The first week in camp, Caboose has nightmares.
This isn't really surprising to anyone who's read the files on these guys as comprehensively as Smith has. They've spent the last few years being toyed with by one of the most horrific war criminals of the century, after all, and it's not like you just bounce back from something like that. Probably. Okay, so Smith doesn't have a whole lot of experience with horrific war criminals. But, you know. He's read about them.
To be honest, Smith isn't entirely sure what Caboose is dreaming about. Sometimes he yelps the name of that Freelancer guy who was their CO, but that's all mixed in with something about, like, milkshakes? And freckles? Sometimes donuts? And then there's the times he mumbles about having to go to church, which Smith can kinda see as being nightmare-inducing for a certain type of person. The guy's apparently got a complicated relationship with religion.
"It's probably nothing, Anders," Laredo says, the second time it happens. They're crouched outside the Captain's quarters, morning reports in hand, stuck between pretending not to hear and actively trying to eavesdrop as Captain Tucker murmurs something half-soothing, half-irritated behind the closed door. "These guys are pros. I'm sure they've had to deal with this sort of thing before."
"Yeah," Smith says. "Probably nothing."
"I mean, you know." Laredo spins a finger at his temple. "Not like this guy's all here anyway."
The punch Smith lands right in the center of Laredo's face earns him a night in the brig, two fractures in his right hand, and a week of twelve-hour days saluting the flag in the middle of the compound. It's entirely worth it when Kimball quietly but pointedly assigns him as Caboose's L.T.
So, it's not like Jensen's never had to deal with people waking up screaming before.
Lots of her squad have family and friends who've had, you know. Bad experiences in the war. She's been with Kimball's army for almost a year, and in that time she's had to drag weapons away from people with sleep-clouded eyes—people yelling at things that aren't there—on at least a half-dozen occasions. It kinda comes with the territory, and people trust her, so it's usually pretty easy to get them back to their racks. She tries to keep track of the worst cases to give the CMO something to work with when she's deciding who gets first dibs on their dwindling supply of sleeping pills.
(Jensen's an only child. Her parents are safely off-planet. Her own worst nightmares are still related to that one time she forgot to study for an algebra test.)
Yeah, so, she's used to dealing with people who wake themselves up with their own screaming. What she's not used to is Captain Simmons, on a two-week training maneuver, crying himself to sleep every night.
He does it quietly, not like a little kid or anything. But one night she goes to ask him what Captain Grif did with the spare MREs, and he sort of stumbles out of his bedroll with a hand over his eyes, sniffling. "I, uh. Just have, um. Allergies," he says, hoarsely, and she totally gets that because helloooo hayfever, except she's like 99% sure he's lying. He's really, really bad at it.
The next night, she makes sure he gets a little space, because the rest of the squads are a good group, but they're also all wrapped up in being capital-S Strong, which she's always figured is a really limiting definition of the word that doesn't allow for a lot of, y'know, leeway. Simmons doesn't really notice, which is good, because he'd probably get so flustered he'd self-destruct. She doesn't particularly want him to self-destruct. He's a good guy.
He's also, like, really, really obsessed with what other people think of him. Jensen gets that too, in an abstract sort of way. She grew out of it somewhere around the time she was twenty-five years old and getting her first set of braces. Like, you can't care about that stuff. It gets in the way.
So she starts, you know. Encouraging him. He's legitimately a good leader, when he's not panicking, and even though he has no earthly idea how to respond to a compliment ("Great work on the org charts, sir!" nets her a series of terrified, whimpering squeaks), she overhears him bragging about his competence to Grif one day and, like, he doesn't have mysterious late-night allergy attacks nearly as often anymore.
"New CO's a little weird," Gunny says, one day. She says it fondly, but hey, that's Gunny. Never a bad word about anyone that doesn't come with a smile to soften the blow.
"Sure," Jensen says. "Really weird. Somehow I think he's gonna fit right in."
Captain Grif has a tattoo on the back of his neck.
Like, not that Bitters gives a fuck, but, y'know. It's there. A tattoo. Not that Bitters is impressed by a fucking tattoo or anything, especially not when the dude has some seriously fucking weird skin graft stuff that's probably way more impressive. But the tattoo's, y'know, whatever. Kinda cool. If you're into that.
The first time Bitters notices it, Grif catches him immediately. "Why the fuck are you staring at my neck, Bitters?"
"Nothing. I mean, no reason. I mean, I brought you a burrito from the mess."
He holds out the offering, and Grif glares at him for a moment before snatching it up. "Good work, Bitters. Anyone see you?"
"Nah," Bitters says. "Used infiltration strategy fourteen."
"Huh," Grif says. "Fourteen. Good job, soldier."
The orange team has adopted a salute that drives Kimball up the wall—just a sort of vague flicker of the fingers in the general vicinity of your forehead. Minimum effort for maximum irritation, Grif calls it. Bitters salutes him now, and Grif returns it with his own variation on the theme, which involves a vague flicker of one particular finger.
The second time Bitters sees the tattoo, he's standing awkwardly over Grif, who's tangled up in his sheets with sweat soaking through his shirt. He's trying to decide whether, like, it's cool to wake up your CO when he's freaking out like that? Is that weird? Is that a thing? And he sees the tattoo and his stupid brain gets stuck again on the fact that it's kinda cool-looking, and then Grif is jolting awake.
He stares at the wall for a second, then mutters, "Jesus fucking fuck," and slams his balled-up fist into his pillow with a violence that sends Bitters stumbling back a pace. Grif stays like that a second, breathing hard, then sits up, combing fingers through his sweat-slicked hair. "Report," he says.
"Uh," Bitters says. He's holding a clipboard, but he's kinda temporarily forgotten how to read. "I like your tattoo. Sir."
Grif stares at him like he's grown another head, and Bitters is like, okay, yeah, whatever, that's cool, he's cool, nothing weird about that at all. Shut up. Then the corners of Grif's mouth flicker, and he says, "You got any ink, Bitters?"
"Uh. No. Never really thought about it. Probably wouldn't suit me."
Grif squints at him. "Yeah, probably not. You're a little too clean-cut." His voice goes softer, conspiratorial. "You know what would really piss Kimball off, though? If we all got matching tats."
Bitters can't quite stifle his grin. "What did you have in mind?"
"I'll think of something," Grif says with a decidedly evil grin, and it's like, okay cool, they're pretending the whole screaming nightmare thing didn't happen. That's fine. That's okay.
But Bitters makes sure he pulls night watch whenever they've had an especially long day on training maneuvers. It doesn't happen often, but whenever Grif does have a bad night, they talk stupid bullshit like tattoos and tacos.
Not that it matters or anything, but Grif totally grins at him a little more often. Like, a real smile. And Bitters thinks maybe he's never been more serious about anything in his life than he is about that half-assed salute.
Palomo is the only one around the first time Captain Tucker has a nightmare.
It's their second night away from camp, and Felix and the rest of the squad are out on patrol. Tucker wakes up quietly, staring over at the wall of the cave with too-wide eyes, a twitch in his shoulders the only sign that something's not right. He jumps violently when Palomo stands over him. "Uh," Palomo says, "Can I get you some water or something? Bedtime story? Sir?"
"Shut the fuck up, Palomo," Tucker says, out of breath, and rolls back onto his side.
"Okay," Palomo says, and sits down a little awkwardly beside him. "Hey, Felix told me a bit of what happened. I'm sorry about your friends."
"Holy fuck, Palomo, what makes you think I want to talk about this with you? Go away, shithead."
"I'm just saying," Palomo says, "I know what it feels like, and I know it sucks. I'm sorry."
Tucker gives a fucked-up little laugh. "Right. You know what it feels like."
Palomo shrugs. "It's a civil war," he says.
Tucker groans, scrubbing at his face with both hands. "Look, Palomo. Lieutenant Dumbass. Buddy. I appreciate what you're trying to do here, but fuck off."
"It's a civil war," Palomo says, a little louder. "The Feds and the New Republic, like, we used to be the same group of people. More or less."
"Wow, Palomo," Tucker says. "It's almost like we're in a civil war!"
Palomo pauses. "I, uh. I have a sister."
That shuts Tucker up, and after a moment he rolls over to stare up at him.
"She, um. She was in the Federal army before the war even started. Made captain at a really young age. Our parents were really proud. I was really proud. And then, like. You know. The war."
"Your sister's a Fed," Tucker says, slowly. He seems to be turning over a lot of questions in his head; Palomo waits patiently until he settles on, "Does Kimball know?"
"Probably," Palomo says. "I guess. I didn't tell her. I'm just here because I want to do what's right, you know?"
"Fuck," Tucker says, softly.
"Yeah. So I'm saying... I guess I'm saying I get nightmares too." Palomo rubs the back of his neck. "And I know you don't like when I'm all earnest or whatever, but, you know. I get it. And I thought you should know."
Tucker stares at him a long while, then sighs. "Okay, Palomo. Thanks. I'm up for a while now, so you go ahead and get some rack time."
"Okay," Palomo says, and pauses midway through climbing into his bedroll. "I guess that bedtime story's off the table, then?"
"Shut the fuck up, Palomo," Tucker says, but he's grinning, and for the first time in a long while Palomo gets a good night's sleep.