Dossier 5: Jun-A266

Summary: A moment of silence and the origin of Jun's tattoo. (Maybe.)

A/N: Argh I'm sorry this one is so bad and took so much time in coming. I just can't find Jun interesting and can't get out of the "let's pair everybody" mentality. ( I ship Jun/dramatically lonely cliffsides.) If anybody's OOC, I'm sorry. I've been reading "let's give Noble Team some happiness, please, and it might end up feeling not like the game at all but there's a great group dynamic anyway" fics.

Vigilant Spirit

It was the evening of August eleventh and Noble Team had left Sword Base two nights ago. The fire had been started with a pile of brush and something Emile had done that no one had actually seen him do. It burned bright and slightly acrid-smelling, orange with flickering green at the tips. It bit at the back of Jun's nose as he looked out at the partially icelocked sea, at the almost-white water with winter in its stillness.

Six was watching the fire, leaning against Jorge's arm; Kat and Carter were discussing something quietly, assuming that everyone else would ignore the fact that, although Kat had finished the modifications she had said she was doing on her iron arm half an hour ago, her flesh hand was still clamped around its forearm, and Carter's around her flesh hand. Emile was sharpening his kukri, scraping the edge against a cloth, then his gauntlet, then holding it up to the light. He and Six were the only ones who had kept their helmets on, so Emile looked at his handiwork through skull eyes. Skull. Cloth. Repeat.

And Jun was in love with the view.

They should be sleeping now, all of them except the one on watch. But there was a sense that the morning would come too soon in any sense, that a small amount of time needed to be preserved. That moving too quickly meant forgetting something.

Or maybe that was just Jun. Emile called Jorge sentimental, but Jun knew that he was really the one most due that label—in a pejorative sense, at least. He kept things. He wanted to keep this sky and sea in the back of his mind, to save them for later.

He kept Thom. Kept expecting him to say something, to walk out of the scrub and ask if anything exciting had happened while he had been gone.

"You weren't responsible," the doctor had said at his workup. Old doctor, human, male, scraggly white hair at his temples. No more than six feet tall.

"I could have taken the bomb," said Jun. "I could have watched for Kat to fall."

"Those are eventualities. No one could have predicted what happened. Your team knows this. This grief will pass. Accept your pain. Talk."

He did both, and it did not.

He did not blame the doctor.

So Jun went to the crags of his own accord sometimes, called it recon, and the commander used it for recon. And so Jun quipped and asked questions, because then Kat and Carter didn't think he was doing too badly. And so, Jun did not greet the new Noble Six when she first arrived and assumed her quiet way into their team.

He did not know her name, and that was alright. He looked at all of them in turn and saw Thom's coffin, his burial at space. He could shove those thoughts away. He could separate them, instead of making them part of his career like Emile did.

But having this nagging feeling that everyone around him was going to die—was going to try their hardest and noblest and still die and leave him—had to affect a man somehow.

( Later, so much (little over a month) later, he would look for Carter's eyes behind his mask and hear him say "Take Doctor Halsey and go." He would wonder for a moment whether this was some sort of joke, as the MIA reports came in and kept coming in. Something designed to make him crack again, to stress the fracture points.

It wasn't. It was just the way of the world.)

He did not want to think about death, did not want to wonder whether the smell of smoke was from the fire Noble Team had gathered around, or just in his nervous mind. The view of the sea was nice, but it was too empty. He needed something else to occupy him.

He moved back toward the fire, dislodging small rocks from the dirt path. Crouching by the blaze meant that he still had a view out over the cliff.

Jun dislodged the silence like pebbles, sent it tumbling over the bank. "Do you think the Covenant are sleeping now, sir? Do they sleep?"

Carter and Kat sat up straighter. "Of course they do, Jun."

"Upside down," Emile chimed in. "Like bats."

"It's a common misperception," Carter said.

Jun sat down on a rock next to the fire. "I'm not sure that's all that common. I've never heard it before."

Six said, "I heard that if they bite you, you turn into one."

Jun turned around slightly to see Six sit up straight. Jorge was nonplussed. Six's angled orange helmet peered expressionlessly at Jun, but then she gave a little laugh from behind it. "No really, I heard it. One of the marines said so."

Jun said, "I'm just saying maybe we could attack them when they're not expecting. If we're all going to be awake anyway."

Carter said, "We're not all supposed to be awake," but no one seemed inclined to take this as an order. The night was bright and the ice was slowly drifting through the bay. It was breathing time.

Jun found it hard to relax, but he had already cleaned his guns. He could go to sleep now. But miss the view? Miss this camaraderie everyone had found, for some moment of indefinable parameters that were unlikely to be re-created? Even Emile was sitting close, inside the bright halo of the fire.

"Jun," Six said, and he turned again. "I've been wondering." She leaned forward to almost touch the marked skin beside his ear. "Does your tattoo symbolize something?"

Jorge scooped up Six's forearm in one hand and brought her back to his side, where she settled again on the rock and pushed her shoulder against his for a moment. Jun thought of cliffs so high it took a walk to the end to hear a rock dropped at the beginning land. He thought of the three arrows he held clenched in his fists, invisible. Unable to relax, because they were his weapons. The world he had lost. The UNSC. Thom.

He said, "It's no big deal."

Emile grunted. "He doesn't like to talk about it, but he just woke up one day, and there was Kat with a needle."

Kat hackled and pointed at him with her spindly robot arm. "You want one? Maybe a little heart?"

Emile's response could not be heard over Carter's. "People." It was short but loud.

"What do you want me to tell you?" Jun replied to Emile specifically. "That it was for my mommy?"

Jun didn't wait around for an answer to that. Instead, he picked his way through the rocks back to where he had stood before, and propped his hands on his hips. (There are some things you just don't do in a group of orphaned super-soldiers, and Jun tended to do them anyway. He heard a couple thuds as someone or someones vented their irritation.)

Carter followed Jun. His presence seemed to push both of them farther from the group, out into the realm of "a superior officer making sure his subordinate is fit for combat", and Jun moved over a little, looking down at the landscape far below. He thought of the movement it would take to pull his long-barreled sniper rifle over his shoulder and sight, hands cold on the barrel, if he saw movement down there.

Carter said, "Is this about Thom?"

"Isn't it always?" He would let the commander decide whether that was sarcastic or not.

The commander sounded a little irritated. A 'get that job done quick'-irritated that didn't really mean anything on the battlefield. "You've got to let it go, Jun. We have a war to win."

Carter had been sympathetic before. Kat had been sympathetic, in the long conversations they had about that last battle. This lack of sympathy was…it was refreshing. It cleared his head a little. He blinked and wondered what Carter read in his expression. (Sometimes he forgot, even after he took his helmet off, that people could see it.) "Yes sir."

And thinking of it as an order made it easier. Then, there was no choice. Don't regret. Don't think yourself into the past.

Carter tipped his head at him and started back to the little camp. Jun followed.

"It's from something," Six was saying, with Jorge and Kat listening intently. "I swear I've seen that symbol before."

Jun smiled.