A/N: This is my first Halo story, and I don't expect it to be the next Great American Novel. Critique nicely.
Update: If you want to see more of Jorge and my Six, Jameson9101322 over at deviantArt wrote an excellent story called "Stronger", which tells Jorge's sacrifice from his point of view.
Noble Six put her back against the wall and waited.
The Covvies didn't come up here; maybe it was the smell of their own blood that kept them away, or maybe Six just wasn't worth it. She'd stocked up on medpacs and weapons and made a corner that might—just might—be safe.
There was no use going downhill; they always came, but maybe she could hold the high ground (until her rations ran out).
She supposed there was something wonderful in the human capacity that meant that, even when she was expected to be attacked any minute and had all the preparation in the world to do, she could be so freaking bored. Reach lay quiet and foggy around her and her cracked HUD showed nothing except the one yellow dot that meant her.
Six slid down to a crouch, then folded her legs beneath her and leaned against the wall.
She had nothing else to do except review the names of the dead, and for some twisted reason it was so hard to remember their lives—
I only knew later that slapping the side of the ship was a sign that he knew it was over. He never does anything extra like that; saves up his anger for the battlefield. Now, I know that was a death rattle.
Jorge, stop. There's gotta be another way. We'll rig this thing. (If Kat were here-)
He dropped his helmet behind his armored ankles and it rolled once before I stopped looking.
"Better get going , Six, they're gonna need you down there."
I need you here—
"Reach has been good to me." He snapped the chain of his dog tags and held up a hand that I couldn't help taking, even though the little silver strings were glinting like shooting stars and I didn't want to go out into space again alone. He braced and picked me up, taking my weight on our crossed forearms like I was ordinance. (That's SPARTAN-IIs for you.) I looked down at him and set my weight against him and wrestled my helmet off with one hand.
"You've been good to me too, Six."
I darted forward and kissed him on the cheek. One heavy hand stroked through my hair and then he braced again and pressed his lips against my forehead for what might have been a long time. One of his hands and one of mine fit my helmet back on, and I never felt him shake from holding me up. I looked at him, back in the HUD with the little blue tag that said his name, as if I didn't know who he was. I thought he was going to say something else but he pushed and suddenly I was falling so tortuously slowly and watching him turn his back to go for the trigger and in my ear the comm said "Make it count."
She reached under the pliable black webbing between her neck and collar armor and drew out the dog tags, hers and his tangled together. She picked out one set and clenched them in her fist, unable to feel it through the armor as they grew cold.
Kat was the one who consoled me after that. I looked at her and neither of us said "what if it was Carter" but it helped me a little. We were doing good, sprinting across that unsteady ground as heroic as you please, her hand occasionally pushing at my arm or vice versa as we guided each other through the ruined buildings. Carter and Emile were nearly in the alcove when something golden fell down and speared her through mid-word.
I emptied—I don't remember how many rounds, but we all shot at that ship like we might just be able to touch it, like we would have to be allowed to hurt it if there were any sense in the universe.
We buried her in rubble to make it quick.
Six was starting to fall asleep. She could read it in her own lifesigns if she wanted to. But the part of her brain that was daydreaming just got stronger, until it was like the team was standing right in front of her, waiting for their stories to be told so they could fade.
Carter. We all knew that was coming. You were going to die for us; I saw it in your eyes, I saw it in the Rorschach blots of blood you threw onto the windscreen when your helmet came off. You had the fate of a hero's death on you, and I think you were lucky enough to know it.
Emile and I stalked through those windsculpted cavern halls knocking bugs out of the sky, and I kept wondering what you were doing up there. No, wait—I will be honest with the dead. I was wondering when we'd hear you come over the comm saying "there's too many of them", and we'd hear the crash and you'd say something stupid like "I'm takin' 'em down with me," and we'd be alone, the faceless one and I.
But you were lucky. You got to die for us. We saw that spindly-legged, sheer-sided monster pick its way across the gaping skull eyes of the cave and the cold, sick pit inside me ratcheted down toward my stomach a bit.
We knew it was coming. We'd watched the others—and for all I know Emile lives his life assuming everybody around him is going to die. But that doesn't mean we didn't thank you. You made a good explosion, commander.
Should that be funny? She didn't think it should, but then she started shaking and since it was too early for exhaustion it must have been laughter.
You were ready, Emile. You said it and you lived it. I don't think that Elite was ready. You were proved right, Emile who sees everybody's face as a skull—you saw so many of us die. You were poised for a moment like a statue with the prongs of that sword through you, and then were back to normal and threshed out of sight for a while.
I didn't close your eyes when I found your body; I don't think you would have wanted it.
Six wondered what happened to Jun. Maybe he was out there somewhere still, hiding the tattoos that hid his face, guerrilla-ing just like Six. She shook her head and stood up. She hadn't been sitting long enough to be stiff.
She took her assault rifle from where it had been propped against the wall and ventured out, Jorge's dog tags still wrapped around her hand.
The Grunts spotted her on the first rise. She took out two with the pistol zoomed in, and then something scratched the ground behind her and she wheeled to see the orange-armored Elite class (the only thing around here that's got prettier armor than me, she'd joked back when they were all together). It raised its sword and the first crack was so unexpected that it slammed her chin against her helmet and went through her shield to the mask beneath. She hit the dirt and kicked the Elite when it loomed above her, and got up and kept fighting, skidding in the dirt, sweeping the air with bullets as more emerged from behind the boulders scattered around her redoubt.
She kept her small fingers clenched around the dog tags and thought of the little blue spark of an A.I. that had rode her here, now somewhere far up in space changing the worlds.
I've made it count.
(Jorge could have been so much to her and Emile always frightened her a little, but she finds that it's the masked man's last words she wants to take as her own last thoughts. At the end it doesn't really matter whether or not it counts, because life is simply made of some things that do, in the long run, and some things that don't.)