat down on the couch behind them, holding his third coffee in hand, just watching them as a silent onlooker. He didn't move. However, Tech felt his brother's penetrating gaze on the back of his head regardless. He briefly considered whether they might have disturbed him, but concluded that despite six occupants, the house was still large enough to find another place to relax if he so wanted. 

After their fifth set of repeating, they came to a close. Tech noticed how her concentration faltered at the end and concluded it to be enough input for the day. “That was good, Omega.”

Unsurely, she pulled her hands back, slowly slipping out of his grasp. He couldn’t deny having wanted her to stay a little longer. “Do you really think so?”

Tech nodded, stroking alongside her cheek. “Of course, I do. I wouldn’t state that if I thought otherwise.”

Omega finally grinned, muttering she wanted to show Hunter their performance as soon as he returned home. She went to the couch, perching on the armrest and leaning her back against Crosshair’s spikey shoulder. His brother put a hand across her back, steadying her. “Tech- show her the Tetris theme next.” He chuckled, getting a confused side eyed glance from Omega.

“What’s Tetris?” she asked, making both of their hearts stop for a beat. The two locked eyes, wondering if Omega had lived under a rock for all her life, but ultimately remembering the circumstances of her existence, one might as well could have titled it like that.

“Thought you homeschooled the kid? Didn’t you teach her anything good?” Crosshair snickered aghast, shooting Tech a look of pure challenge.

Tech shook his head, scooching the glasses back and rubbing the strain out of his thighs his sister’s body weight had caused. “It’s a computer game from the mid 1980’s. Very popular.”

Omega slit to the front, eagerly standing beside the piano. “Show me!! Show me!!” she begged, reaching for his wrists, and putting them back on the keys.

“Alright.” He sighed, “Final one, then I believe we have to clean up or Echo goes on a rampage when he gets home.” Not fooling himself he could deny her anything anyway, Tech twisted his head, breathing deeply before his muscle memory kicked in, performing the theme for him. Omega’s view remained glued to his fingers, indulging in the fast-paced notes. Her mouth fell slightly agape, baffled by the way he remained perfectly unimpressed with his own play.

Omega applause evolved into a standing ovation, leaving Tech’s face to redden with a sheen of embarrassment. He tried to laugh it off, but ultimately couldn’t resist a little feeling of proudness. He knew how long it had taken him to perfect that piece. 

“Can you be my teacher?” she asked, making his heart swell double the size it was. He often was painfully reminded about how much he had loved to homeschool Omega in the first couple of weeks of her stay. It had taken a lot of time building her support system up and establishing routines she was okay with, which inevitably lead to her going to school. He had felt a little selfish at times. He knew how important education in a social peer group was. Still, Tech had missed the little moments of being able to explain to an equally curious mind who really tried to listen, instead of glossing over his impartments of knowledge like they were something not worth directing their attention to.

“I momentarily cannot conclude a reason that would lead me to suggest otherwise.”  

“That means yes- Omega.” Crosshair supplied, before adding “Only if I’m awake though-“ he made a V with his fingers, pointing it at each of them. Omega gave a quick salute, grinning up at her tall brother. Noticing Tech’s slightly enhanced mood, he cupped his shoulder before strutting out into the dark bowels of the house. “You should play more often. We can't listen to Hunter's wailing all day.” He called over his shoulder, earning a snorted laugh from both Tech and Omega.

His statement didn’t come from a place of snarkyness, nor the fact that Hunter sung like he was a run over cat. Instead, the real, deep concern of Crosshairs statement seeped through. Tech knew it did him good, but he wasn’t as disillusioned to tell him otherwise. His long resentment and avoidance of playing solely stemmed from pent-up emotions. Stashing them in a box, neatly labeled, he had hoped to never face them again.

Tech wasn’t quite sure if he could manage his grief, but maybe for Omega, he would try.

Chapter Text

“Tech?” she asked, sitting opposite him at breakfast. “May I try some?”

Eyes wide, he immediately knew his brother couldn’t resist. Hunter shoved his hand in between his sister and Tech’s coffee cup.

“No Omega-“ Hunter said, “You’re too young to be hooked up on that stuff.”

“But you guys have it all the time- Why can’t I?” she tried to plead.

Wrecker chimed in, sitting right next to Omega, dutifully cutting her some apple slices. “Just let the kid try-“

Realizing he didn’t stand a chance against those two, Hunter sighed. “Alright- just a little sip. You’re energetic enough as is.”

“Caffeine in small quantities can actually evoke the opposite.” Tech pushed his glasses back.

Omega’s eyes lit up. Carefully grabbing the coffee cup and propping it up with her two elbows, she blew against the rising steam. “It’s hot-“ Omega commented with her nose scrunched up. As she took a short sip, her gaze immediately fell into a disgusted snarl. “bluargh-“ she stated, quickly setting the mug down. She reached for the glass of orange juice Echo had prepared for her, gulping against the bitter aftertaste.

Hunter leaned forward with a smirk. “Happy?” He earned a violent head shake in return. “See?”

“You guys really like that stuff?” She mumbled, looking aghast at the three caffeine junkies, Crosshair, Echo and Tech. “It’s so bitter.”

“You get used to it, kid.” Echo mumbled between a mouthful of jam toast. “Speaking of something bitter-“ his gaze turned to Crosshair, earning him a light kick against his prosthetic, probably hurting Crosshair more than himself. “Another round?”

His brothers nodded. Omega drew in a horrified breath, as if her brothers had just committed a crime. “gross-“

“’ere kid, have these instead.” Wrecker said, giving her a small plate of apple slices he had arranged into a heart shape. Omega grinned, leaning against his arm, mumbling a thank you and offering him one off her plate.

Hunter just started staring back into the newspaper, as he heard the slightest yelp. Head shooting up, he immediately found its origin. Omega painfully furrowed her brows, holding a hand at the side of her mouth.

He bolted out of his chair, crouching down, and cupping his hands in front of her face, not sure if she’d throw up or spit anything out. He swallowed hard, looking upward at her suddenly pale face. “Kid- you alright?”

She groaned, shoving him away with her other hand. The breakfast entourage looked bewildered. “Kid- spit, it’s okay.” Hunter reassured. Catching a child’s puke with his bare hands would certainly be something-

She shook her head, swallowing thickly and reaching inside her mouth.

“Kid’ what’re you doin’?” Wrecker timidly asked, large palm firmly grasping her shoulder. Omega twitched her eye, face twisting in concentration. She janked her arm, yelping again- but ultimately sighing in relief.

“Look-“ She let something drop into Hunter’s hand. “My last one!” Omega grinned, set of straight white teeth exposed. It took him a second to find the one missing. He grasped her head, shooting a look at Tech, who came crouching down beside him.

Leaving her in Tech’s hands, Hunter stumbled back. “Did you just pull your own tooth out of there?” He rotated it between his fingertips.

“Hah” Wrecker proudly emitted, kneading Omega’s shoulder. “The kids tough- told ya guys.”

She gave him a bright beam until Tech’s hands, now seemingly out of nowhere equipped with a small flashlight gingerly pushed her head straight again.

“It’s her upper right canine tooth.” Tech clarified. “Commonly referred to as the number 53 in dentistry.”

Echo smugly watched from behind his coffee cup. “Then the tooth fairy will come tonight.”

Tech gave him an aggravated tsk.

“’he wha’?” Omega mumbled, Tech’s fingers still in her mouth.

He turned, facing Echo with something that grazed at the curb of anger. “I would appreciate if we don't educate her in the knowledge of infamous convolutions of lies.” Finally letting her mouth be, he stood up, heading for the sink to wash his hands. Hunter had just rubbed them off his jeans. Must be enough- he thought to himself and shrugged upon Tech’s expectant glance.

Putting his mug down with a thud, Crosshair snorted mockingly. “Come on, next you'll be telling her that Santa isn't real.”

Omega, holding her finger up, mimicking Tech’s knowledge announcements, proudly intervened. “I already know that!” She nodded. “I am not a baby no more.”

Hunter almost choked on his water.

“Right.“ Crosshair retorted with a hint of irony, eyebrow raised at the contents of his coffee cup.

“You wanna keep it, kid?” Echo muttered, reaching out to softly pat her shoulder.

“People keep their teeth?” Omega mumbled to her socks. “That’s weird.”

Echo’s pats became disrupted as he chuckled. “Yah, why shouldn’t they?”

“Mother never let me keep mine. She always took them to- do stuff.” She fumbled with her hands, immediately getting pulled in by a special Wrecker bear-hug.

“Well, we don’t.” Echo reassured, starting to gather some plates together to place them in the sink.

“Wanna keep yours?” Wrecker asked, caressing her head.

Omega paused, twisting her brows as she considered. “No. I don’t think so. You can throw it away.”

Hunter came to a stand, nodding and opening the door for the cupboard. He made an outstretched hand motion, but ultimately clenched his fist, letting her last tooth slide in the pocket of his jeans instead. He smiled as if nothing had happened. “Come on kid, eat your apple. You don’t wanna be late for your ride to school.”

Omega, quickly glancing at Tech, bobbed her head as Tech gathered his portion of the dishes, turning his left wrist. “Departure at 0730.”

Upon that demand, Omega sat back down, happily chomping on the rest of her apple slices. After clearing her plate, she rushed up the stairs, gathering her school supplies, and brushing her teeth. Mornings were more than chaotic in their house. With five people getting ready all at once, sometimes lead them to occupy the two bathrooms in groups. Tech at one time proposed some sort of schedule to make things a little more organized, but after countless bewildered looks and words of protest, he had scrambled that plan.

Now, Hunter was used to the commotion in the morning. In fact, he couldn’t even imagine the times before Omega had come to live with them. He slowly got ready, brushing his teeth with Echo, nearly knocking each other out with their elbows.

After putting on his fluorescent jacket, he went for the kitchen to find Crosshairs slumped over figure in his chair. He never understood how the man could take three cups of coffee but still fall asleep afterward. Hunter snorted, letting him rest there.

Omega’s rushing came to a halt, joining the four men at the door. Hunter looked up from lacing his steel-toed work boots

“Ready?” He asked, double checking the zipper on her jacket.

“Yes” Omega breathed, catching her breath, and extending her hand to take Tech’s.

Crosshair’s lanky figure slumped in the doorway to the kitchen, heavy-lidded eyes looking like they were half asleep again. He suppressed a yawn. “Finally.” Giving them an eye roll, he went for the stairs, only being stopped as a certain someone clutched tightly around his thighs.

Her brother turned around, grumbling something under his breath. Upon the sight, his eyebrows lifted as he awkwardly and stiffly patted her back. “Good night, Crosshair.” Omega lilted, beaming upward. “Sleep tight.”

Not even Crosshair’s usual indifference could withstand that amount of charm. Hunter knew the fucker fought back a smile. He patted her shoulders once more, standing dumbstruck on the stairs, waving as they closed the door behind them.

Chapter Text

“Oh no- Echo?” Omega called. With that his heart sank. He shot up, previously being faced with a task of the upmost importance; ensuring that he got rid of some of the stains his siblings’ shoes had left in the carpet.

He rushed to the kitchen, glancing at Omegas innocent stare downward on the floor. She grumbled something underneath her breath, hopping down her chair she previously did her homework at. Omega went for the sink to wet a paper towel.

“What’s the matter kid?” he pressed, not entirely sure what she was on about.

Omega scrubbed the floor, blonde fringe dangling in her eyes. “She did it again.” She said resolutely, and Echo finally detected what Omega had been cleaning off. Little small brown speckles starkly contrasted the baby blue tiles. Echo went for the cupboard under the stairs, hunting for some disinfectant they had stashed away in the upper shelves.

Making the house baby-proof -or rather Omega proof- had been an unfamiliar challenge for the boys. He sighed, thinking about having to tape electrical outlets shut, getting rid of sharp corners, and ultimately tucking everything away that contained harmful substances. Luckily, they had Tech to advise them on the substances used in most household products. Now however, with everything being placed out of reach, he just didn’t know where the damn cleaner was. He cursed, shuffling a few boxes around and finally detecting it on the upper shelf.

Lending Omega a hand, he sprayed some on, directing her to sit back on her chair. From the things he knew about this stuff, it apparently was enough to make an elephant pass out. He certainly didn’t want Omega near the fumes.

“Poor thing.” Wincing in sympathy Echo resumed, scrubbing the floor. He tried to ignore the complaint his legs gave at the meeting point of metal and skin. “Might have to take her to the vet’s.” Eying the path of speckles more closely, Echo concluded Gonky must have gotten sick after her midday feed.

Initially, Echo thought the little greenish-brown dots on the floor to be gum, maybe dragged in by an especially filthy pair of shoes, but upon closer inspection he concluded it to be something else. Then, just a few days ago, the brothers had caught her heaving up her dinner. Thinking it would pass, they didn’t give it that much attention.

But before Gonky’s eating habits would become a reoccurrence and Echo had to expose Omega to more of the fumes, or possibly something even worse, he rather had the cat taken to the vet to be properly checked over. Vet meaning additional costs, Echo was sure Hunter wouldn’t be too happy. With Omega falling silent at her English homework, her forehead creasing deeply in concentration, Echo went over to the calendar. 

A cheap freebie from Tech's company, but it did the job. Coordinating six schedules with therapy, court appointments and Crosshair’s irregular nightshifts had certainly been difficult to keep track of. Especially now since Omega joined the soccer team at her school. A yellow post it at the end of the next month caught his attention. `Gonky neutering 9 am’ it said, squiggly scribbled “C” beside it. Ever since taking Gonky in, it had been Crosshair’s job to bear responsibly. Being so adamant of keeping her, Hunter had ordered his little brother to take care of everything concerning the cat, basically showing no interest in her himself.

Echo couldn’t deny how thinking about Crosshair, who appeared to care more about the well-being of an animal than that of his little sister, left a bitter aftertaste in his mouth. But this was a fight, that had to wait. Echo reached for his back pocket, pulling out the cell phone and dialing the number his half-brother had scribbled on the note. 

____________________

 

“Who did you bring with you today, sweety?” the assistant at the entrance of the vet clinic asked, voice sticky and sweet like honey. Lids with heavy sets of lashes bowed down at the group, giving their youngest a kind and reassuring smile.

Propping Gonky up further in her arms, Omega swallowed, leaning into Hunter's side. “Gonky.” she mumbled sheepishly at the unorthodox name.

The assistants typing fingers on her keyboard came to a halt. Eye's darting between Echo and Hunter. “Mhh” she resumed affirmatively, scratching the long nails along her mouse pad. “5:30 pm- got you.” Echo nodded, throwing Omega a side glace. Gonky was calm. Eyes closed, she quietly dozed in Omega's arms.

The assistant locked eyes with Hunter, scrambling underneath her desk for a pen and forms. “I need your dads to fill out the paperwork, Mhkay?”

Hunter took a step forward, receiving the clipboard. “We're not-“

What? Echo thought, stifling a laugh. A traditional family?

The assistant tapped her gel nails on the counter, eyebrows raised, clearly waiting on something.

“Never mind-“ Hunter gave back. Echo thought to have seen a sheen of redness creep up Hunter's neck, flushing his face in embarrassment. He lost his posture, letting the strain of the previous workday droop his shoulders. After all, it wasn't the first time someone mistook them as her parents. Although Echo often wondered if Omega minded that at all.

“That's for you-“ the assistant’s sweet tone chimed, handing Echo a brochure. “Information about the clinic-“ Fingernails pointed to a place near the entrance. She gave them a flashy white teethed smile. “Waiting room's that way.”

“Thank you.” Omega politely retorted. They'd done good with her manners, Echo noted in delight.

Handing the filled-out and signed paperwork back over, Hunter pursed his lips, nodding to the direction of the glass double-doors.

“Bye, sweetheart-“ the assistant said, checking over the forms, probably trying to decipher Hunter's chicken scratches.

“Bye-“ Omega gave a polite wave. Reaching for Omega's shoulder, Echo administered a short “thanks” before guiding his little siter toward a chair. He had been surprised that she had been this adamant to carry her cat herself instead of letting one of the brother's take over.

Thinking how tired her arms must be, Echo gingerly maneuvered Omega into a chair, carefully avoiding Gonky's calm slumber. Opting to stand instead, Hunter offered Echo his chair, knowing that the prosthetics made a long stance quite uncomfortable.

He didn't miss the way his brother had been very quiet all the way there. Probably towing with himself in not driving to the shelter to give the cat up for adoption. As the waiting threesome slowly approached the half hour mark, Echo noted how dark it got outside.

He briefly wondered about sending Crosshair a short text, telling him to fetch himself dinner on his way to work, not sure if they would be able to make it home in time. And with the cooking skills of the rest of his brothers, Echo might as well eat food poisoning straight from the jar- God knew he had made the mistake of trusting his brothers’ kitchen expertise before.

Echo had one arm firmly around Omega, knowing just how nervous she got when being in a doctor’s office. No matter what species they specialized in.

____________________

 

“May I take a look at your kitty?” The vet bent down, making Omega shriek and stumble back a couple of steps. Hunter gripped at her shoulder and gave a little squeeze, steadying her. He knew of Omega’s unsureness around people in white coats. “I’ll be gentle and quick, okay?”

Omega’s head shot up, meeting Hunter’s face, upon the tiniest, encouraging nod, Omega finally mustered up enough courage.

“Give her the cat, kid. It’s okay.” Echo said, softly gesturing toward the table. Omega followed suit, like she almost always did. Hunter must say, dealing with a kid with this kind of endured trauma, he was glad Omega was well behaved out of nature. She took timid strides to the exam table, setting the cat down. The doctor went over, grasping at Gonky’s neck, pushing her down ever so slightly.

Omega wanted to jump back in between, interfering on her cat’s behalf, but gladly Echo was faster. Reaching for Omega’s wrist, he pulled her back to himself. “No, it’s okay.” He murmured. Omega immediately clutched at his legs, snuffing into the side of his jeans.

Hunter almost got sick with empathy. 

He was glad Echo had been present. His half-brother stood like a pillar, just rubbing down along her spine, soothing the fear she wasn’t ready to verbalize. “I’m sorry-“ he begun, locking eyes with the vet. “she’s a little frightened of doctors.”

“Ah, I understand. My kids are too.” She sympathetically glanced at Omega’s frightened stature, holding on for dear life. “But I’m going to make sure your kitty will be A-Okay.” She resumed with a smile, pulling the corners of Gonky’s mouth up, checking the canine teeth.

Next, she went to turn Gonky over. Not having calculated the plan with Gonky’s typical cat resistance, her frown twitched. She directed her attention toward Hunter. “Excuse me Sir, would you mind lending me a hand?”

Noticing Omega’s peek from behind Echo’s hold, he couldn’t refuse. Even if he had no sense of commiseration for the lump of fur. Gonky had been looking way better since she joined the brother’s household. Bald patches on her back and legs growing back in, she almost looked normal. Well, except for the too-short tail.

“Sure.” He clenched his jaw, painfully aware how Omega’s head swiveled after him. Trying to not let his resentment and the bodily strain of his long workday on, he pulled his features into something less worrisome.

The vet took his hand in hers, directing it to grab a flap of her skin, turning Gonky on her back.  “Like this-“ she instructed. Maltreating his lip with his teeth, Hunter nodded.

Upon his firm hands, Gonky gave a hiss, flashing her teeth. Not being impressed, Hunter rolled his eyes, shushing her. Again, his heart dropped as he heard Omega whimper, shoving herself further into Echo’s side.

“You said on the phone she’s experiencing nausea and fatigue?” palpating her belly, she quickly looked up to meet three bobbing heads. “Her belly is a little swollen. I might need to check her over with my ultrasound machine.”

Additional costs. Great. Hunter couldn’t mask a frown. Whatever had possessed him to keep this thing, he didn’t know-

“What’s that for?” Omega muffled against Echo’s hip. His half-brother’s hold lessened ever so slightly, coaxing Omega into taking a look.

Slight smile on her lips, the doctor moved to check Gonky’s backside. “So we can take a look inside and see what’s going on.” She waited, searching Omega’s face for signs of comprehension.

Like the smart little girl she was, Omega’s brows lifted, carefully turning in Echo’s hold, pressing her back flush against his prosthesis.  “Like an X-ray machine?”

The vet, obviously not aware of Omegas tragic upbringing nodded. Directing Hunter’s hands to turn the cat on her legs. “Almost. Ultrasound produces a moving picture of her insides.” She paused, plucking the stethoscope in her ears. Gently pushing the bell in between Gonky’s massive amounts of fur, she paused, listening in. “Heartbeat is good- 140 beats per minute-“ she mumbled to no one but herself.

Alas, Omega picked up the line of conversation. “Double like us humans.”

The vet nodded, huffing a laugh even Hunter couldn’t resist. “You’re a smart little girl.” She said, turning to the door.

Omega broke out in a beam. “My mother is also a doctor.” She mumbled, corners quickly drawn downward, remembering her life previous. Hunter nearly felt himself being ripped into two.

With another twitch from Gonky, he let the cat go. Arms thrust to either side, he ensured she didn’t jump off the table. Hunter certainly wasn’t int the mood for chasing after a cat in the exam room. Once again, he came to curse Crosshair’s nightshifts. Having to sleep the day away always gave him the excuse of not being able to participate. Even if it belonged in his realm of responsibilities.

Simultaneously trying to tame the cat and tend to Omega, Hunter’s patience slowly decimated. He scolded himself, being fully aware about Omega’s fear of doctors. Still, his dumbass-self thought it was a great idea to bring Omega along. Now, they were in a fine mess.

“Are you okay kid?” he managed, leaning down to meet Omegas frightened, pale face. She nodded, still hanging on tightly to Echo’s legs. Hunter knew this to be neither convincing, nor the truth. Noticing her behavior, Echo shot him a vary look.

Lips pressed together, he smoothed over the blond curls. Omega jumped as the door shot open. Echo scooching her back a little, resumed to mumbling sweet words of affirmation.

Gesturing for Hunter to get a hold of Gonky again, she pulled out a blue gel, squirting it on the ultrasound scope. Trained hands studied the screen at the same time as she rotated the scope. Her hand motions came to a stop. Gonky had been well behaved upon this point. She lunged with her paw for Hunter’s hand, tearing into his skin with her claws and drawing blood.

Hunter cursed under his breath but kept Gonky in place regardless. He couldn’t blame her. Someone non-familiar, pushing the cold gel on her skin, probably putting pressure on whatever hurt… He had that experience before. Being involved in a nasty sport injury back in his school days led to countless of these appointments.

The vet’s smile twitched to something that seemed to mingle with the brink of unsure amusement. “I guess she isn't neutered. Correct?”

Hunter glanced to Echo, slowly becoming uneasy. “We have an appointment next month.”

“Well, it seems like you have to wait a little longer.” He brows furrowed as she turned the scope further down, hushing the stirring cat. Ultimately, she fell into a smile. “She's expecting.”

WHAT? Hunter cursed, sadly, not as silently as he had hoped. His skin turned cold. Not even the scratch Gonky had decorated him with burnt anymore.

The vet turned to Omega, spinning the screen and beckoning them to take a look. “Your cat is going to be a momma.”

Finally, Omega snapped out of her fear, gripping Echo’s hand tight. She gently pulled him over, face set in awe. “She's going to have babies?”

Echo, catching a snippet of Hunter’s tense face, straightened up. “Oh boy.”

Hunter knew his half-brother had been hiding a smile. All the while, the vet pointed on the screen, letting Omega guess which parts were which. The prospect of Gonky’s offspring evoked a smile out of her. Eyes wide in an aghast stare, her face illuminated by the blue light the screen gave off.

Printing out a picture for Omega to hold on to, the vet finally retrieved the scope from Gonky’s belly. “Three by the looks of it.” she handed the grey and black picture over to Omega who immediately showed it to Echo and Hunter. Both nodded, although Echo’s might have been more sincere. “But there can always be room for miscalculation.”

“We're screwed.” Hunter said resolutely before gathering their stuff up, preparing for a hefty bill. We’re so fucking screwed-

____________________

 

“What the hell got up your asshole?” Crosshair asked, intercepting Hunter as the leader of the huddled threesome. One after the other strutted in. Omega with Gonky in her arms, grinned. Echo came in last, sporting a small smile. Only Hunter looked disheveled.

Cid, Hunter’s boss, and a pain in the ass, must’ve had it out for him today. He offered to take the cat into his arms, but Omega refused. Having no fucking clue as to what went on, he raised his eyebrows, almost snapping in impatience.

Upon that, Hunter gave a patented, stretched-out sigh. “Guess what.” Dark eyes flashed testily against Crosshair’s. “She’s pregnant.”

“What?” Some bizarre mechanism in Crosshair immediately wanted to laugh. Instead, he just retorted a dumb comment. He had a reputation to keep, after all. He turned to Omega. “You’re ten!” he yelled fake aghast.

Omega fell into a giggle. “No-“ she held her arms out, letting Gonky hop out of her grasp. “The cat is.”

“I know-“ Crosshair managed a slight ironic eyeroll. “if you were, we'd put you on every talk show.” Returning her giggle, he got cut off from Hunter who clung to his own head.

“Chrosshair!” Hunter barked.

Damn- after all these years out of their service, he still twitched upon hearing Hunter’s authoritative tone. “Yeah Yeah.” Crosshair crouched down, nuzzling his fingers over Gonky’s head. “What a little slut. Getting her freak on in the streets like that.” He retorted with a snarky smile. At least one of them was getting some action in this house- Gonky might as well had done one for the team here. Though with unforeseen consequences.

“This conversation needs an age limit.” Echo chided, guiding Omegas arms out of the jacket. “Come on Omega-“ he said, shoving her away from Crosshair and Hunter before her ears caught even more profanities.

Hunter strutted around his brother, letting himself fall onto the stairs with a huff. “Oh god what am I gonna do with more of those?” Letting his head fall into his palms, Hunter remained silent. Somehow, that was even more frightening than any more outbreaks of peevishness.

“Keep them?” Crosshair proposed carefully. He knew this scenario most likely would be out of the realm of possibilities.

Hunter thrust his arm out, agitatedly gesturing to the living room where Echo had taken Omega. “I didn’t even wanna have this one.” He hissed, voice almost travelling at the end. 

Not being asked twice to reply something snarky, Crosshair crouched down. “Oh, come on Hunter- What to say against one more?” Damn. His brother, decorated army vet, usually was the face of resilience, but if the mood shook him, he could be even worse than the girl.

Hunter met his face, exasperated. “Not one. No-“ he huffed wryly. “Three Cross-“ Hunter made a motion as if he wanted to punch out the intermediate strut of their wooden banister. “fuckin’ three.”

“Well, someone has done their job-“ Crosshair sassed back. Hunter didn’t take it. Like at all.

“Clearly you haven’t done yours.” His brother’s eyes twitched into pestering slits. “You find this funny?”

“Very. You don't?”

“No?” Hunter growled, suddenly the living room chitter chatter fell silent.

In an effort to smooth out what he had caused, Crosshair clamped his teeth, trying to bite back. Hunter had some grey streaks as is with only being twenty-five. Crosshair certainly wouldn’t want him to be a full silver head at only thirty. “Come on, it’s just a cat god damnit. None of my business if she shags on the street.” He palmed his pockets for the packed of nicotine gum. Fingers twitching, he knew his body needed a smoke upon that altercation. “Not like she did it on purpose anyway.”

“I am tired of being the only adult around here.” He spat; striking Crosshair dumb as a result. Not even waiting for what Crosshair had out for him in return, Hunter fled the scene.

____________________

After a few more weeks of hostility from Hunter toward Crosshair’s apparent negligence, he seemed to have made his peace. Hunter still wasn’t on board with the whole situation. Whenever he was given the chance to declare it hadn’t been up to his liking, he would do so. But it lessened as weeks turned into a month, now already past Gonky’s calculated due date.

The brothers hadn’t outdone themselves on Gonky’s account. Only scrambling about an old moving box, they had stuffed it out with rags and towels in an effort to make it a somewhat cozy birthplace. Tech had also suggested, after countless hours of conducted research of course, to stack up on Gonky’s food portions. After her initial nausea fits resolved, she nearly was ravenous, hot on their heels every time someone just as much as rustled with a packet of biscuits.  

However, the biggest problem with Gonky's pregnancy was, that she had to stay in the house overnight. The closer she got to the delivery, the less time the brothers allowed her outside. Of course, being provided with the irrational understanding of an animal, there had been a lot of protesting, hissing, and scratching on Gonky's behalf.

Omega even had a small bite mark on her wrist that had almost sent Hunter to heaven. However, her tears had quickly subsided as Tech explained that the cat had not acted out of malice, but because even animals seemed to experience the same hormonal imbalances humans did when expecting.

After Hunter’s absolute hissy fit he threw, over Crosshair proposing the thought of keeping the three additional kittens, the brothers concluded it to be reasonable to ask around their immediate family. Given Jango’s aversion of any type of contraceptive measures, there were a lot.

After long deliberation, or rather short on Hunter’s part, they decided on one kitten going to Obi-Wan and his husband Cody, one gifted to Hera and her parents and the final one was dedicated for Rex. With Rex’s solitude in living alone, Echo knew he could be of use of some company.

Now, hours felt like days. Each movement of their cat was met with eager anticipation. Sadly though, meeting disappointment time and time again.

“When will she finally have her babies?” Omega complained, wiggling into a more comfortable position under Echo’s outstretched arm on the couch. Her gaze directed to Gonky who was fast asleep, heavy belly up on Wrecker’s thighs.

“Soon Omega-“ Echo murmured, readjusting himself to snuggle Omega further. “Have a little patience.” Grazing through her blonde curls, Omega let her head fall against Echo’s chest with a huff.

“Yah kid-“ Wrecker began, eye drawn away from the TV news broadcast to meet Omega’s. “it ain’t like she can pop them out like that.” A laugh rumbled out of his chest, nearly jerking the lump of fur in his lap awake.

Hunter audibly flinched, taking the tv-remote from Tech, cranking up the volume in an effort to silence them.

“Mrpfh-“ Omega grumbled. “Well, I don’t like waiting.” Sensing Hunter’s upcoming exasperation, Omega stretched her legs out over his lap. “She’s already a day late.”

“Miscalculations and delays for labor and delivery timeframes are common.” Tech said, leaning forward. “Especially concerning animals.”

Under Echo’s ginger thumb strokes, Omega gave another grumble at that, crossing her arms but ultimately falling silent.  

____________________

 

“Omega-“ Hunter’s firm hand cupped her shoulder. “It’s time, come on.”

Omega jolted awake, nearly head butting against his chin. Hunter sighed. He’d heard Gonky’s pitiful calls late into the night, long after he had gone to sleep. But being a light dozer, Hunter stirred awake much faster than anyone else and obviously had to investigate what went on. After checking for a couple of labor signs, Tech had made him aware of, Hunter immediately went upstairs.

Waking Tech without also arousing Echo from his slumber had been quite the challenge. Given Tech had the habit of sleeping like a comatose deaf person, Hunter had tried a couple of Army methods, ultimately resuming to a sternum rub to get him to a talkative state of mind. As painful as that was, nothing else seemed to do the trick with Tech.

Tech, after setting camp in their living room, equipped with a laptop, tablet and a first aid kit, had suggested to also wake Omega. Hunter couldn’t deny feeling uneasy, given Omega’s behavior at the vets. He didn’t quite understand what exactly Omega and Gonky had out for each other, but it was enough to make Omega visibly distressed every time Gonky made as much as a wince.

“Baby time?” Omega excitedly called out, already half out of bed. Hunter nodded, shushing her. Not even waiting for him, Omega fully jumped out of bed, rushing through her door and down the bowels of the house.

Hunter did his best to quietly rush after her. Coming to a full stop at the living room door, Omega stood frozen to the spot, clearly panting after having made it down the flight of stairs in a matter of seconds. Hunter admired that. Not even he himself, in his best soldier days, would have been able to get going that quick.

Omega slowly approached. Tech turned his head, simultaneously watching Gonky and three popped up screens full of information and diagrams. “Careful Omega” he gently warned, nodding for her to take a seat a little further away.

“C'mere kid.” Hunter murmured. Not wanting to come in between him and his task Hunter let himself fall beside the cardboard box, pulling Omega on his lap, to keep her out of the way for whatever the hell Tech was doing down there.

Omega sternly held her gaze upfront. Tiny face doused in a sleepily shade of yellow from the lamp behind the tv.

Gonky meowed softly, getting a nuzzling head scratch from Tech as a result.

In Hunter’s hold, Omega slowly began growing restless, not deciding if she wanted to act out or not. Finally, she let her head sink, defeatedly leaning against one of his arms and searching for a safety only his embrace could provide. “She’s in pain.” Omega’ tiny, empathetic voice gave him goosebumps. Hunter began to run his hands up and down her arms.

“She's got a little tummy ache but that will be over soon.” Both of them fell silent, watching the miracle unfold in front of their eyes.

The call for action came, as Tech put his gloves on, reaching inside the box. “You might be right-“ Scooching his glassed back into place with his shoulder, he carefully lifted up a very tiny wet lump of fur. “Number one.”

Omega rocked forward, and Hunter with her. Magically drawn to the little kitten Tech held in his hands. Omega sucked in a breath, replenishing her lungs with oxygen. Tech reached beside him to the stack of tools he had laid out. His long fingers gently tapped along its spine, making sure it was breathing before he cut the cord.

After Gonky gave another feeble meow, slowly getting distressed as her calls got louder, Tech hurried up, putting the kitten back. Hunter shifted to the side, one hand retreating back from his clutch around Omega, fumbling with his back pocket.

He scooched themselves further up to the box, pulling out his smartphone and opening the chat box to Crosshair. The unlucky fucker would so regret ever having left for work that night. He snapped a pic, sending it straight to the chat with a couple of dots added underneath.

Number two and three searched the light of day, or given the late hour the dark of night, rather quickly. After about one more hour, Gonky had been done. Belly deflating and evolving into one kitten grey and fluffy just like her, one black with white speckles and an entirely black one with a grey patch over its left eye.

After rubbing them all over and cutting their umbilical cords, Tech immediately went to change out the towels and stash away the medical supplies he had used. All the while, Omega and Hunter remained looming over the wholesome sight. Eyes drawn in sympathy to Gonky’s puny, exhausted form.

Hunter felt his back pocket buzzing.

NO. Fuck no. Would it have been too much to ask for her to just wait it out? Crosshair added a few eyerolls to further underline his claim.

Tech was onto it

No doubt in that another eyeroll followed.

Don't be sour Hunter typed back, snapping another pic of the litter, and sending it Crosshair’s way.

Damn

Upon that, Hunter turned the smartphone off, tending to Omega, who still sat in shell shocked silence. Just as Hunter wanted to verbalize a concerned question, Omega broke out of her late-night tired trance. Suppressing a yawn, she leaned into the box, reaching for Gonky’s head. “Good job, Gonky-“ She mumbled, her fingers caressing between her ears. “Good job.”

For the first time ever, since the cat found its way into their home, Hunter must admit for Omega to be right.

Chapter Text

Nala Sé clutched her handbag even tighter than before. She hadn’t seen her sons in what felt like a million years. The no contact order initially sprawled out over five years had been close to being revoked altogether. She’d made very eager legal efforts so her stance wouldn’t be forgotten about. Nala Sé watched as two cars pulled into the local diner’s parking lot. One almost completely rusted, the other one old enough to make her question the person’s age inside of it.

What a horrendous group they supplied. Her sons, once free of ink, now looked like thugs ready to engage in gang violence. Nala Sé eyed the most outer one. She hadn’t seen him before. The short cargo shorts displayed a ghastly sight, complementing the freakish remnants of his lack of right arm, the unfilled portion of the sleeve folded over and pinned back. His “legs”, so to speak, weren’t made of any good material, proving her intentions to propose taking Omega back right. A child shouldn’t grow up poor.

It had taken several letters from her lawyer to theirs to make this meeting happen. Nala Sé herself didn’t like to beg for anything. Thankfully the reinstated medical license opened a lot of new possibilities for her to get her foot back in the door. The fight wasn’t over yet. She’d make very sure of that. 

Then Nala spotted her. Omega walked hand in hand with the quarter-man, supplying a sickening sight of feigned familiarity. She almost snorted right there and then. Omega had grown a lot since she’d last seen her on that fateful day back in August. The police ransacking her house like they’d been in one of those criminal documentaries ordinary people liked to spend their time with watching.

She felt her towering height bow down, reaching for her daughter. Ever the snowflake, pulling shows so she would get her will, Omega hopped back, bumping rear first into the cheaply produced metal legs.

Her oldest son, face half covered in ink stepped before Omega and the stranger, shoving her further into the quarter-man. “Hands off our sister.“ He growled, not impressive enough for Nala to even flinch.

“She’s my daughter. Don’t make such a fuss.” She crouched, reaching out for Omega’s wrist only to have it graze the side of her youngest son’s jeans.

“He said, hands off. We’re not six anymore. You have no power over us.” 9904 sneered, letting Nala Sé wonder if he still insisted on that stupid, made-up name. ‘Crosshair’. Ridiculous.

According to court rulings, she didn’t. No. And nothing could’ve enraged her more. “I never put a hand on you.” Nala stated, masking the indifference in her tone. A thing she’d to improve on if she ever wanted to have her daughter under her roof one day. Her lawyer had been very clear about that step. “So, stop behaving like the battered sheep you’re not.”

They were grown men, for heaven’s sake.

“You didn’t need to. You had your methods.” 9903 spoke, readjusting his glasses. Nala Sé froze; he’d always been the least complicated one of them.

The quarter-man clutched her daughter closer, provoking a hiss to make it past Nala Sé’s lips. Omega squirmed, pressing her face against the remnants of legs. By all Nala knew about her daughter, they were crocodile ones. Omega had always harvested a talent for them. “Are you okay, sweetheart? Do you want to wait in the car with me?”

Sweetheart- she almost went deaf. What a charade- “The court hearing said-”

“The court hearing proclaimed we” Her son pointed to him and his brothers. “Family Fett, is allowed to do anything in their might to protect Omega from potential dangers on your end.”

Family- She almost laughed. What a ‘family’ they were indeed.

“If you could stop now pulling a show on us.” 9901 said with pressure, cutting any of his further poor articulative attempts short. “Would be very appreciated.”

Nala Sé couldn’t suppress a sigh. She wouldn’t give her idiots of sons any additional opportunity to evoke even more of her feebly held up parental rights. Nala Sé never lost. But she had that day. Nothing ever let her blood curdle more.

Indifference as well as her nose held up high in the air, Nala turned, beckoning her sons further into the diner. She spotted a table far from the entrance in a secluded section of the restaurant, her expensive shoes getting sticky soles as she wandered around a puddle of spilled soda. Nala curled up her lip, truly disgusted at the sight.

She opted for a booth with a straight table, scooching to the far outer portion. Sitting down, Nala Sé readjusted her coat, careful in not getting the soft beiges stained. “I never wanted anything more than what best for you.”

The tests, supplements, regular checkups, homeschool; All concerned measures of care supplied to assure her sons well-beings.

Her daughter squirmed in the deformed half-brother’s grasp. Nala almost found herself shout. What did he think he was doing, gripping her daughters wrist like that? Omega protested, not keen on wanting to sit down. Nala Sé’s mouth twisted into a grin. Excellent job in parenting.

All of them squished into one side of the booth, legs over one another’s, instead of pairing up and sitting with her on the other side. Whatever, this wasn’t about their childish streaks. This was about Omega.  

“What did you ever do that was in our best interest? What a fucking joke.” ‘Crosshair’ mumbled, only granting her a short, spiteful glance.

Memories of all kinds of avoidance tactics to shimmy himself out of evaluations rushed back to her hippocampus. “Still so unrelenting, I see?”

‘Crosshair’, shivered as he heard a sniffle from Omega, now fully invested in keeping up the theatrics. “The audacity you have contaminating our lives with your existence... You’re worse than a pimple on Satan’s butt-“

Heads turned, eyeing the strange booth.

Crosshair-“ She held her finger out, matching his threatening bark. “Don’t you dare.”

As if he was a child again, his face changed, rock-hard features softening ever so slightly. “I do what I want-“

The waitress disrupted the tempers starting to bubble over at the table. “You found something on the menu?” Her sweet voice chanted.

‘Hunter’ threw the laminated menu back without even looking at it twice. “Daily menu-“ He mumbled, clipped.

The waitress startled at his unfriendly tone. “Burger with onion rings?”

Hunter, dear-“ Nala started, watching the horrendous half tattooed features twitch. “So much unsaturated fat.”

“We’re takin’ six of ‘em.” 9902 thundered, the bass of his voice making her flinch. ‘Wrecker’ if she remembered correctly. How fitting.

Nala tsked, head shaking. “Excellent, throw her glucose level out of balance.” Not eating anything herself in this grease hole, she scrunched her nose, a feeble attempt in ignoring the putrid smells.

“Five then?” Still nothing behind the broad shoulders and big head, ‘Wrecker’ switched an unsure glance with his brothers.

“I can get her an extra plate.” The waitress chirped, smile not faltering yet, making Nala Sé think she’d seen worse. “So she could pick from one of your plates.” She offered a kind smile, not noticed by Omega’s naughty behavior. Great job on the manners.

To gain her focus, the waitress put a paper and some crayons in front of Omega’s face. Assumingly, both not disinfected. To Nala’s surprise, Omega, ever scoring high in her creative exercises, didn’t even took notice of the materials. The disabled one pushed a crayon into her clenched fist, beginning to drag her hand along the paper while whispering into her ear.

Nala Sé shivered. It definitely looked too close for comfort.

“That would be excellent. Thank you very much.” ‘Tech’ answered, polite and kind. Just how he’d always been. Not anywhere nearly as animalistic as the rest of them.

And her son’s really thought it was a good idea to rip the custody of Omega out of her hands to raise her themselves. What a farce-

“Of course.” The waitress turned. For a moment, Nala didn’t return her stare, gaze fixated on the youngest, shielded off by the half arm of the man she knew to be one of Jango’s more unsuccessful breeds with another woman. “Ma’am?”

“Just a cappuccino. Low fat milk-“ she ordered, not bothering to say please like anyone of the lesser common folk would.

The waitress nodded, turning with the pad in hand.

‘Tech’ kept his hands folded on the table, almost squished flat to the wall by the rest of his siblings. “May you elaborate on what this is about?”

The stranger cleared his throat. “C’mon, Omega,” he began, letting her daughter hop off his thighs. “Let’s go wash our hands before dinner, mh?”

Omega nodded, timid. “Okay.” She mumbled, voice tiny and unsure. If it hadn’t been for the already tense mood, Nala probably would’ve asked her to speak up. Omega had always been one to play with the puppets of her health course, rather than learn about their specifics in anatomy. Now, Omega’s puppets seemed to be people. And her brothers were too moronic to realize that.

The waitress came back, handing out the drinks first. “I made her a small ginger ale. If she likes something else, please don’t hesitate to let me know.” The young woman gifted 'Hunter' a smile, blushing as he retorted a short ‘thanks’.

Nala knew from experience her sons would try to squirm their way out of there as soon as they could. Just like their father had. Leaving everything behind if she dared to request something.

Stirs the cup of coffee, clinking with the spoon on the rim of the cup. “Well- I initially wanted to propose the idea of a regular visitation.” She hated begging more than everything else in the world. Nala wasn’t the kind to say please and make big dolly like puppy eyes to await the generosity of others. “I was thinking of a time window of two hours at first, supervised, extended to more, eventually unsupervised.”

‘Tech’ choked on his drink. ‘Hunter’, leaned forward, fingernail pushed into the soft linoleum of the table. “Forget it.”.

“As slang would have it: only over our dead, cold bodies.” ‘Tech’ voiced with indifference, matching her own quite well.

“A daughter needs her mother.” A girl should grow up with her mother, not a bunch of clueless, mentally unstable men.

“You’re not a mother. Don’t ever title yourself as such.”

The quarter-man came back, her daughter still clutching on his jeans. He stopped in the middle of the restaurant, realizing how one of her sons warned him with a look.

This was absolutely below her dignity.

“I birthed you-“ Nala Sé almost shrieked in defense, her own heartbeat falling out of line at the accused absurdity.

“ ‘n ya never did anythin’ more than that-“ ‘Wrecker’ rumbled, wanting to stand up but being pulled down by the others.

“Quite the contrary.” Nala Sé’s voice traveled to the curb of hysteria. “I gave up my life to care for you and this is how you repay me? Steal my only daughter?”

“Talking to you is like talking to a fucking wall.” Crosshairs eyes narrowed. If she wasn’t mistaken, she could’ve sworn him to mutter “deranged cunt” under his breath.

“YOU-“ She shot up, index finger pointing at her son’s chest. Crosshair only smirked, knowing he’d gotten under her skin. Nala hesitated, not gifting him any more of the results he’d hoped for.

“I think we’ve had enough contact for today.” The man spoke up, breaking the heavy silence after her shout.

As if on command, her sons packed their jackets, causing her to subconsciously wander after them.

“No no, not you.” The disfigured one said, voice calm. “You still have a no contact order. Even if it will run out.” He reminded, causing ice shards to ripple through her veins. How dare he- “If I remember correctly, we could still get you escorted back home by police.”

“How audacious of you to threaten me-“ Nala sneered, fingernails almost curling up in rage. “You have nothing to do with this. Now get out of my path cripple-“ The man trudged closer, eyes locking with hers. He stared down from above, making her regret she hadn’t put on her heels for this. He held out his hand, determined to keep her at bay. “Don’t touch me-“ Nala took a sophisticated step back. The last thing she wanted was to come into contact with… that-

The man only laughed. “I have everything to do with this.” His eyes drew into slits, voice low and grumbling. As if that would intimidate her. “I’m the one to rock her to sleep every night. I’m the one to hold her in my arms after a nightmare. I’m the one to pick up the shards of everything you have caused.” he whispered in spite.

Pfff- Nightmares? all Nala ever executed were measures of care, destined to prohibit her offspring from developing ordinarily. She’d wanted to improve her bloodline as best as she could. True, some of her methods might have been unorthodox, but she never lost her primary focus.

“Echo.” Her oldest son called, “Mate, leave the witch. She ain’t worth it.”.

She’s fooling you.” Nala said in defense, pointing to Omega, now cradled in Wreckers arms. “Look at her.”

‘Echo’ turned, shielding her youngest off.  “I never got the full picture of how freaking mad you are.”

Nala Sé made a repulsive noise. “One day you’ll see that too. But don’t come shoving her back off to me.” She called after them, the six already passing through the diner’s door.

_________________

 

All the sweet smiles of their mother had been so nauseating, not to instantly spit the drink back out on the table again had been the hardest challenge of all. What had made him give into this, he didn’t know. Maybe it had been pity. Maybe it had been for the final effort to let her say what she wanted to say and be done with her for good. To provide the closure Omega would need to aid her healing process.

‘She’s fooling you’ Hunter only shook his head at that, the cold voice of his mother edged into his brain forever. Omega was a child, not a mastermind. For fuck’s sake.

"Omega?" Hunter asked from the front seat. No answer. The meeting with Nala had surely been something. Slowly Hunter grew concerned at the lack of chitter chatter from the back seat. Normally Omega wasn’t the one to quit her babbling under any circumstance. "Omega?"

"Sweetheart?" Echo tried, pitching in. He clasped her hands, shaking her arms a little. Omega followed him with his eyes, not reacting otherwise. "Can you hear us?" Echo’s voice coaxed itself into panic.

Hunter clapped. Once, twice, nothing happened. Omega’s bleary glance didn’t unwind. Passive, pale, and shivering, she only managed to stare out the side window from Crosshair’s Mercedes.

Hunter, one final glance, He knows the look all too well. Suddenly the driving induced nausea subsided. "Crosshair pull the car over. Now-"

“Crap.” Crosshair cursed, releasing some of the pressure the failed meeting with Nala Sé caused. “What a fucking bitch.” Emotions running wild and not paying attention to what Hunter ordered or what had been going on behind him, Crosshair resumed to curse, losing himself.

“I said now, Cross.”

In an instant, Crosshair operated the turn signal, coming to a halt on the hard shoulder beside the highway. “What’s happening?” Hunter bobbed his head in Omega’s direction. Only now did Crosshair even waste a glance into the rearview mirror. “Oh shit-“

“She needs fresh air.” Echo reached around, cradling Omega in his arms as best as he could to carry her outside.

“Nice try on a highway.” Crosshair sneered; frown illuminated by passing cars. Still, he followed, getting out on Hunter’s side.

Probably confused, Wrecker pulled over the truck in front of them. “What’s happening?” He didn’t even have to raise the boom in his voice to be understood.

“Anxiety attack.” Hunter yelled back, crouching down to steady her back. “You nauseous, kiddo?”

Omega finally reacted. She shook her head, sending hot relief through Hunter’s intestines. Tiny hands clawed to Echo’s as if her life would depend on it. He’d seen her crying before, just not… like this… This wasn’t anything a hug or cuddle could fix. This was… catatonic. Horrifying in his stagnancy.

He felt utterly helpless. “It’s okay.” He began to soothe, not even convincing his own unrelenting optimism. “You never have to see her again.”

 “’aid’hat’befor-” Omega muffled, broken off by oncoming sniffs.

“What was that, kid?” At that moment, Hunter cursed the loud traffic. He cursed the situation the universe had put them in- He cursed… himself. This was entirely on him. On his stupid ass decision to try to make amends with everybody.

“She says you said it before-“ Crosshair supplied, crouching at her side. A-typical enough, Crosshair shuffled closer, placing a timid hand on her slender shoulder.

Tech and Wrecker came around, shielding her off even more.

“I know-“ Breaking promises hadn’t been a rarity to Hunter. Especially not back in the army. How many of his brothers had he told everything was going to be fine before their world went to shit afterward? His heart sank, thinking about those he couldn’t save. Fives had been one of them. Echo almost was.

“I mean it.” Hunter tried to reach out, clasping her small, sweaty hand. He attempted to steady his voice, only to miserably fail and choke on his own words. “Never again, Omega-“

“Mhh” Omega negated, groaning. “don’trusss’ you.” She muffled between emitting bursts of sobs. Just like that, the dagger in his heart turned, cutting away his healthy flesh.

Hunter swallowed. “I’m so sorry, kid.” Instead of letting herself be hugged by him, she hopped back, making the gaping wound in his heart even bigger.

“Well in that case, I promise.” Echo muttered into her hair. His talk with Nala Se had been fiery, no doubt.

“Yeah, me too.” Crosshair’s hand slid up and down her spine to come at a cupping motion at her neck. A rare, comforting smile made it past his lips. Almost sickening to look at if one knew Crosshairs usual natural expressions.

“Likewise.”

“We’ll protect ya, kid.” Wrecker vowed, completing the row of oaths.

Omega gave a timid nod, slumping forward. Searching for Wreckers arms, she let out a howl so ungodly and deep, it made all of them stunned such a noise could even be emitted by a girl tall enough to fit upright under the coffee table. Finally, the stress she’d pent up in herself released. Like a volcano soon before the eruptive state hit, Omega’s anguish bubbled to the top, now dripping over the edge of Hunter’s negligence. Face nestled in Wreckers neck, she tried to shut herself off from anyone and anything.

The lump in Hunter’s throat only grew, knowing exactly how this felt.

Wrecker cradled Omega tight, climbing back into Crosshair’s car, not daring to set her on a seat and buckle her in and leave her without his chest to cling to. Hunter’s chest twisted, noticing the detrimental aftermath his actions had caused. He reached across the two, buckling them in. Even without a child on his lap, the seatbelt was short of not being long enough. But now-

Hunter pulled it out, nearly tangling himself. Crosshair made a disapproving snort, mumbling underneath his breath that it was his car Hunter was about to rip apart. Hunter cursed something back over his shoulder, falling silent as he heard Omega’s sniffles.

He took the car keys from Tech, hopping back into the truck, determined to make it home as fast as possible. Theoretically, there was an additional seat in Crosshair’s car, now unoccupied. But Hunter wasn’t exactly keen on Tech showcasing his speeding abilities in his truck, and Hunter inevitably having to pay the fine for it.

Or at least that’s what he told himself. Omega’s emotional shutdowns had lessened a ton ever since her stay. Though having grown accustomed to her behaviors didn’t mean it made them any less disturbing. A child of nearly eleven shouldn’t have to face such PTSD.

Mechanically punching in the turning signal and taking exits on the highway, Hunter’s instincts guided him home, accompanied by a glance or two in the rear-view mirror to look for commotion in Crosshairs car. Lead-foot grazing over the speed limit a couple of times, Hunter’s frustration about himself only grew. What was he thinking taking an innocent child along? Now he’d gotten his reward.

don’trusss’ you Omega had croaked, making her stance very clear. He’d fucked up… so bad…

Hunter’s hands gripped the steering wheel even tighter. White-knuckled hands supported by muscle memory were somehow able to find their way home on their own without Hunter having to supply any more thought into his route. He heavily doubted he could even string together a sentence right now. Finally, he made the last turn onto Marauderlande, hopping out of the truck as soon as the engine roared to a halt.

“Think I’m deaf now.” Crosshair growled, shoulders pushing past Hunter’s into the house. “Quite a voice.”

Hunter swallowed, nauseous with guilt.

Wrecker, index finger raised to his lips, carried her little body inside the house, darting upward. Hunter gave into another instinct, following his brother. Hyperfocused on Omega’s tear-stained face, Hunter didn’t even recognize his other brothers following their path.

Not even Crosshair seemed to let himself be deterred from the peer pressure. Usually giving in last if someone beckoned him to do something.

All five men pushed through the door, standing in a half circle around her bed, not knowing what to do with themselves. Wrecker hummed something low and calm, performing a little dance, in hopping up and down. Tech, ever observant, flipped the blanket back, ready for Wrecker to put his sister to rest.

After a little while of more bobbing and hopping up and down, Wrecker could finally be persuaded to lay her out of arms reach. Upon coming in contact with her soft mattress, Omega noticed the weight change, complaining in her shallow sleep.

Immediately, Echo perched at the side of her bed, extending his stump for her to snuggle under. Gently, he shoved himself further onto her bed, arm caressing hers and lulling her even further into a hopefully somewhat peaceful dream world. Crosshair opted for her desk chair, turned so he could serve as the silent onlooker. A position that wasn’t too far off, yet not anywhere within close range. Wrecker was positioned in a similar manner, albeit sitting on the floor beside his brother.

The lack of dinner didn’t even supply for a tummy grumble strong enough to break their stares. Tech sat at the foot of Omega’s bed, eyes clear and alert. After today’s display in her distrust against Hunter, he didn’t even dare to come any closer into the room than to stand in her doorway. But with four other brothers pitching in when he’d mess up, Hunter had no obligations to exert her to anything she didn’t want from him.

How the fuck should he ever be able to restore the trust lost by his stupid, twisted sense of wanting to make things right? 

Chapter Text

Hunter craned his neck, listening in on the small footsteps followed by the front door slamming shut. Omega greeted them with a cheery, “Good morning.” only to have a chorus of five adult men muffle something similar back to her. 

The dress from the previous night hung limply in a white bag over her arm. Venturing into the kitchen for breakfast, Omega draped it over her chair. She and Echo had almost spent an entire month on the hunt for the perfect dress for Prom. Sometimes Hunter couldn’t be gladder his half-brother showed some affinity towards supporting Omega through the more girly parts in life. 

After countless failed shopping trips and several offers for even more support in their search, Echo, Omega, and Crosshair came back one day, the widest smile on Omega’s face, and a lavender coloured pile of tulle and satin in her grip. 

Shawl up to her neck, Omega poked her head into the kitchen, disrupting her siblings' late Saturday breakfast. “Hera’s dad dropped me off-“ Hunter made a mental note to thank Cham via text later. 

Omega went in for a hug from Wrecker first. The accessory around her throat earned her a couple of strange looks, considering it was mid-summer. Wrecker’s enormous palm flattened over her hair, smoothing out the flat ironed curls wanting to come back to life. Wrecker and Tech couldn’t be deterred from aiding her to tame them the night previous. 

“Had a nice evening?” Wrecker mumbled, rubbing his stubbly chin against her cheek. 

Omega nodded, a light sheen of red adorning her face-

Hunter quirked his eyebrow up in suspicion, reaching for her wrist. “Kiddo, why are you wearing a scarf?” He held the back of his hand to her forehead. “Its 70 degrees. You sick?” He resumed to probe, getting a firm denying headshake. Omega pushed his hand out of her face, causing her scarf to slip during the altercation. “Hey, what-“ Hunter’s eyes grew, detecting a small speckle at the side of her throat.

“No, don’t-“ Omega quirked, panicked, trying to cover the blemishes with her hand. 

“Well, someone enjoyed themselves last night.” Crosshair chuckled, eyes darting carefully between the youngest and the oldest sibling. 

Omega sat down, sighing deeply. She pulled the scarf off her neck, face already sporting the color of one of Echo’s garden tomatoes. “Oh gosh-“ 

Hunter gripped her chin, turning her head from side to side. “My lord-“ He mumbled, almost falling backwards at the sight of the many hickeys displayed all over her neck. 

Again, he heard someone snicker behind him. 

“I observe the night had been quite… eventful-“ Tech began. Omega bit her lip, saying nothing. 

“Did the fella not know where you mouth was?” Crosshair started on a laugh, silenced by Hunter’s glance. 

Omega sank her chin to her chest, attempts to hide what they’d already detected. 

“Omega! What were you thinking?” Echo sucked an aghast breath in, not sounding very pleased with the situation either. 

“Well quite obviously remnants of the bodily amusements fueled by hormones-“ 

“THANK YOU TECH-“ Hunter barked, making Omega shiver in her seat. 

Not sensing the irony, Tech furrowed his brows in confusion. “You're very welcome. Though I would appreciate if I was able to finish my sentence.” 

“Next time. Mate. Promise.” Echo patted his shoulder. Upon that, Tech sank back, gifting Hunter a moment of silence as he tried to remember how to humanly function. 

Red sheen slowly lessening, Omega turned to peek in every face. “'M I in trouble?” 

Voice near a growl, Hunter tried his utmost to remain calm. Though he was just about ready to rip his entire hair out. “Not yet-“

Wrecker stooped forward, hand across Omega’s torso. “Ya leave the kid. She just had some fun last night.” 

“Yeah, he was nice.” Hunter’s heart stopped beating for a few seconds. “But I don’t know him that well.” Smiling, she reached for her filled, watered-down juice glass. 

At the not-so-subtle implication, he almost felt his entire body clench. “You mean to tell me you were kissing someone you didn’t even know?” 

“I mean, I sorta do.” Surprisingly, Omega’s gaze wandered to Crosshair. “It's Chad- from my advanced biology class.” 

“The black-haired one, huh?” Crosshair reached over the table, palm up. “Nice.” 

Hunter nearly lost it, slapping his brother’s hand away. “There will be no high-fives about boys at this table.” 

Wrecker mouthed a word of complaint, clearly wanting to object. 

“For Omega, Wreck'. You're a grown up. You do what you want.” 

Fuck my life. 

“As for you two;” Hunter recouped, trying to regain his focus. “Why does nobody in this damn house tell me anything?” 

Crosshair only shrugged, holding Hunter’s challenging look. “She's her own person. She can talk with who she likes.” He shifted his weight, probably thousands of witty retorts on his mind. “God forbid you’re not her favorite for once-“ He rolled his eyes, going for the last piece of jam toast. 

“Cross-“ Hunter pleaded. “That’s not what this is about-“ Something flickered to the forefront of his consciousness. Something he desperately dreaded the answer to. Still, he had to know. For his peace of mind. “Did you do more than that?” 

Omega pursed her lips, confused. 

“Hunter means did you engage in close bodily contact?” Everyone around the table shivered. Only because she was their little sister didn’t seem to make matters easier.

“Not really.” Omega hesitated, making a vague hand gesture and sending Hunter straight off the earth’s surface. 

Ready to flip the table, Hunter felt his heartbeat lingering in his throat. “NOT REALLY?!?” 

Echo pushed him back down in his chair, catching a glimpse of Omega’s frightened face. “Mate, calm down.” 

Forcing a deep breath in between his lips, he presumed. “Right. Sorry.” He felt a moment of peace. So unnatural and deafening, he knew it wouldn’t last long. “What about Numa?” 

“I like Numa a lot, but we're just friends for now.” Omega mumbled, eyes wide. She didn’t dare to move. Like a fawn in headlights, Omega stared back at his face, looking for the tiniest twitch. 

“You mean to tell me you kissed two different people in the span of not even four weeks?” 

Very much to Hunter’s enragement, Omega just shrugged. “Guess so. What’s the problem?” 

“What’s the problem? You kidding me?” Hunter erupted into a breathy, deep chuckle. Echo let his knife tumble at the sound. 

Omega crossed her arms, ready to headbutt if she had to. “Gosh, You're such a hypocrite. Ever since I live here, I was able to count more women going in and out of your bedroom than I can even remember. But dare I kiss someone and enjoy myself.” 

Under the table, Echo gave Hunter’s foot a firm stomp, the metal of his feet crushing Hunter’s nail bed. Now a light shade of pink himself, Hunter swallowed, grasping for the next best words. “Omega, that’s different. I’m older and not… not…” 

Oh boy…

“Not what?” Omega’s tone grew cold, ready to slice him. Hunter almost grew nauseous at the memory of that same exact voice echoing from the walls of his brain. 

“A girl.” His jaw clenched to the point of becoming very uncomfortable. Was he sweating? 

Ohhhh, I see-“ Omega drawled, provoking goosebumps to form on his skin. Sometimes Hunter forgot who her mother was… Omega, though not having exceeded the height of five feet yet, could be quite scary when enraged. “So, because I’m a girl I can’t enjoy myself?” 

Pretty much. Hunter thought, not saying it aloud. Instead of voicing his answer, he fell silent, supplying just about enough for her to go off. 

“What would you do if I was a boy?” Omega looked around the table as if it had been everyone’s doing to make her feel that uncomfortable. “Huh? ROLL OUT THE RED CARPET?” 

“Omega that’s not- I- that’s not, uhm-“ He stuttered, hand massaging the tense muscles in his neck. He switched his tone of voice to commanding territory. “please don’t yell at me like that.” 

Eyes glassy, Omega pushed herself away from the table with enough momentum that her chair fell over. “That’s so unfair.” The first tears escaped the corners of her eyes, drowning Hunter’s tyranny. “You ruined everything.” She yelled, stomping up and slamming the door to her bedroom shut with enough force, it might have unhinged it.  

He released a strained breath, staring bewildered at his empty plate. When did she grow up so fast?

“If I may?” Tech asked, leaning forward in what Hunter knew to be a chide. 

“Go ahead.” He sighed, defeated. Tastebuds longing for the comfort of a beer, his rationality supplied it to only be 9:30 am yet. Another two and a half hours… Then he could find some relaxation and go on about what his sister hurled at his head. 

“If you ever doubt why Omega prefers to talk with anyone but you about such matters, you supplied the answer yourself.” 

Tech’s statement was complemented by one of Crosshair’s eye rolls. He reached for the bottle of juice, preparing what Hunter knew to be a schmoozing gesture in an attempt to rectify what   Hunter himself had caused. Crosshair mean-mugged him before venturing off to the freezer to grab an ice cube and dart upstairs, juice glass still in hand. 

“You shoulda just let the kid alone- She ain’t snoopin’ around in your life.” Even Wrecker now seemed to oppose against Hunter’s feeble parenting attempts. He just wanted her to be safe for god’s sake… Was that so hard to understand? 

Not masking a growl, Hunter threw his palms on the table. “How on earth is that comparable, Wrecker? I’m thirty. She’s fourteen.” 

At that, Echo chimed in. “But you also were her age once and I don’t remember my dad ever pestering you about who you were dumb enough to make out with…” He started to gather his portion of the dishes, muttering a “donkey.” underneath his breath. 

“But I never was that kind of negligent with myself-“ Hunter protested, shivering at the thought. The last thing he wanted Omega to become was a bimbo- 

“If you’re gonna imply what I’m thinking, your days’ll be counted.” Echo’s tone grew snide. Finger pointing on the table and a glance so sharp, it could’ve split Hunter’s head in two, Hunter knew his half-brother was in for it. 

“It is absolutely not appropriate to value a female upon her number of partners.” Tech began, backing Echo up. “Women are just as entitled to pleasure as men are.” 

“Pack your bags and go get out of 1930.” Echo spat, turning the faucet on as if he had a vendetta planned against it.

“Look, I’m not a chauvinist.” Hunter felt his beads of sweat triple in size. “I just- I don’t-“ 

To his surprise, Echo clasped his shoulder, albeit a bit too firm. “It won’t get easier. What the hell will you do if she brings her first partner home? No matter their gender.” 

Omega had come out to them a week after Hera's party. She’d been all anxious only to receive understanding and a quick rundown on Wrecker’s history with boys. 

“I- ugh-“ Hunter paused, a little bit of rage fluttering through his chest at the thought of Omega distributing her affection elsewhere. “I just don’t like thinking about that.” 

Tech snorted, aiding Echo in loading the dishwasher. “Nevertheless, considering her age, preparations might be advisable.”

_______________________

Crosshair would love to be able to say he wasn’t used to flattening things out with Omega that his morons of brothers were so dumb to cause. His hand clutched around the ice cube, coldness burning on his skin. There was no way in even trying to go to sleep if his siblings started a shouting match as soon as he closed his eyes… 

At least, that’s what he told himself to be the cause of his attempt at… consoling.

He held the hand with the ice cube inside up, careful not to spill any of the juice in his other hand onto Echo’s precious carpet. “Hey, it’s me.”

Omega didn’t answer.

“Omega?” For a brief moment, Crosshair towed with himself in disrupting her privacy altogether and without any permission. “I’m not standing out here forever.” He poked his head through the door, detecting a lumpish bundle perching on the side of her bed. 

“No-“ She grumbled, hugging her knees tighter. “Stay out.” 

Mouth twitching into a grin, Crosshair closed the door behind him. “Did you mean come in?” 

Omega shifted to the side, a quiet invitation for him to settle down beside her. Crosshair put the watered-down juice on her nightstand, drawing her in for a shoulder-buried-in-chest hug. Omega fought it at first, seemingly more angry than upset. Still, she’d shed a couple more tears ever since her enraged testing of the metal goods installed on her door. 

“Hey- I didn’t do anything.” Crosshair gave her the gentlest nudge he could. Then, she finally surrendered.  

Omega quickly drew her sleeve across her face. “I didn’t either. Yet, I always get yelled at.” Her breath hitched. To soothe, Crosshair began little circling motions. "Hunter is such a-"

“He’s worried-“ Crosshair rather cut her off before he had to do any more parenting. He was okay with being the negligent brother… but the parent? Bluargh-

“But” Omega started to protest.

“He's worried!” Crosshair repeated with emphasis. Why was he protecting his beloved dumbass again?  

“He doesn’t have to be. I'm not that young anymore.” Omega huffed, resting her head on her kneecaps, softening ever so slightly at his gentle touches. It sounded twisted enough, considering she wasn’t even fifteen yet. 

“Yeah, yeah, keep telling yourself that.” He muffled back, noticing the first drips of cold water to run between his fingers.

“What you got there?” Omega leaned away, taking the weight of her body away from his chest. 

Crosshair gestured for her to raise her chin. “To make the bruising disappear.” Whoever this Chad was, he’d seemed to put a day’s worth of work into this. 

Omega blissfully closed her eyes as Crosshair traveled the cube over her battered skin. “Why do you know about this?”

Crosshair shrugged with indifference, voice calm and collected. “I’ve been fourteen once.”

“Funny, grandpa.” Omega sneered, quirking up an eyebrow. “Don’t take too long or else the retirement home will call to take you back.” 

“Since when are you so witty, nerd?”

“Since you stopped crying at 'My Neighbor Totoro.' ” She retorted, voice getting sour. 

Taken aback, Crosshair stopped with the cube for a few seconds. “Those are very serious allergies.”

Omega rolled her eyes, wiping the excess water with her sleeve. “Sure. I bet they are-“

“Gosh, you’re just in a great mood now, huh?” Crosshair sighed, determined to let the words bump off on his exterior rather than taking them as fuel.

She flinched, turning her head away. “You don’t have to go up every time Hunter and I fight and hang out with me.” 

“Says you-“ He gently drew her chin back, stroking across her jawline. “Hey, Megs?” He rarely ever used her nickname. But given the tone of the conversations that morning, it had slipped out of his mouth way before he could even think about it. 

“Hm?”

“Is there anything you want to talk about?” 

“Is there anything you want to know about?” Already annoyed, Omega dramatically rolled her eyes at his clumsy attempt to sail around the obvious topic. 

“Nothing that you don’t want to tell me.” Getting defensive, Crosshair tried to scoot back. Then he swallowed, completely thrown out of his field of expertise. “You know how that stuff works, right?” 

He tried his darndest to think about if Tech had already given her the birds and bees talk… 

“What stuff?” Omega carefully inquired, dreading the answer already.

“Sex.” He just said, mind almost leaving his body. He’d never been short of a dumb comment, but now… What was it about the topic that left his mouth drier than Tech’s regurgitations of entire Wikipedia articles? “And not any of the bullshitty biological stuff about how babies are made, capiche? Don’t care what your fancy pants school has to say about that arid knowledge.”

“Ewww Crosshair!!!” Omega’s face changed shades. Finally, she unwound her knees, only to hide behind a pillow. 

He couldn’t mask a disconnected laugh. “Hey, not so shy. You're the one with a neck drenched in a stranger’s saliva.” Crosshair smirked. Never in his life did he ever think to have that conversation with anyone…

“Can we not?” Omega shyly peeked from above her pillow. 

“No dice. I don’t want any additional little feet in the house. Yours are small enough... Besides, I’m too young and too cool to be an uncle.”

That got a good laugh out of her, lightening the mood considerably. Omega firmly rubbed her neck, imitating Hunter’s attempts at disrupting his own nervousness. “We didn’t do much more than kissing if that’s what you want to know-“

Strangely, he breathed a sigh of relief. “I mean, it’s nice you tell me that, but no-“ 

“What then?” 

“Like I said,” He repeated, suppressing a gasp. “Do you know what happens if you sleep with someone?” 

“I know what intercourse is, Crosshair.” Omega answered, embarrassed eyes not making contact with his. 

Despite her intellectual capacity, Omega still didn’t seem to understand. “But what else do you know?” Crosshair desperately tried to grasp for words. He’d used his daily allowance on vocabulary already. Sadly, though, grumbling his way through this surely wasn’t an option. “There is much more to being together than just-“ 

Omega stopped him. “Can’t we talk later?” She feigned a yawn. Almost as terrible of an act as Echo's. “Jus’ the dancing and stuff- exhausting-“ She stretched her arms, reaching for her blankets. “Think I’ll need a nap-“ 

Noticing he wouldn’t want to give in, Omega leaned back in, changing her tactics. She leaned her head on his shoulder, eyes big, lips pouty. It wouldn’t work this time, Crosshair swore to himself. He couldn’t let her out of this…. 

“Okay.” Fucking dickhead, he cursed himself. “But don’t you dare squirm out of this.”

Relief letting her face soften, Omega relaxed a little. “I promise. I won’t. But only if you’re there too-” 

He? In which ways should he be of help? Crosshair opted for a short nod. “We just want you to be safe. ‘right?” His mouth formed into a crooked smile, probably looking horrendous, but Omega didn’t appear to be very deterred. “I mean, I can’t have a sister knowing next to nothing about getting laid when she has that good looking brothers.” 

Omega chewed on her bottom lip, unsure features sporting a sly grin. “Don’t you think you’re overselling yourself?”

Crosshairs mouth fell slightly agape, performing an homage gesture. “I’ve taught you well. If you'll excuse me, I have some sleep to catch up to.” He couldn’t even fathom how much he deserved that round of rest. 

He was already halfway to the door before deciding to execute one last blow. “And Omega?” 

“Mh?”

“At least try to redirect him to your mouth next time-“ Crosshair shut the door just in time before Omega could throw the pillow she’d previously been hugging at his feet. 

_______________________

Hunter grew worried. Ever since his altercation with Omega that morning, he hadn’t seen her again. He’d spent most of his day fixing some stuff around the house, not a sign of life from his little sister. Initially thinking this could be her second attempt at running away, Hunter calmed himself with remembering he hadn’t heard the front door shut… or open, for that matter. 

It had taken the entire afternoon, Echo leaving for a weekend shift at the shelter, and Crosshair getting started on his first cup of coffee, now snuggling Gonky on the sofa, that Hunter finally listened in on light footsteps venturing off into the kitchen for a snack.  

Sound giving away clues of sandwich wrappers, the siblings on the couch straightened up. Briefly, Hunter locked his gaze with Tech, who was in the process of cleaning his piano. 

Sandwich in hand, Omega stood in the doorway for a second, her hair damp and wrapped in a towel. Her glance pinned Hunter to the spot, before she decided on something, wanting to squeeze herself between Crosshair and Wrecker. 

In passing, Hunter grabbed her wrist, dragging her on the spot beside him. “I’m very, very sorry.” His tiny voice proclaimed, earning him a grunt, and some stressed chews. “I didn't want to ruin anything.” 

Omega swallowed heavily , shaking her head. “See? Wasn’t that hard.” 

Hunter proceeded to fidget with his hands. “You have no idea.”

Ever the soft harmonic, Omega put her legs over his, feet almost pushing Gonky off Crosshair’s chest. The cat gave a complained meow, playfully biting into Omegas big toe. “I want you to know that I'm not that little anymore.” She mumbled, wiggling her foot in order to keep Gonky entertained. “But I've been thinking about what Crosshair said-“ What the hell did Crosshair say? That his brother had the energy within him to ever voice anything was surprising enough. “and I do have some questions...” Omega’s voice faltered with a deep sigh. She took Hunter’s hand into her own, starting to twirl her thumb around his sleeve. 

He didn’t deserve her instant forgiveness. 

Slowly, he started to sweat. “Okay-“ 

“About having relationships and stuff-“ 

Hunter looked around, meeting Crosshair’s face, looking indifferently up from his smartphone. Wreckers was suddenly adorned in a light sheen of burgundy. Obviously more than curious to where this conversation was heading. 

“Okay--” Hunter drew out, repeating himself. 

Clutching his waist tighter, Omega’s words became more precise. “Tech already told me about my body- How the egg travels and periods work and stuff.” 

“Okay---” Couldn’t he come up with another affirmative? Pathetic. He swallowed against the lump obstructing the airway in his throat. She’d grown up way too fast. 

Tech’s head perked up, the rag still in his hands. “For educational purposes, may you repeat on what I last told you? It would be fruitless to elaborate if you're misinformed or don't remember correctly.” 

Knowing Tech, Hunter was aware there wasn’t any ill intend or any hidden message behind this statement. 

Omega stiffened in his hold, chewing on the crust of her meager meal. “Mhkay. So, the follicular phase makes an egg, which travels through my fillopian tube during ovulation.” 

“Fallopian tube-“ Tech corrected, now being tasked with gathering some of Gonky’s toys from behind the instrument. 

“What?” Omega retorted into silence. 

“It's fallopian tube-“ 

She blinked, thrown from the tracks for a second. “Yeah, anyway, my body makes a nest for it in case it would meet the male counterpart and would create a baby.” 

Hunter cringed, hearing the word baby slip out of his sister’s mouth in regard to her own body. Once she’d be in college, sure, but now? He tried his best not to erupt into a cascade of sighs.

“Exactly, and then?” 

Omega hesitated, thumb twirls around his shirt becoming more eager. ”If it doesn't meet the male counterpart, it dies. The nest made of cells gets demolished and I get my period because my body wants to get rid of the buildup.” 

A shiver went through his very core. This wasn’t anything new to him. Omega’s… womanhood had been going on for quite a while now, but somehow his own alienation still surprised him.

Sporting an evil grin on his face, Crosshair leaned over. “Hunter, are you making notes?” 

“Shut the fuck up-“ Hunter whispered, stabbing his elbow into Crosshair’s sides. 

“Any additional knowledge you want to share with us?” Tech’s voice picked up in volume, cutting the two brothers short of any further arguments.

“Don't think so-“ Omega hesitated, clearly towing with something else.

Tech seemed to recognize this, asking, “Omega, what’s on your mind? Nothing is forbidden to talk about.”.

As a response, Omega cleared her throat. “Hypothetically, what would a girl need to do in order to not get a baby out of-“ She fell silent, searching for a synonym. 

“Shagging?” Crosshair supplied, coaxing a giggle out of Omega and Wrecker. Hunter didn’t feel like laughing. 

Hunter’s heart nearly stopped, but then he remembered to resume to breathe. “You could always keep your hands off each other.” 

“Don’t think it’s about their hands, Hunter-“ 

Tech nodded, not shy of hiding a grin himself. “Wrecker is right. It’s not about a tactile approach to intercourse. Despite what you may have heard elsewhere, they are not able to get you impregnated. Abstinence is an unrealistic measure to prevent any pregnancies. The most common contraceptive might be the pill or usage of a condom-“ 

“Meds?” Omega’s chirping laugh subsided into nothing. 

Getting Omega to take any kind of medicine was… a struggle in their house. 

“Yes- Every day one. The pill prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg. In addition, they are able to thin the lining of the womb, so the egg has a lesser chance of implanting.” Tech turned, pushing his glasses up with one finger. “Though because of your young age, I wouldn’t suggest a hormonal contraceptive if not for anything else than cycle troubles such as immense cramps or irregularities in duration. Therefore, I would suggest you’d refer to less invasive contraceptives like condoms, especially since those should be applied each time to prevent contracting any sexually transmitted diseases.” Tech looked at Hunter for that, evoking the need of defending himself. 

“Wait, wait-“ Hunter intermitted, readjusting himself around Omega. “No one here needs any of that. No one here is actively…”

“What?” Upon detecting Hunter’s dismay about the situation, Crosshair rumbled another laugh. “Getting boned?” 

“Cross-“ Hunter snapped. “Would you please stop saying it like that?” 

“I can go all day.” 

“That’s what she said-“ Wrecker answered, high-fiving Crosshair. 

Tech groaned, eyes darting upward behind the thick glasses. “Though Omega is an incredibly honest child, we cannot be certain she would be comfortable in confiding everything in us, ie. would eventually need to know about matters of contraceptive care.”

Omega’s gaze darted downward. Hunter cringed in sympathy. Being put on the spot like that wasn’t nice… But if Tech said it might be necessary…

“But I know I could ask.” She said, retrieving her toes from Crosshair’s stomach.

“And we would always provide our support. Right?” He went to check every face, though remaining on Hunter’s face the longest.

Instead of fumbling with his hands, he kneaded Omega’s shoulder. “Of course.” He couldn’t deny for the topic to still be weird, though considering the talk they just had made it… easier.  “But you know you can always say no if you’re not ready to do something?“

“Even if I’m in the middle of you know what?”

“Always.” Crosshair answered without missing a beat.

“There is no point that will be late enough to say you don’t want to proceed with the actions taken.” Tech mumbled, his grip around the cloth becoming visibly firm.

“Yah kid, you ain’t gotta do what you don’t want.”

“But even if-“

“ALWAYS.” All four shouted back in unison, driving the point home. Thinking someone might not accept Omega’s limits evoked something far worse than rage in Hunter.

“It is well within your human right to be vocal about what you want to partake in. And don’t let yourself be fooled: No is a final answer and should be respected as such.”

“So, no means no?” Omega repeated, translating it into her words.

“That is correct. No means no. And if the hypothetical person turns out to be male, a firm kick in the crotch should do the trick upon resistance to boundaries.”

Wrecker leaned forward. “Or just shout real loud-“

Hunter shivered, thinking anything of that nature could be happening. “If not,  just tell them you have five brothers, ready to rip their head off-“ he growled, not noticing his own agitation until Omega evolved into giggling, thinking he’d made a joke.

“Yeah-“ She breathed. “You’re real scary.”

Chapter Text

The thing with the mom camp was that it started out as a joke. Crosshair teasing him, Hunter snickering, Wrecker laughing, Tech listing off certain beneficial qualities, totally oblivious to their merriment… Somehow though, the idea seemed to stick with the four as for his birthday that year, way back in March, he’d received a flight ticket to an all-inclusive yoga retreat in Florida for the bodily restricted. It had been a cute gesture; Omega drawing a card and his brothers all pitching in their bonuses left over from the beginning of the year…

After Fives death hardened him up, Echo had only rarely been touched by anything. That day, however, he could’ve sworn his heart had made a little jump.

Given Omega’s attachment issues, Echo figured it would be better if Crosshair drove him to the airport alone, fearing watching him leave would push her too far. After breakfast, Echo had gone through the house, collecting his duffle bag and checking over the contents for the travel. He’d packed some compression wear he could put on and precautionarily taken blood thinners for his poor circulation. The doc had said he should keep on massaging his stumps to ensure a good blood flow but bearing the sight of his missing lower legs without something to cover them up was horrendous and scary to most. Therefore, Echo hadn’t been sure if he would’ve been able to take off his prosthetics on a commercial flight. The last thing he wanted when breaking off to a holiday was to scare other bystanders.

The day of his flight, Omega had been trying to put on a brave face, but Echo still knew how upset she was by the way she’d stuck to Hunter that day. At the goodbyes, Echo had clutched her tight, promising they would call each other every evening and text in between. Omega had nodded, burying her face into his stomach region, and holding back tears. Immediately after he’d released her, she went back on the porch to claw to Hunter’s side next.

Echo swallowed, waving back at his siblings before getting into Crosshair’s Mercedes.

“Have fun in mom camp-“ Crosshair had teased at the airport check-in.

“Shut up Crosshair.” Echo had retorted with a grin, stepping back but being pulled in by one of Crosshair’s rare one-armed hugs. “Maybe I find you a single one, so you can quit being so bitter all the time.”

“Funny- Robocop-“ Crosshair had mumbled, handing him his bag. “Get your ass down to Florida.”

Echo had turned around for a final time, strangely thrown back into the time he’d left with Fives for their military service one year prior to the quadruplets. Smile faltering, he’d gulped thinking about the brother he’d lost. Coming back to the states without Fives had been more than just horrendous. It had been his worst nightmare.  

____________________

On first glance, nothing about the other participants looked off. Something Echo quickly got self-conscious over. They started off with awkward chatting before warming up to one another. Being reminded about Crosshair’s snide comment, Echo’s jaw clenched, realizing only adult women in their thirties and forties to be present.

After setting up camp in one of the designated rooms, Echo gathered up his courage to join the others outside. He startled, glance sweeping over a very familiar face he hadn’t spotted before.

“Echo-“ Suu’s french accent chimed. Quick on her feet, she went over for a kiss on either side of his cheek.

“Oh uhm-“ Echo stuttered befuddled, fully lulled into the charm of his cousin-in-law. Heat creeping up his neck, Echo was quick to be at a total loss for words. Between “Hi” and “Hello” his intimidated brain decided to have a shortcut, landing on both. “Hillo-“ He cursed himself, aggravatedly clearing his throat.

Suu grabbed him by the prosthetic and pulled him over to the group; the wide smile on her face was unbreakable. “Everyone- zis is Echo.” Suu announced, a fling of pride mixed in. “My ‘usband’s cousin and a good family friend.”

An even more beautiful woman with long hazelnut hair stood up, reaching over the table to extend her left hand for a firm shake, accommodating for his missing right. “I’m Padmé.”

Echo’s face darkened in color. Gaze locked with his toes, he focused on breathing for the meantime.

Padmé chirped a laugh. “I think Echo needs a taste of that white wine you brought, Suu.” Suu snickered, reaching across the table to put a glass in front of his face, filling it half full.

“Is that what Cut had us make last summer?” Echo inquired, thanking her and taking the glass. His family taking the four hour drive to Saleucami-Canyon to help out on Cut’s farm for harvesting had taken almost an entire week off Omega’s summer break. Echo took a sip. It was sweeter than expected, but it was the perfect accommodation for the sunny day.

Suu nodded. “Blackberry- You will taste your ‘ard work-“

“I hope so.” Echo laughed, hoping he wouldn’t be reeled in again for this year’s harvest. Being on the farm was nice but the dirt stuck in his prosthetics wasn’t at all something to look forward to again.

He noticed the sets of eyes, piercing through the front of his head.

Padmé leaned forward; a true prom queen, so much he could tell already. “Tell us Echo-“ He gulped, thinking this was going to be about one of those inquisitive talks how he came to be so… disfigured. “Suu mentioned you had family.” She smiled; not at all what he feared he had to expose.

“Yeah. I live with my five half siblings.” His skin went cold to the touch. He didn’t miss them already… did he?“Quadruplets around my age and a little sister.” Echo tried to smother a grin. “She’s thirteen. Omega-“ He explained, watching their faces for the unconventional name. “She’s a very good student.”

“Best of ‘er class-“ Suu interrupted, deconstructing the dam of demureness Echo’d built up. “What was it? 91 percent grade average?”

“96 percent!” Dopey smile, Echo nodded, being reminded of her certificate for grade seven… and her school transfer. What a year it had been- “She’s way smarter than all of us combined. We are very proud.” He ended flatly, not wanting to disclose how they came to live that way. God knows he’d done that many of times before, every time reciting her troubled past, hence discrediting all the progress she’d made ever since her rescue. “What about you guys?” Echo took a lengthy sip, the alcohol already clouding his brain. Padmé had been right. It helped tremendously.

Not shying away from the opportunity to speak first, Padmé scooched forward. “I have twins. Boy and girl. Three years old.” She smiled, faltering as her face suddenly looked a little saddened. “I am married-“ Padmé made a high pitched noise, making Echo jerk. “My husband, Anakin… he is somewhat of a menace-“

____________________

 

Omega’s face popped up on the screen of his phone, gripping him out of the chitter chatter with the other moms. He quickly set the chardonnay aside, squirming out of the blanket to take the call in private. Florida in December was a little chilly, but nothing a self-knitted Wrecker cardigan couldn’t fix. He pulled it tight around his shoulders, flesh hand buried in its warmth while the prosthesis held the phone in place.

“Hey kiddo, what’s up?”

“Not much.” The strange quiver in her tone she tried to hide gave away every emotion. “Uhm-“ She gulped, making Echo’s insides twist. “Hunter doesn’t want me to tell you this-“ an awfully heavy sniff followed, “But I miss you… like a lot.”.

Ah, great. He’d been gone for five days, and Hunter was already encouraging her to bury her emotions… He really couldn’t await coming home tomorrow. “It’s okay, Omega- I’ll be back soon. Mhh?”

She sniffled a little more, then a pressed “’kay.”.

“Just have to go to sleep one more night, sweetheart. Just imagine I’m there.”

A high pitched “mhhhmhh.” and fabric dragging over the speakerphone. In the background, Wrecker’s booming laughter cut Omegas further sniffles short. “It’s just- I can’t imagine you to be here. You have to actually be here. I wish you would be-”

“Aww kiddo- Only twenty more hours and we’ll see each other again. Okay?” Another “MhhMhh” from her end of the line. Echo tried something else. “How’s Tech’s project going? Does he still have all his fingers?” Before Echo left, Tech was in the middle of constructing their very own porch swing. A project, though initiated by Tech, required the help of all the siblings.

“Yeah. But he curses a lot while working, so I guess it’s not going too well-“

“I just hope you’re not listening to that.” A sincere, stuffy sounding laugh erupted from the other end. “I love you, kiddo. Just another day. You’re doing fantastic.”

“I love you too.” She promised, pulling away as if their call had to end soon.

Echo’s chest clenched, wanting to pull her through the phone for a tight hug. “Megs? Can you give your phone to Hunter before we hang up?”

“Sure-“ Omega said. She called for Hunter’s name, another fabric rustle indicating the phone had been passed on.

“Hello? Mate? How’s-“

Echo couldn’t hold back any longer. “Hunter? How irresponsible can you be?” He silently hissed as to not cause any more attraction his long time away from the others had been provoking.

“Huh?”

“Don’t tell Omega she can’t say she misses me.”  

Hunter moved, feet making staticky noises as he came in contact with the carpet. “Look, I just didn’t want to make you feel bad.” Hunter defended himself, whispering.

“Omega is already facing difficulties in voicing her emotions.” Echo sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose and being reminded of the countless meetings he had with conversing with Obi-Wan, Omega’s assigned therapist at school and, as luck would have it, the husband of one of his half-brothers. “It’s not good to prohibit her from doing that even more.”

“I don’t know man-“ Hunter grumbled. “I’m just doing what I think is right-“ Hunter grew restless, already done with the situation. “If the kid called me crying, don’t you think I wouldn’t feel sad?”

“Hunter-“ Echo emphasized. “That’s important. Just don’t ever do it again.”

“Hrmpf-“ Hunter emitted, slowly getting behind his mistake. “Yeah, maybe was kinda stupid. Sorry.”

A tense silence washed over the two, making the call awfully long in its duration. For a second, Echo thought if they should hang up, then, another, far better thought crossed his mind. “Please tell me you have eaten anything other than fast food since I’m gone?”

“Well, you know Wrecker has a membership card at McDonalds.” Hunter joked, “but yeah” his brother opted for a pressed laugh. To Echo, it didn’t sound right. “We’ve been cooking a bit-“. Echo knew that tone.

“Hunter,” He emphasized with a smirk. “If my kitchen is anything but spotless when I come back, I’ll rip the ugly tattoo straight off your face.”

“Missed you, mate.” Hunter tried to schmooze. “Miss your threats-“

“Miss you guys too.” Echo mumbled, gaze drawn to the feebly lit porch he’d been sitting on for the last few hours, watching the sunset with the other moms. He’d been sticking out like a sore thumb. A guy in his late twenties, never mind the triple amputee factor… The most the other moms had were chronic illnesses, back injuries or as far as Echo could count, one had been missing a toe…

“How are the others? Heard Tech’s been having a hard time with the swing?”

“Yeah. Not our fault though. He doesn’t let himself be helped and thinks he knows everything better than we do.”

Oh boy, without Echo’s guidance, it seemed like the four boys were just as helpless as children. Dealing with Tech’s autism could be quite the challenge sometimes, but Echo initially thought for Hunter to have a working strategy down. He sighed again, suddenly longing for another glass of wine.

With Hunter’s stubbornness and persistence and Tech’s incapability of understanding an indirect approach, Echo wasn’t quite sure how the four of them ever harmonized that well. On first glance, they were a match made in heaven. On the second, not so much.

“You think you can get to his perspective for a bit?” Despite the decorated army vet status, Hunter was as juvenile as he had been in his teens.

“I tried.” Hunter grumbled. But it’s a shitty perspective- Echo supplied in his mind with a smile.

“Ayayay” Echo sighed, shifting his weight. “Just don’t kill yourselves till I get home. ‘kay?”

His neck jolted upward. Suu waved , signaling that they were going inside. Echo swallowed, already enjoying the silence out there by himself. The different company had been nice, but after listening to hundreds of stories of them humble-bragging with their kids, Echo wasn’t sure if he could stomach another one…

________________________

Despite what he’d initially thought, the morning hadn’t been all that stressful. He’d calmly packed his bag, said his goodbyes, and ventured off into a taxi that took him to the airport. After arriving almost three hours early, he even had the time to rummage around in the many overpriced gift shops, stopping for a weird crocodile saltshaker and a red sweatshirt with a palm tree for Omega.

The flight hat been short and not even half as uncomfortable as it had been at his arrival. The checkout and second pass through the x-ray device at airport security screening had been a bit of a hassle. Rummaging for his implant card hadn’t left the Florida security all that convinced, so Echo didn’t really have a choice other than to unpack his bag completely only to find it at the very bottom.

But as soon as he went off board to set foot into his hometown, he was hit with a tranquility not even three months in a yoga camp could’ve resulted in.

"ECHO!" someone called behind the barrier from the gate. Out of instinct, he knew exactly how this high-pitched voice belonged to. He turned around; duffle bag previously swung over his shoulders knocked to the ground.

Omega came barreling down from underneath the nylon ribbon, stopping on her toes as to not gather too much momentum before she wrapped her arms around his waist. She’d made the mistake of coming at him in full force once before, causing Echo to lose his balance and knocking him clear off his feet. "Omega? Have you grown? You’re so tall!" Echo asked, knowing it would immediately put a smile on his sister’s face.

"I don't think so." Omega muffled into his shirt, trying her hardest not to sniffle. "I missed you sooooooomuch!!!"

Echo slid down on his knees, pulling her close and giving her cheek a little smooch. "I missed you too, sweetheart." His hand traveled around her back, the prosthesis on his right locking her in a firm position. Chin rested on top of her shoulder; Echo closed his eyes for a second.

Gosh, really, he had missed her. The evenings spent with the other moms had been nice, no doubt, but it really couldn’t be counted as a substitute for cuddles from his youngest sibling. He would take the huddles on their small couch over watching the stupid sunset in silence a tenfold.

Then, Echo spotted the rest of the group slowly approaching and shimmying themselves past other passengers. Not two had come as he initially thought, but all five of them. He couldn’t hide a stupid smile from breaking free. After all those years with the quadruplets, Echo still thought of him as a lesser part of the household. Staying where he was at earned him the title of a member, but still, the feeling lingered around he never quite belonged there.

“Got some cooking advice for us?” Crosshair smirked, breaking the sentimental silence mounting up.

Noo!” Echo shook his head, knowing he had to make the berry cobbler recipe one of the moms wrote out for him disappear for a while.

“Given your talents, you'd certainly benefit from a little advice.” Tech chided crisp, stubbing him with the tip of his shoe.

Crosshair made a face, Echo was glad Omega couldn't see from her position. The ends of his thighs coming up with complaints, Echo stood back up again, letting Omega's face rest against his stomach.

Each of their faces held on to an exhausted smile. Echo wasn't sure if he wanted to know what had been going on.  “You guys look a little worse for wear.” He tried, gently nudging them with his words.

“Could be ‘cause we’ve been cleanin’ all day-“ Wrecker mumbled sheepishly, causing one of Echo’s eyebrows to quirk up.

“Yeah, Mate.” Hunter mumbled, coming closer to stroke over Omega's hair. Like her life depended on it, Omega wasn’t pulling away from Echo in the slightest. “We wanted you to keep your- What was that called again?”

“Shanti?” Echo grinned, sweeping up and down Omega's back. Suddenly, he felt bad for his harsh words the night previous. “You guys-“ He stuttered. “That's very thoughtful.” Echo praised, knowing his siblings needed it.

“I dusted off all the surfaces and took care of all the trash-“ Omega mumbled from below, earning herself a head pat (and an extra sticker).

“Very diligent.” Echo rumbled, directing his siblings toward the exit of the airport. He wasn't keen on standing in the same spot forever and after the long journey, his legs hurt a lot. “I hope your brothers helped?”

“Course we did! The kid can't reach everything. Even made dinner for ya.” Wrecker proclaimed proudly. “Oven mac'n'cheese with breadcrumbs on top-“

“Did you remember to turn it off before you left?” Echo's grip around Omega's shoulder tightened, briefly a little concerned for how fireproof the house was. Echo would’ve normally gone for something lighter, but after a week of green smoothies and salads, he longed for something less nutritious.

Wrecker looked at Hunter for that. Not for long, but still a little too lengthy for comfort.

Hunter nodded.

“Well in that case, it’s good to be home.”