Disclaimer: Don't own KND, if I did it wouldn't end with INTERVIEW...
Author's Note: Be warned, this is what happens when a 2/5 fan reads spoilers for INTERVIEW. So yes, this contains spoilers.
Of Red Hats and Goggles
Numbuh 5, otherwise known as Abigail Lincoln only to her close friends and family, jumped a little and turned. Numbuh 2 (Hoagie, she couldn't help but think, despite the kid conduct to refer to everyone by their numbuhs) stood behind her as she gazed out the window at the stars, his lips curved in a crooked, almost sad smile. She blinked and replied, ever so intelligently, "Eh?"
"About your job promotion." He shrugged. "We all heard 'bout it. You're becomin' Supreme Commander tomorrow, right?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah." She forced the smile, though it didn't quite meet her eyes. "Yeah, I am."
"You seem to have lost your touch, if you let Numbuh 362 tag you like that."
"… She didn't tag me, Hoagie." Shoot, shoot, I meant to say Numbuh 2. "I didn't run away from her."
For a moment Numbuh 2 just gaped as he realized exactly what Numbuh 5 was saying, what she was quietly and subtly implying in the way that only she could without being direct about it. Finally, he swallowed. "You mean you… you… you let her tag you?"
"Yeah. Nigel was her first choice, you know, but then he… so she came and tagged me instead. I didn't have the heart to run from her. She looked…. so old. So tired."
Briefly Numbuh 5 noted she had stopped using numbuhs when referring to her friends, and she could see Numbuh 2 had caught on to it. He was sharp like that. "She's gettin' decommissioned tomorrow too."
"I know. She's gonna give me a quick rundown and then she's goin' to the chamber." She looked back out, at the stars. "Numbuh 5 hopes that she meets up with Nigel one day, somehow. Seems like he took a part o' her heart with him when he left."
Silence fell after she said this, but it was the calm, quiet silence Numbuh 5 had always associated with Numbuh 2's presence. The butterflies that had been flapping around in her stomach calmed as he quietly walked to her side, and she scooted over to let him look out. "Everything changes after this, huh?" he asked softly, not looking her.
"Everything changed when Nigel left."
"I know, but… we still had you." Numbuh 2 glanced at her. "You held us together after he left. And now you're leaving, too."
Something twisted painfully in her chest. "No, Hoagie."
"Don't. Just… don't. Don't act like this won't change everything. You're becomin' Supreme Commander tomorrow, and you know the rules they have."
She did know, all too well. She'd personally sat with Numbuh 362 after being tagged and had poured through the huge book with her. What she read had been enough to break her heart, and she'd suddenly understood why Numbuh 362 had only contented herself with the occasional quick smile and absent conversation Numbuh 1 had given her whenever they'd met, and why Numbuh 1 had never asked for more from the young blonde.
"A Supreme Commander is not, under any circumstances, allowed to involve him/herself with a fellow operative," Numbuh 5 murmured, closing her eyes and leaning against Numbuh 2 for a moment. "Doing so will only increase emotional attachment and will put the whole organization at risk if a decision has to be made." She shook her head, wiping at her eyes with the sleeve of her shirt. "God, Hoagie, Numbuh 5 doesn't know how Rachel did it. How she looked at Nigel, knew what she was feeling, and still managed to follow the rules and keep her distance."
"She obviously thinks you can do it, too."
"Yeah, yeah, 'cause Numbuh 5's a real heartbreaker."
A snort of laughter from Numbuh 2 made Numbuh 5 lift her head from his shoulder, looking at him with one brow raised. She grinned, and her voice took on an insulted tone. "Boy, here I am tryin' to be deep with ya and you just laugh—"
"I'm sorry. I won't do it again. I swear." Numbuh 2 assumed a straight face, but his twitching lips betrayed him. Laughing, Numbuh 5 smacked his shoulder and settled back down.
Another silence settled between them, but it didn't last nearly as long as the first one.
"… Abby, can you really do it?" Numbuh 2 quietly angled his head to look down at her. "Can you really look at someone, know what you feel, and still manage to follow the rules and keep your distance?"
"Numbuh 5's got one more night." Her voice was soft, and unbelievably weary. "She's got one more night. She'll live with that. And she can just hope when she's decommissioned, she'll just find that person again and make up for lost time."
They both knew who "that person" was, though Numbuh 5 never mentioned his name or numbuh. As soon as "one more night" left her lips, they knew.
It wasn't the best confession in the world, but they were okay with that. They'd figure the rest out when they became teenagers.
After a moment of quiet contemplation, Numbuh 2 gently slid away from her and tugged his goggles off, blinking a bit as he bared blue-gray eyes to the world. He sighed and held the goggles out to Numbuh 5, who just stared at them blankly. "Take 'em."
"Eh?" Numbuh 5 swallowed. "But, Hoagie, these are—"
"I know what they are. And I said take 'em." He coughed as heat rushed into his face. "When my mom's readin' her stupid romance novels she's always gushin' about how the hero leaves the heroine with something of his so she remembers him until they meet again. I figure it might work in real life, too."
Slowly, almost timidly, Numbuh 5 reached for the goggles; as her fingers closed around the old, worn leather she looked into Numbuh 2's eyes one last time, as though to make sure he was okay with this; he smiled weakly and nodded, and she finally lifted the goggles from his hand and, without a second though, slid them on so they settled comfortably around her neck. "What about you? Shouldn't Numbuh 5 give you something, too?"
"You don't have to, it's kind of a guy thing—"
Numbuh 2's words trailed off as Numbuh 5 frowned thoughtfully before lifting her hat off her head, holding out to him much the same way he'd offered his goggles. "Abby—"
"Boy, take the stupid hat 'fore I whack ya over the head with it." Her eyes gleamed with a mixture of pain and humor.
He took the hat, paused to study it, and put it on, turning it around so he was wearing it backwards, a brown tuft of hair sticking through the opening. He grinned. "What do ya think?"
"Red ain't your color, but keep it anyway." She smirked. "You'll grow into it."
They both laughed. Numbuh 2 smiled and gave her a brief salute, touching the tip of his newly acquired hat. "'Til we meet again."
She smiled softly, pulling the goggles up so they were on her forehead before returning the salute. "'Til we meet again."
And for them, it was enough.
I know someone's gonna go, "What, they don't meet again?" but it felt right to end it there somehow. Uh. Yeah. (cough)
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