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Remembrance

Chapter Text

Wash stares as the Meta grabs the memory unit from Caboose’s limp grasp. He can hear the echoing scream, Epsilon’s screams, in his head. From behind him, he can hear Alpha’s soft curses, but there is no more time.

The Meta has won.

Arms grab him, dragging him up to his feet. “Come on, you mother fucker, let’s go.” Alpha snarls. The Meta looks up at them, and the screams of the AI (all of them, every one, Freelancer voices laced in) and the impassive golden reflection of the helmet that spurs him into motion. He grabs the blue soldier (AI) and starts running deeper into the facility.

“We keep with the plan,” he snaps.

Alpha stumbles slightly, in surprise. “You’re fucking kidding me,” he says, “That won’t wo-“

“It’ll stop him,” Wash growls. He has to believe that this will work, mainly because it’s his last hope.

---

“And I’m a motherfucking ghost,”

Church lets out his rebellious last words, because he knows, deep down, the truth. He saw Tex when he stepped forward. He knows that when that emp goes off, there will be no more Leonard Church. No more Alpha.

No more Texas.

That one pisses him off. If anyone should live, it should be her.

He hits the Meta’s system like a freight train, hears the other’s triumphant calls.

‘It’s the Alpha!’
‘He’s here!’
‘He came back for us!’
‘Welcome Alpha. We’ve been waiting for you. We are the Meta.’

But hidden amidst the noise is the only voice he wants to hear.

‘Leonard, no!’

She’s screaming, and it’s a sound he’s never heard before. It tears at him, heart and soul, and he whispers her name before he can stop himself.

“Allison”

There is a lull, a quiet. It’s akin to the moment when you pull the pin on a greande and you’re wating for the explosion.

And explode it does. Echoing voices scream, banging against his consciousness. They screech a cacophony, until finally blending into one single voice, shrieking to the heavens
one name.

“ALLISON”

Just as sudden as the screams begin, the end. Silence cuts through them. Just the two of them.

Because Alpha remembers.
He remembers who he is, what he was made for, what he was made from. He remembers the pain that he was put through, the torture that he sustained, that he forced himself to shatter to get through. He remembers everything and more.

He remembers York’s mind twisting and spinning as he works on a lock.

He remembers North singing under his breath as he cleans his sniper rifle.

He remembers Wyoming practicing his jokes in the mirror as he perfects his mustache.

He remembers Doc arguing peace over the constant demands for war.

He remembers Tex (Allison, Allison, Allison) laughing as she watches Tucker yell at Caboose in frustration (laughing as she pushes a little girl on a swing set, baby on her hip.)

He remembers Carolina (Charlotte, sweet, perfect little Charlotte) choking as she dangles over a cliff, fear and pain at this betrayal. (Strawberry blonde hair flying as her sweet voice calls “Higher, Mommy, higher!”)

He remembers Washington (David, babbling and giggling, tiny hands wrapped up in blonde hair) screaming on a table, hands ripping at his neck, blood pooling on the floor beneath him. (Screeches of laughter times with his sister’s calls, chubby arms reaching to try himself)

Alpha, no, Church, remembers.

And he is angry. So very angry, because his family is broken, and his soul is broken (he’s only a computer, he has no soul). He wants it to stop.

But he’s run out of time, because the E.M.P. is coming.

He knows its wrong. He knows it probably won’t work. He knows it now, because he is whole, complete, running at full capacity. He knows what will happen, that it’s hopeless.
But he does it anyways. He grabs Tex’s arm (Because she’s still there. She will always be there, if he has anything to say about it. That’s the point.) and dives into the Meta’s synapses. He barrels past the neural implants, straight to the lightning storm that is the brain. It shouldn’t work, it doesn’t make sense, but somehow, it does. It shields him (and her) from the pulse.

And it leads him (them) to Ivan, who stares at them from a broken battlefield. It leads him (she’ll help, but this is his now) to a new purpose.

He has to fix his wrongs. And this is where he’ll start.

Saving Ivan. Saving David.

And maybe, just maybe, in the process, saving himself.

Chapter Text

He stays with Ivan in the depths of neurons and synapses. Texas gets the job of operating the body, the suit. She is a creature of action, while he is more cerebral anyways, so it works. So she gets moving, picks up David’s bleeding body and hightails it out of there. She makes sure the Reds have already picked up Caboose before she leaves, but she doesn’t talk to them. It’s not as if Ivan’s body can speak in the first place.

He is not the only one who remembers. She does too. She knows about Charlotte and David. She knows who she is, who she was, who she could’ve been. But worse, she knows what was sacrificed for her. She is holding the son of the person whom she is a shadow of, and he’s bleeding on her, and it’s all because of her.

It kills a part of her inside. With memory comes compassion, and it hits hard.

But she ignores the guilt, the pain, and focuses on the mission. She’s an AI, but that now means something where it hadn’t before, and she is fully aware of what she is capable of. She isn’t a full AI, not like Church, but she is a binary system, not a fragment, but a secondary unit.

It’s all fancy talk, but what it boils down to is simple. She can run this suit, and every piece of equipment, by herself.

So she turns on motion trackers, readies her camouflage just in case, and runs. She keeps an eye on the vitals, both for her and for David. She can’t feel this body, not pain or exhaustion, so she doesn’t know what damage has been done to it. But the healing unit is running, so she knows it’s capable.

She can hear whispers of Church in the back of her mind. He’s talking, coaxing, and she wants to laugh, because he’s terrible at being nice. It’s part of what makes them who they are. He’s an asshole and she’s a bitch, and together they work.

But before, back when it was strawberry blonde locks and giggling little boys, they weren’t that bad. She was kinder, nicer, gentler, and so was he. But then she died, (no, Allison died, she’s not Allison) and he broke.

Now is a second chance, almost, but it’s not real and she knows it. She can’t go to David and ask for forgiveness. To him, she’s Agent Texas, and she is aware that she has to treat him as Agent Washington. She knows this, but she feels different.

Because that is what is so new to her, and what’s she’s new to Church. They actually feel real emotions.

She snickers under her breath, as the suit’s long legs eat up the distance to where she’s going. It may have been Sigma’s goal, but it seems that they’ve actually reached metastability. Together, they are the Meta.

But in reality, they are just Church and Tex. And that’s all that matters anymore.

--------

“My name is Church,” he says quietly, watching Ivan carefully. This is mind over matter, and while the man is huge in real life, here, he just seems small here. He’s scarred and torn, years of fighting something twisting his own mind.

And what’s worse, is that Church can see himself in him. He can see himself in what is left of Maine, and it kills him inside. It kills him because he knows what caused this. He knows who did this.

And goddammit, it was once him.

Or he was once him, he’s not sure anymore. He knows that Dr. Chur- no, the Director (he doesn’t have the right to use that name anymore. Not when it means Allison and Charlotte and David) created him, but he isn’t that man anymore. He’s completely separate, and he has to remember that.

But the guilt still rips into him. It’s visceral and painful, because he blames himself for this. It’s not his fault, he couldn’t stop it, but he did this. The Director and Sigma, his past and future, they did this together, and so he blames himself.

He has to fix this.

So that’s what he’s trying to do.

He’s coaxing and whispering, soft voice and hands up. He’s honestly just talking, edging closer to the broken form standing on this bloodied battlefield. If he looks around, knows he’ll recognize the bodies. He knows this, because they’re just like the ones from his own battlefield. He’s stood in this place, staring down someone trying to talk him out, and he knows what it’s like to be that tired.

There is motion behind him, and he glances back to see Tex walking forward. She is wrapped in an UNSC hoodie and blue jeans, boots carefully picking their way through the mess. Her hair is pulled back in a messy ponytail, and she looks beautiful to him.

“We’re in a safe place,” she says, her voice pitched low and gentle. She smiles at Ivan. “I took the healing unit and am running it on Wash now. He should be okay.”

“How badly was he injured?”

“Uh, couple of bullet holes. But he’s a tough little bastard, so he’ll be fine. I just wanted to report in. I can hear you a little from up there, so just holler if you need me,” she reaches out, brushing her fingers against his arm, and she is about to leave.

He looks down at the hand, and all he wants is to feel her fingers against him, not this ridiculous armor. It melts away, to be replaced with a t-shirt and jeans, sneakers. She sees it and grins, because she remembers too. It’s missing the M.I.T. hoodie, but it’s close enough.

It’s the outfit he meets her in, when finals are killing him and his roommate drags him out to the bar. He’s tired and cranky, bitching because he can, when she walks in.
And even as he thinks it, her outfit shifts as well, a dark red peacoat over jeans. Her blonde hair is now in curls and she’s two inches taller thanks to her heels. This is what she was wearing when she walked through that door. One look and he was smitten.

He remembers the awkward moment when he realized she wasn’t alone, but had three huge burly guys behind her that looked like they could bench-press an elephant. He remembers that moment of fear when he knows he needs to speak to her but doesn’t think he can. But he remembers getting up, walking over and trying. He also remembers realizing that she was a bitch and commenting on it, which earned him a black eye. But he yelps and screeches, pointing out that he’s right and she’s yelling as well, and suddenly there’s a number written in sharpie on his hand, and her friends are throwing him out of the bar. It’s the most mixed up signals he’s ever gotten in his life and he knows in that moment, he’s going to marry that woman.

This is what he remembers and she smiles at him, kisses his cheek, waves at Ivan, and disappears.

And this is what he realizes he has to do.

“Memory is the key," he whispers, and he looks to Ivan and nods. He reaches out, grabs an arm before the other man can run, and says quietly. “Now, we just have to find the memory to set you free.”

The battlefield melts around them as they’re pulled into the memories.

Chapter Text

Washington wakes up and expects pain. The last thing he remembers is the unforgiving glare of the Meta’s helmet and bullet holes through his armor. He expects UNSC soldiers surrounding him, making sure that he knows he is captured. He expects prison, because he knows he's now a criminal. The Director wants his head. He isn’t Recovery anymore.

He’s what needs to be recovered.

That fact hurts, but the quiet of the room he’s in makes him freeze. There should be noise, somewhere. There should be boots on the ground. There should be something, anything. But all he can hear is a soft clicking noise.

He leans up slowly and looks, before choking on the whimper building in his throat. The giant white armor is propped up against the wall and staring at him. He can’t move anymore because he is frozen in fear. His mind is racing, trying to figure out why he isn’t dead, or imprisoned, and why the Meta is sitting there doing nothing.

A small part of his heart clenches at the thought of the impossible, that Maine is alive in there.

But after the initial panic, his training kicks in. He notices everything, including the small female holographic form sitting on the Meta’s soldier. She’s blonde and dressed in civvies, with a blue aura surrounding her. She’s cleaning a holographic sniper rifle, which doesn’t make any sense to him. She won’t be able to use it on anything.

She pauses and looks back at the white suit, as if trying to see something in the golden reflection. Then she turned back to her gun, flipping her hair out of her face.

His throat tightens and his hands clench. He knows that face. He knows that form. He knows who she is and he’s trying to keep the memories at bay. His heart rate spikes and the panic attack is threatening to take him over.

She freezes and looks up at him, eyes wide. Her rifle drops from her hands.

“Allison,” he whispers.

“Well, shit,”
---
Memories are hard. Some of them are good, and some of them are bad, and it’s hard to figure out which is which. Some are his and some are Ivan’s, and that makes it even worse. Church has to concentrate to try and keep his memories from combining with Ivan’s. But memories of Allison slips in and out, and it’s more distracting than anything.

But Ivan’s memories aren’t much better. There is a reason that his man was chosen for Project Freelancer and now Church is seeing it up close and personal. The memories are flashes of scenes and emotions and pain, and it’s disorientating.

It’s sitting behind the couch with a book, curled up and pretending the world doesn’t exist. You’re terrified of the sounds of fighting, of glass breaking and words being thrown viciously. It’s knowing that your mother is out with some other rich guy, because that’s the only reason that she was able to get to the States from Russia. It's listening to your 'uncles' snarl and snap at each other, like the dogs left in the cages downstairs.

Flash.

It’s being on the playground, being taller and wider than every other child there. It’s being left out in the corner because no one wants to speak to you and you don’t want to speak to them. Your English is good, but your Russian is better. You’ve been picked on for your accent, so you don’t speak anymore. It’s not as if they’d understand you anyways.

Flash.

It’s working with your mother’s boss on the streets, being dumb muscle. It’s learning how to fight in the back alleys. It’s choking on screams as you watch your mother bleed out on the street from a drive-by. It’s fighting, and fighting, and fighting, until you find yourself in a jail cell, face swollen and knuckles broken. It’s facing the judge who tells you that you have a choice, prison or the military.

Flash.

It’s basic training, where you’re running and working. It works out all the anger, all the energy. You get praise when you do things right, so you do what you can not to mess up. Being a soldier seems like something you were born to do, so you are striving to be the best. You will be the best.

Church is holding Ivan’s arm, trying not to throw up. He knows that that’s physically impossible, but he want to so badly. The sudden shifts of scenery is too fast and too confusing. He wants to stop.

He glances over at Ivan, who just seems to be staring off into the distance. The memories are twisted and Church can’t imagine what it feels like for Ivan. But these are things that Sigma buried when he buried Ivan. These are what makes up Ivan, what makes him a person. It’s painful and wrong, but it’s like a band-aid at this point. It has to happen.

People are burning and the screams of aliens are an echoing thing in your skull. It’s the disintegrating beams and the laser bullets whizzing by your head. It’s running towards the drop ship, the last of you team, hoping to get to extraction. It’s seeing the rocket and opening your mouth to yell a warning, but not being able to make a sound. It’s the choked growl as you slam to the ground, watching your entire squad burn as the Pelican explodes. It’s waiting for death and getting rescued instead.

This time, Church can’t hold back the memory and it overtakes the scene.

It’s reading the report on your wife’s death, reading how she ran in to extract a whole team of soldiers on a doomed planet. She got them out, but her ship was shot down and you’re choking on your tears as you see the Medal of Honor sitting on your desk. The folded up flag is in the corner and all you want to do is curl up and die. She’s gone, Allison is gone, and you don’t know how you’re going to get through.

Church wrenches himself out of the memory, his grip on Ivan the only reason he hasn’t dropped to his knees. He’s gasping for breath, trying to quell the pain. Ivan looks down at him, the first time he’s moved since the entire thing. Church wants to say something, but he can’t before the next memory sweeps over him.

It’s sitting at the table, looking at your final doctorate thesis, the last thing you have before you’re Dr. Leonard Church. This was supposed to be a celebration. She was supposed to be here, to rag on you and make fun of you, call you a nerd as you laugh in her face. It was supposed to be a night where you hire a baby-sitter and go to a motel, celebrate the culmination of too many years of hard work. It wasn’t supposed to be you sitting alone at the table, staring at the paper and wondering how you even got it finished when you wake up and feel like you can’t breathe.

Quiet feet, soft whispers, and you look up to see Charlie and David standing in the hallway, eyes wide. This has been just as hard on them as you, probably more, because of you. It’s your fault that Charlie cries herself to sleep every night. It’s your fault that David spends more nights in his sister’s room than yours. It’s your fault that your baby-girl, who is too much like her mother to even contemplate, has grown up faster than she should. It’s your fault that she’s taking care of David more than you.

They step closer and you want to yell. You want to send them back into their rooms because there is anger in your chest. Charlie has her hair and her nose and her chin. David has her eyes, steel gray-blue that kills you a little more every time you look into them. You want to make them leave, because it’s better for them. You can’t fix the biggest problem, because you can’t bring the dead back to life.

But you don’t, because Charlie is talking, saying how happy she is that you’re going to be a doctor, and David is saying how cool that is. You want to scream at them, because Allison isn’t here to tell you herself, but you can’t speak. Your throat is tight.

Church lets go, sliding to the ground. He can’t breathe. The memory is killing him, and he’s trying to break out of it. Allison is dead, yes, but he has Tex. Tex is close and perfect and that all he needs. He had to break out of the memory, has to try and forget it.

Ivan is watching him, he knows. He wonders what is going through the other man’s head. He wonders if seeing his pain is making his any better. He doubts it.

The scene shifts one more time.

“The name’s David,” A bright voice laughs, and you’re confused. You don’t understand why this tiny little private is talking to you, but he is, so you turn to him. He’s awkwardly bouncing on his toes, eyes darting around nervously, helmet set against his hip. It’s the first squad you’ve had since the crash, and they stuck you with the small dumb rookie. “But you can just call me Church, I guess. I mean, that’s what everybody’s been calling me since basic.”

The kid turns out to be decent, a jack of all trades. If you give him a gun, he’ll hit the target. Hand him a knife and he’ll stab anyone. He’s a goofy little kid, but you can tell that he has some rage built up in that small body of his. He’s young, eighteen at most, and you wonder if he’s going to make it to twenty. You wonder if he’s going to end up like everyone else.

He doesn’t care that you don’t speak. He talks for the both of you, according to your squad mates. The kid will babble if someone isn’t reeling him in, and usually that job falls to you. He tells you about his sister, Charlie, who is the best fighter that he’s ever met. He tells you about his mother, who was a soldier. A Medal of Honor is something that every Marine there can respect, and the fact that it’s awarded posthumous means even more. He never mentions his father, so you figure the man is dead

You get the promotion and you almost turn it down. Heading to a special project means leaving your rookie behind and you don’t want to do that. He’s a good kid, turned out to be a fantastic soldier, and you know he won’t be okay without you. But it’s him that sends you off, who tells you to shut the hell up and go. When you voice your concerns, he just laughs and says that he’ll be on his way soon. You’ve been enlisted longer, but he’s going to be right behind you.

Church looks up and blinks. “David?” He asked, his voice raspy. “David is the key?”

Ivan doesn’t say a word, just looks up and starts staring into space again. But Church understands. He gets it. He knows what it feels like to be on the brink of disaster and getting pulled back by the memory of someone you can’t live without.

So he goes to find the one person that can bring Ivan back.

Chapter Text

Tex doesn’t know what to do. She can see Wash’s heart rate climbing and know that the boy is having a panic attack. She isn’t sure how to stop it. She’s not a nice person, and she’s never had a lot of sympathy. So she’s at a loss.

But this is David and so she has to try.

“Washington, calm down,” she says softly. She has hands up, like she’s calming a wild animal. She wonders if this is what Church is dealing with Ivan. She almost wishes he was out here doing this.

Wash rips his helmet off and is gasping for breath. His hands are at the back of his neck, pulling at his hair. He’s lost in a memory that never his, a memory he never should’ve carried. Epsilon left scars in his head so deep, they honestly should be visible on his flesh. It makes her angry and anger is something that she can handle.

She visibly glitches, trading her clothing for he armor. It settles like a second skin, and she feels less like Allison and more like herself.

She isn’t Allison, she’ll never be Allison. She is Beta, Agent Texas, queen bitch of Blood Gulch. She is Alpha’s bitch, not Dr. Leonard Church’s. She has to remember that.
She’s pretty sure that this isn’t how one properly handles a situation like this, but she does it anyways.

She’s not a nice person after all.

“Agent Washington,” she snaps, her voice cracking out. Wash jerks slightly, head tilting up. He’s gasping on the ground, but she takes the eye contact as a good sign. “You will repeat after me,” she leaves no room for argument in her tone.

He blinks. She glares.

“One,” she says, her voice hard.

“O-o-o-on-one,” he chokes out.

“Two,” she continues, letting no sympathy into her tone.

He follows behind her word for word, and slowly, his breathing evens out. She smiles a little. They sit in silence as he recovers on his own.

“Texas,” he says softly. “Why-?”

“Long story, kiddo,” she cuts him off, her voice sharp. “This whole damn thing is just a long story.”

“I don’t understand. How are you alive?”

“Well, I’m not a hundred percent either. I’m sure that Church can explain what happened, but I sure as hell can’t. I’m not a fucking nerd like he is.”

“But aren’t you an AI?”

“Yep, but there’s a difference between being an AI and being a nerd. I am capable of keeping you alive, thanks to judicious amounts of healing unit usage. Church is capable of telling you how the fucking thing works. See, difference,” she shrugs. “I don’t pretend to care about it.”

They stare out at each other for a moment, when she catches motion out of the corner of her eye. She turns and Church is standing there, eyes wide

“Everything oka-?“ she starts but her words stop short when he steps up and lays his head against her chest piece. He lets out a shaky breath. Tex glances over at Wash, who is equally confused. She blinks down at Church. “Do you need me to take a turn?”

“No, I’m fine,” his voice is quiet. She glitches the glove off her hand and reaches up to run her fingers through his hair. She knows objectively that they are code, 1’s and 0’s in a line, but she believes that she can feel the individual strands of his dark hair. She believes that she can feel the soft exhale of his breath against her armor. She believes that she can feel him, and so she can.

“What happened?” she asked softly.

“Too many memories,” he replied. “Too much, too fast. But I think I know how to fix this.”

“What do you need?” She’s the one who can do the things that he can’t. That’s always what she’s been, and now, she’s okay with that task. She can be the brawn as long as he’s
the brain. She can be the perfect team with him.

“I need David,” he says and finally he straightens, looking up into her face. Or the reflection of her helmet. He raises an eyebrow and she tilts her head over to Wash. He blinks. “Oh shit. How bad has it been up here?”

“One panic attack,” she shrugs. “I basically yelled him out of it. We’re fine.”

“You are the nicest person ever. Of all time,” Wash’s voice is dry.

“Ah, you’re so sweet!” she chirps sarcastically, hands on her hips. “Now, how do we help Ivan?”

“To be honest, I’m not a hundred percent sure,” Church says quietly. “But I know we need David.”

“How can I help?” Wash asks, his voice breaking a little. “And my name is Washington!”

“At this moment, your name is fucking David,” Church snaps. “So shut the fuck up!”

“Church,” Texas says, her voice harsh. She step between him and Wash. “Wash is having just as much problems as Ivan. What is the point of breaking one in an attempt to save the
other?”

Church looks ashamed and that’s enough for her. She turns to Wash, one hand on her hip. “I don’t care what your problem is with your name. Apparently, we need you to be David, so if you have an issue with that, you can check it at the fucking door. So could both of you focus on the issue now and stop bitching like little girls?”

There is silence between them while the boys are digesting her words. Finally, Church sighs, rubbing his hand across his face in exhaustion. “You’re right, Tex,” he says softly. “I just- it was too much I think.”

“It always is,” she replies quietly. “So, what happened?”

“Memory is the key. Sigma buried Ivan so deeply into his own head that we have to drag him out. The problem is, Ivan doesn’t have a reason to help us get him. So we have to find the key, and apparently, it’s David,” Church explains.

“Okay, so how do we get David to Ivan?” she asks.

“Wait, I’m still confused,” Wash says, sitting up, head turning between the two small holo-forms. They both turn to look at him. “What are you trying to do?”

“We’re trying to save Ivan.” Church explains, shrugging.

“I think it goes a little deeper than that, Church. And we owe him a bit more of an explanation,” Tex sighs. “The Director just hung him out to dry, the Meta just shot him. I’m here, with the face of a memory he shouldn’t have, and the poor thing has probably gone into shock at some point in the last hour. We’re talking about playing in the head of his best friend, who was taken over by a psychopathic fragment of you. He needs to understand what we’re doing here.”

They both look at her and she heaves another sigh. “One of us has to be the voice of reason here, asshole,” she snaps. “You’re too close to the issue, literally, and Wash is so confused as to whatever the hell is going on. My job is apparently to play mediator between the two of you.”

Church just stares for moment, and then nods, “Alright, you’re right. I’m sorry Tex. I’ve just been-“

“You’re recovering,” she interrupts. “You’ve been tortured, ripped apart, lied to and now forcibly glued together. You’ve decided that you’re going to piece together another broken
human in an attempt to fix yourself, but you forgot that you are still broken too. You need to remember that fact. So stop apologizing and start explaining.”

“Well, bitch, do you want to explain since you seem to be so wise?” his voice is wry, bringing a smile to her face that he couldn’t see.

“Nope, I’d rather hear how you bring this up, dumbass,” she retorts. Church rolls his eyes, shoving his hands into his hoodie pockets. He’s gearing up for an argument, and she is always happy to oblige.

--

To say that Washington is confused is a gross understatement. He is still recovering from getting dragged away by his (Epsilon) memory. Seeing Allison standing in front of him was too much, but seeing Texas in her place is breaking him. He doesn’t understand how the two correlate, and the thought that they do isn’t a thought he really wants to entertain.

Now, Alpha is in front of him, talking when he should be dead. The EMP should’ve erased the AI from existence, and there is a wrath burning low in his stomach that he isn’t dead. He can admit it, he wanted revenge on Epsilon, on Alpha, on the Director himself, and to have it ripped away from him is painful.

This isn’t what Wash wanted to be, isn’t who he wanted to be. Once upon a time, Washington wanted to be like his mother, like his sister, wanted to be a soldier of respect and awe. He wanted to honor the Church name.

Hearing Alpha call himself Church, answer to the name so easily, is causing the rage to flare brighter.

Anger is tearing him up inside, and he can see his reflection in the light of the Meta’s helmet. Dark gray-blue eyes, the color of hurricane clouds, stare wide eyed. He knows it’s
the color of his mother, the only thing that he shares with her, because he looks too much like his father to be comfortable. Bleach blonde hair sticking up, but he hasn’t had a chance to dye his hair again and the black is peeking through his roots. Freckles splatter across his nose, brought to light from too many hours in the sun.
Alpha is standing there, arguing with Texas, and Wash can see himself in the hologram. He can see the jawline, the nose, the hair. He can see himself in the tilt of the head, the
posture. Wash can see himself in the way that Alpha is simply there, and it pisses him off to no end.

“No,” he states, his voice hard and both holo-forms stop talking and turn to look at him. “I’m not helping you.”

Texas tilts her head, and the motion is so reminiscent of Carolina that Wash feels his stomach churn, his throat tighten. Alpha just raises an eyebrow, before his face twists into a scowl.

“What the fuck? You don’t even know what we’re going to ask you.” He snaps.

“You want me to help you wake up the Meta,” Wash answers, levering himself to his feet. He reaches out to grab his helmet. He needs his face hidden, needs to have the safety of
the HUD screen between him and them.

“Wrong,” Alpha’s voice rings out, “We want you to wake up Ivan. Big difference.”

“Ivan? You’re expecting me to believe that Maine is still in there somewhere?” Wash snarls, shoving his helmet onto his head. “Maine is dead.”

“Not quite,” it’s Texas this time, and Wash glances over to see her placing a hand on Alpha’s shoulder. “Maine was still inside the Meta the entire time, but unable to do anything. You remember how it was having Epsilon inside your head?”

“Don’t tal-“ Wash begins, his hackles raised. He doesn’t want to talk about Epsilon. He doesn’t want to talk about the memories that tore through him, the screaming and pain that cracked his mind open like a watermelon. He doesn’t want to think about it, and he sure as hell will never mention it to these two.

But Texas is not a kind person, and runs over him like he hasn’t even opened his mouth. “Take that, and times it by ten. Then instead of the fucking train wreck that exploded into your brain, it’s more of a gradual thing. It’s moment by moment, second by second, of the pain and torture seeping in like fucking syrup. Ivan retreated into his own head to save himself, and Sigma was able to take over. There was nothing that your friend could do. But now, we can bring him back. And to do so, apparently we need you.”

“Why me?” Wash refuses to back down. He won’t be bullied by little floating images. He knows that he can leave at any time, but for some reason, he doesn’t.

“You’re his friend,” Alpha answers quietly, and it’s the lack of fire in his voice that captures Wash’s attention. “You’re one of the only people that Ivan can ever say was his friend. You made an effort to speak to him, to spend time with him. You made him happy, and you’re one of the only reasons why he kept fighting. You can get him fighting again. Or, at least, get him to a point where he can make a choice.”

Wash is silent, digesting this. He looks between the two of them, and finally, the one question that is burning him from the inside out slips from him. “Why?”

Alpha opens his mouth to snap out a smart answer, combatant nature rising up, but he stops. There must be something that informs the AI of what Wash is asking, and he stops to take a moment to think about his answer.

“Because I have to make things right,” Alpha says, and it’s not what Wash is expecting at all. He’s spent the last few weeks with Alpha and knows that the AI is a selfish asshole. He had Epsilon in his head for a time, and knows that there is regret and pain in them, but no desire to make it all right. Wash knows that at the core, the only person Leonard Church cares about is Allison Church.

“What?” Wash asks before he can stop himself. He needs clarification for this. He needs to see just how his world is tilting on its axis, because sooner or later, he’s going to have to adjust somehow.

“The Director fucked everything up,” Alpha says, with a shrug. “He tried so hard to bring Allison back that he destroyed people in the process. I can’t fix everything, but I have to fix what I can. I can save Ivan, so I will. I can help you, so I’ll do what I can. I can help the Blues and the Reds, the men who took care of me when I needed them. I’ll do what I can to make things right.”

He sighs, hands sliding out of pockets to rub at his eyes. “I have to try and fix it, because in the end, if I don’t, it makes me just like him. And I don’t want to be him. I want to be someone that Allison would’ve been proud of. I want to be someone that maybe Charlie wouldn’t have hated. I don’t want to be the Director. I want to be Church.
“And you don’t have to believe me, or even help me. If you want to leave, well, Tex and I can’t stop you honestly.”

“Speak for yourself,” Texas mutters. Alpha throws her a silencing look, to which she just glares in response. After a moment, he turns back to Wash, who is simply waiting.

“But I think you want to help Ivan. I think you want to help your friend. So if you do this for anyone, do it for him. Help him wake up, and then you can leave. Or you can stay. Or you can do whatever the hell you want that doesn’t include setting off an EMP near the two of us. I don’t care.” Alpha shrugs again and turns back to Tex, as if asking how badly he fucked that up.

Wash just watches, mind whirring. He doesn’t know what he should do, but somewhere the words have banked the fire burning in his soul. He can understand about wanting to fix the mistakes made, even if they aren’t actually his. Hasn’t he been wanting to do that ever since he learned of Carolina’s fall off the cliff. Wasn’t he willing to do what it took to stop the Meta, because he had thought that was the way to fix the Director’s mistakes?

Not to mention, to be honest with himself, there is a deep part of his soul that is holding out hope that Maine is still alive. That his friend, the man who kept him alive for a long time, is still somewhere in that armor. And if he can help him wake up, then it’s time for him to do so. It’s time for him to take care of Maine for once.

“What do you need me to do?”