Authors Note: This is another story for one of my friends titles she choose. Because I like Chicken Teriyaki and I had the Skype-status "Say hello to Robot Satan, you teriyaki pencil circus!''
Yeah. Anyway. I named Grifs girlfriend with the dick Dalana. Because that joke was awesome.
As Carolina stepped out of the facility, she suspected herself to feel somehow… different. She didn't. She let go, she gave up the revenge, forgot about her hatred. And yet, what did it bring her? She stood here in the middle of nowhere while she had no place to go, no one waiting for her. And now she didn't even have a goal anymore. She felt restless but yet tired. It was the same as before, just now the tiredness seemed stronger.
The former Freelancer took some deep breaths of the filtered air in. She wasn't going to wallow in self-pity. She had to figure out what to do now. But right at the moment, she didn't know. It felt like she knew nothing.
In the middle of nowhere with idiots around her. Idiots she pushed and threatened and yelled at but still came to help her and Epsilon. For fighting against a horde of Tex drones they were actually pretty fine. Especially that a seemingly complete incapable doctor patched them up (Carolina didn't even know where he and the pink guy came from). They were all somewhere ahead, doing stuff. Even Epsilon was as far from her as he could.
Actually she was a little surprised that Wash stayed behind with her instead of going to the others. He made his point very clear, after all. A gun against her head was pretty much driving the point home. "So what are you going to do now, Carolina?" The 'Carolina' came with some hesitation. As if Wash hadn't been sure whether to call her this or 'Boss'. She titled her helmet and glanced at him out of the corner of her eyes. She had been too caught up in her vendetta to notice how much he actually changed.
The old Wash wouldn't choose his words, he said what was in his mind. He didn't stand as straight and alert either. He wouldn't have tried to reason with her or talk back. And old Wash would surely never ever have pointed a gun at her head. He even tried to avoid it in training. Though, that actually came from him trying to avoid training with her in general as he usually would be beaten black and blue there. "Well…" Carolina glanced over at Epsilon. "Waiting, I guess", she said.
Epsilons hologram flickered somewhere ahead, surrounded by the Reds and Blues. He repeated with annoyance and resignation all the ridiculous, humiliating, cheesy, Grif-insulting and weird things they asked of him. As they were still connected, Carolina could feel that he really was annoyed, though the irritation was by far weaker than he pretended. She also could feel the relief and the content in him.
"I think this might take some time" Wash said, mild amusement in his voice while he also watched Epsilon doing his penalty for the mess up. "And he's actually not the only one who owes a cheesy forgiveness speech." It didn't sound resentful, bitter or reproachful. It's just a statement. Carolina turned her head to look at Wash but he had his eyes fixed of the bunch of idiots he decided to call his friends.
She felt something tighten in her chest. "Look, Wash", she started because maybe something did change now. She seemed to think clearer again and it sunk slowly in that she had not just been bossy towards them but plain harsh and unfair. But Wash turned towards her, bringing up his hands before she could continue. "You don't have to apologize to me. I understand you and your situation. I…have been there too, not too long ago. And I decided to help you of my own free will because I guessed I owe you this and that it was the only way to finally put an end to it, once and for all."
Carolina blinked at him through her visor.
He stopped briefly, turned back to the simulation troopers. The reds moved away from Church and the other blues and quite literally put their heads together, discussing something. "They are the ones dragged into crossfire, once again, without even having anything to do with it. And you really pushed them around, hard. "
She didn't really know what to say to this. She wasn't sure how to handle the situation at all, to be honest. These guys were complete idiots, she would stick with this mostly likely for forever. But… they came to help Epsilon despite everything. So she had to admit that Wash probably was right. They weren't that bad.
She suspected it was high time she made a new opinion about all of them, Wash included.
"Well, I guess I do owe them an apology. And probably a huge thank you, too, once Epsilon is done. "
"Sounds like a good attempt to me."
They were quiet for a moment, just watching the sim troopers. Epsilon still wass occupied with Tucker, Caboose and the strange doctor. Grif sat on the ground, back against a rock and smoking. His helmet lay carelessly in the dirt. The other three still were arguing. From the corner of her eyes Carolina could see how Wash shifted slightly.
"So", he said then. "You think your gonna stick around?" He didn't look at her and tried to sound casual. He failed. Not as miserably as he used to do back in the project but it was enough to make Carolina smile. She didn't remember when she smiled the last time.
"I suppose that depends on them. They seem to want to keep Epsilon around. And I sort of grew on having in my head. He seems, well, okay." Wash had been rather neutral towards Epsilon all the time but Carolina wondered how he felt about this. It was the same Ai that killed himself in his head, caused him to experience the things he did.
"Yeah… he seems stable. Just wish he hadn't quite as much of the Alphas behavior. He was kind of an-"
Wash is cut off by a gunshot and Carolinas instincts kicked in. She had the Magnum at ready the same moment she realized that it was Sarge who shot in the sky. Wash next to her flinched, then exhaled loudly. "… asshole."
"You missed, sir" Simmons pointed out as Sarge reloaded his shotgun. "That was just a warnin' shot!"
Another shot in the sky and nothing happened.
"Missed" Grif said lazily.
Third shot, still nothing.
"Missed" the pink one commented from a bit further away.
"Private Grif! If ya insult your superior again I will be gladly shooting at you!"
"I didn't even fucking say it this time!"
The doctor and the blues seemed to have gotten curious and toddled over. Carolina lowered her weapon, blinking. She looked at Wash with a puzzled expression because honestly, these idiots never seem to make sense to her. Wash however shrugged clueless, apparently also not sure what was going on. With another sigh he just walked over to them and stopped near the pink guy. Carolina hesitates but followed him eventually.
"Sarge, what the hell are you doing?"
The oldest among them cocked his shotgun again, trying another shoot. "I'm on tha hunt!" he announced without paying attention to Wash. "Dangnabit, these birds are fast!"
"Sarge, dude, I think the fucking problem is the rage of your shotgun" Tucker said and now Sarge glared at him through the visor. "Ya wanna try it, thin-mint?" he snorted.
"I'm a lover, not a bird killer. Plus, I'm fucking… uh, aqua! Or so… Anyway, I'm not shooting bullets into birds, I shoot other things into chicks, if you know what I mean. Bow Chicka Bow Wow! "
There was a moment of stunned silence in which Tucker once again seemed obvious to just how ill-tasted that joke was.
"Oh god, Tucker, you just hit fucking rock bottom, seriously" Epsilon groaned.
Wash choose to ignore him and faced the purple doctor and Carolina also had to contend with mentally kicking the guy between his legs. Doing that for real wasn't exactly helping when she had to apologize.
"Why is he hunting?" Wash asks the weird doc. "Oh? Uh, he want's to get us dinner." Carolina could only see Wash back from where she stood but judging by his silence he was as confused as her. "Yeah, well, you see, I thought about making us chicken teriyaki" cutsthe pink one in. "I mean, we had a hard day and all and need back some energy. Nothing goes over a good meal with friends and family" he explained cheerfully. Carolina wondered if it is really possible to use these terms that loosely.
The former Freelancer observed how Wash looked at the pink and the purple one, then at the sky, then Sarge and the rest before back at the first two. "I'm not sure if the whole shooting on birds and make dinner of them thing is a good idea. Or if it even works out in the first place" he said then, reluctantly. "We'll be fine. If we can handle a horde of Tex we can make chicken teriyaki with birds." Humming, the pink guy toddles towards the other sim troopers. "Oh, and thanks for saving me from the one Tex there" he said in such a joyous voice that it's already annoying. Way worse than Wash during his best days in the project.
Being observantly is important if you want to survive in a war. Carolina was good at it. But you didn't have to be to see how Wash flinched when the pink guy slaps his shoulder in an amicably manner as he passed him. She saw only Washs back and the doctors expressionless visor but she knew they exchanged glances until the purple one shrugged and toddles after the pinkie. She decided she would ask about this, not yet, but when the time was better.
For now the two ex Freelancer also headed to Sarge who still didn't shot a bird but was ranting at Grif because he run out of ammo.
"Well… that doesn't works" the doctor pointed out. "We aren't getting chicken teriyaki that way."
"Oh! Oh! Oh! I have an idea!", Caboose said, way too loud from where he bounced behind Epsilon. "If we have no chicken we can just use birds! And then we call it... birdyaki!"
There was stunned silence once again and Carolina really wondered what on earth happened to Cabooses head somewhere in the past.
"You know. We said we were shooting birds instead of chicken before Sarge started shooting. That's like ten minutes ago. I think you guys should get his brain checked once, really", Simmons suggested.
"I know", Epsilon groaned out.
"Well, I think you first should check is head. Looking if there is even a brain inside to check", Grif says and blew out a circle of smoke. Carolina didn't keep track but it had to be at least his third cigarette since he's sitting there.
Actually, Carolina felt a little better now. Still annoyed as hell but at least she didn't feel anymore like putting a bullet through someone's head.
Simmons meanwhile seemed not very happy about Grifs nicotine intake. "Stop smoking, damn it, Grif! It's unhealthy!" he said, persistently.
Grif glanced lazily up. "Dude, being punched in the fucking balls is unhealthy. You better worry about that."
There was a really awkward silence and not only Simmons was sort of staring at the orange sim trooper. After a few seconds Grif hit his head back against the rock: "Fuck you guys, that's not how I meant it!"
Of course equivocating was Tuckers strong point, not Gifs, actually
"You know what, screw the dinner! Or better, let's screw with the dessert. I rather have a chick in my bed than chicken on the table, ya know?" Tucker said, nonchalantly and winked bluntly at Carolina. Never mind what she thought seconds ago. That one should get a bullet in his balls. She reached for her weapon but did not draw it because she did not want to temp Wash again. And yeah, shooting the people you need to apologize to was also not a good idea. Instead she raised an eye ridge and titled her head back, glancing at him. Connie called it the 'A-wrong-word-and-you-die-painfully-look'.
"Okay, no shit but who agrees that he would deserve to be shot by Carolina for that one? Because I do." Epsilon said this, clearly annoyed by his friend.
"I agree" Wash said without a hint of hesitation.
"I agree with Church and Agent Washinchurh!"
"Please stop calling me that, Caboose."
"Well, I won't vote because I'm not getting anyone killed indirectly… On purpose. Though it would have been interesting if we could have fed him to the Meta."
"Christi, Doc. The Meta didn't eat people. I just told you so to scare you."
"Whatever, if it gets a dirty blue death, I'm in!"
"Took the words right out of my mouth, sir!"
"Ugh, Kiss-ass, Simmons. But I agree too." Tucker attempted to say something but Grif shot him a glare. "That's penalty for telling them about the thing with Dalana."
"Well, I guess I'm just gonna stick with the bulk."
After everyone expect Doc decided that she was allowed to shoot Tucker, the teal soldier stepped back slowly. Carolina smiled under the helmet and she knew that Tucker was aware. Slowly she pulled her gun out. "Uh… guys…? Help?" the soldier asks as he steps back more and more. Nervously he looked at her, then at his current team leader. "Wash?"
Carolina glanced over too but without to turn her head. The Ex-Freelancer stood somewhat tense but did nothing that indicated her he believed she was going to shoot him for real. "You should watch your mouth better, you know" he just said. For a second Carolina aimed at Tucker and even under the visor she could see his eyes grow wide. But she did not shoot at him, of course. Instead she raised the gun and shoot four bullets into the sky.
"Uhm… what the fuck?" Epsilon said suddenly and just then, four dead birds fell to the ground. It was almost hilarious how everyone was staring at her through the visors that appears blank from most angles. They all looked at her and then the birds before somehow all eyes seem to settle on Wash. As if they expect him to answer how to react to that. Carolina could see how he shifted and made a 'don't look at me' gesture. Some funny mix between a shrug and putting up his hands defensively.
"What's the matter, guys? I thought you wanted dinner?" Carolina said, her voice somewhat smug as she put away her weapon. She may not know where to go from here but for a moment, she thought it will be okay to just follow someone else for a chance.