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Put My Guns In the Ground

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Tucker doesn’t scream when the knife goes in, but Epsilon does.

He howls, a long unbroken noooooooo that makes Tucker want to roll his eyes, it’s that dramatic. The eye roll won’t quite come, though. Between the ungodly pain in his torso, Felix skulking in front of him, and Epsilon raging inside his skull, he doesn’t have room to focus on anything else.

<Oh my god Tucker, Tucker, are you okay, why didn’t you listen to me, I told you to stop, I told you to wait, oh that mercenary motherfucker I’m gonna kill him, I’m gonna rip him apart with my bare fucking hands, Tucker, don’t you dare fucking die, if you die I’m gonna kill you—>

<Church, shut the fuck up!> Tucker sucks in a breath and tries to ignore Felix, who is still pacing and yammering away. <Focus. Focus on the helmet cam!>

<Fuck the helmet cam! This is bullshit! Wash was right, you should’ve taken his stupid healing unit—>

Tucker winces. <Yeah. He’s gonna be pretty pissed at me.>

<Pissed at you! He’s gonna KILL me!>

<Church, just—come on! Play it cool!>

<Okay okay, I got it!>

When Epsilon takes off to distribute the data to the tower— <Tucker, I swear to god, you’d better still be alive when I get back here!>— Tucker spends the next several minutes focusing on staying conscious. His friends are fine. They’re fine. They’re right there, and he needs to get up, he needs to help them. He tries to stand, but the pain that lances through his abdomen has him biting back a scream, and nope, standing is most definitely off the table.

Carolina must notice the way he flinches, because she opens up a direct line to his radio. <Hold on, Tucker.> Her voice has the same quiet, reassuring quality that Wash’s does in a crisis, and Tucker holds onto it, listening to the even sound of her breath over the radio. Locus appears behind Felix’s shield at the same time that Church returns, and both of these things jolt Tucker back to a full consciousness.

<Oh, good.> Epsilon doesn’t bother to disguise his relief. <Alright, I distributed the data, so everyone on Chorus should know—>

<Wash.>

He can feel Epsilon’s confusion. <What?>

<Wash,> Tucker thinks, a little deliriously. <He’s not here. Locus is here, but he’s not. Church. Church, what does that mean?>

Epsilon tries to mask his sudden realization and horror, but he isn’t quite fast enough. A wave of grief pulses through Tucker so powerfully it almost knocks him over. Epsilon jolts in alarm. <Hey, we don’t know what happened yet, you gotta stay with me- Tucker! Don’t you dare let those fucking mercenaries win this!>

Tucker rallies at these words, even though he’s not sure who exactly Epsilon is reassuring, gritting his teeth and forcing himself to stop scanning his friends. His friends, all there, except for Wash. Don’t you dare let them see you fall, he tells himself sharply, and he doesn’t, he doesn’t, not until Locus turns his back. Even then, it’s a small thing, his sword fizzling out of existence as he braces himself on one hand.

<No no no, Tucker, NO! Stay with me!>

He would. He should.  His friends are right there and Wash might not yet be dead, but his bones are so very heavy and—

There is a moment, between one slow blink and the next, that Tucker thinks of three things:

Running around in the first rainstorm Blood Gulch had seen in years, all thoughts of armor and color-coded teams forgotten. Junior, sleeping and serene, curled up next to him in the sand. Wash, laughing back at the crash site, the dying red sunlight caught in his hair.

The memories are bright and bold, searing themselves onto the back of Tucker’s eyelids, but there is no more time to make sense of them.

Tucker falls.