Learn to Love the Reaper
Summary: "Where's here? I don't know. Heaven, hell. Although, if I'm here, it's probably hell. Walk with me." Six discovers that the Afterlife is a mysterious thing. Oneshot.
Noble Six remembered the searing pain of plasma passing through flesh and severing the cords of life that anchored her body to Reach's surface. It had felt as if a literal thread inside of her had been cut, and she was now floating freely, rocketing away from the ground and into the stars faster than any ship. It was exhiliarating and scary and ; she saw her body – her body – fall to the ground, blood flowing freely, dead eyes and pale skin covered in Reach's dusty earth.
She flew to infinity and landed nowhere; the next thing Six was aware of was a gray expanse with an unearthly and cold, brilliant light filling everything. She blinked, realized that the form-fitting undersuit and MJOLNIR armor had gone, leaving her in plain white flannel clothes – loose plants, a loose shirt, and no shoes. She padded barefoot, not quite sure what was ground and what was sky. She walked, and walked, and walked… and walked. What felt like two minutes may have well been eternity – time was a nonexistent thing here.
B312 had never believed in a god, never seen the need to. Her god was, well, as odd or egotistical as it sounded, her god was herself and her ability. She was one of those people who believed that everyone's god was in themselves, and that they had to find it in order to find their own religion. So this was odd – as a nonbeliever in god, she did not believe in heaven or hell, either. To be here was unexpected, but not unpleasant – nor was it a good thing, either. The Spartan did not like the idea of wandering around in this gray, light-filled world until infinity.
Her muses broke at the shape that came from the corner of her eye; she turned, not know what it was. Thankfully, when she walked forward towards it, it got closer instead of being eternally inaccessible to her. After a few minutes of uneventful walking, she recognized the shape as humanoid and a fierce joy erupted from beneath her breastbone as she began running, eager to meet this person who was also in this place.
The person was male and eerily familiar. When she was fifty yards away he faced her; when she was twenty, he yelled out.
"Who are you?" The wariness was obvious; the man was not friendly but neither was he on an offense. He was dressed in the same manner as Noble Six, the white flannel flapping slightly in an unseen breeze.
She halted, studied the shape a little closer, and made a wild guess.
"Emile? Noble Four?" The man jolted backwards, as if he had never been called by this name but knew that it was his.
"Who the hell are you? Why do you know… oh. Noble Six, right?" His drawl became thick while he was shouting; it prompted Six to move closer in an attempt to be able to understand him.
When she was close enough to see his face, she stopped. He walked forward, staring at hers. They were the only two on the team who had never felt a need to remove their helmets; as such, they had no idea what the other looked like.
Emile had dark hair and skin halfway between pale and tan. His hair was cut short in the Caesarian style and slightly mussed, as if he had slept on it wrong. His nose and jaw were sharp; his lips were thin and pressed together; his eyes – a dark brown bordering on black – were slightly narrowed in scrutiny. Emile's high cheekbones looked gaunt and were peppered in a five o'clock shadow – more like eight o' clock stubble, but Six surmised that she really didn't care. There was a scar on his lip, one on his temple and another on his jaw; when he turned his head she saw one hidden in his hair, a small bald patch.
"Huh." was Emile's only words at the end of his study; Six said nothing. They stood in silence before she finally decided that his eyes had done quite enough looking and his mouth not enough talking.
"Where are we?" It was a logical question, one of the first in her now-huge reservoir of inquiries. Emile blinked at her, and laughed – a short barking noise that sounded relaxed and unforced, now that danger was unimaginable.
"Where's here? I don't know. Heaven, hell. Although, if I'm here, it's probably hell." She frowned at this statement; Emile was an exemplary soldier and she highly doubted that serving and dying honorably would get one into hell. Six said nothing in reply to this statement, but opened her mouth to ask another question. He interrupted.
"Walk with me." It was a request wrapped in an order – Emile was trying to ask her nicely but the only way he knew how was in a demand. Six wondered if he had ever learned the word 'please'.
He walked, she followed. The two Spartans walked aimlessly, not knowing where they were or where they were going. After a few minutes of amicable silence:
"How long?" Emile was the one who asked the question; Six wasn't quite sure she understood it.
"How long what?"
"How long did you… live?" Oh. She blinked, an unfamiliar pain in the pit of her stomach.
"…One or two hours, why?" Her tongue felt like sticky dough.
She told him, slowing down at some parts because it was hard to force the words past her lips. If Noble Six loved anything, it was Humanity, and watching it being violated at Reach was… difficult. She had learned to accept death on an individual level; accepting death on a planetary level was harder than anything else she'd had to do. Emile did not talk when she was done, did not say a word.
It wasn't long after that before B312 realized she was crying, albeit silently. The tears were sliding down her face at an alarming rate, the pain of losing Reach and her team and even her own life to the Covenant finally broiling to the surface explosively. The silence shattered when she sobbed, turning away from her team member to cover her face with her calloused hands.
Emile was stony silent, not criticizing but neither comforting, lost in his own quiet despair. Finally he touched her lightly on the shoulder. She turned, her face still in her hands and the sobs wracking her tall body. He pulled her into a rough hug, that of siblings comforting one another or comrades greeting after a particularly difficult battle – the latter was truer than either thought. Six did not resist, but took a long, deep breath, trying her very hardest to stop. Falling apart was not appropriate nor characteristic of the Spartan; she would not let herself go just because she was dead.
Wasn't it appropriate though? Didn't she just die? Didn't she just watch her team go, one by one, into the embrace of death? Didn't she just watch a planet – full of human lives! – get taken over and violated by a foreign race. Yes, it was true, all of these things happened – that did not mean that the battle was over. She had passed on Cortana, and although she had no idea what the AI could do… there was faith. Faith that Halsey was right, faith that – in the end – Humanity could, would, had to prevail. There was faith and… and hope.
The thought broke her momentary silence, the sobs came again as the pain lanced back through her chest. After a few of these body-wracking cries she heard a muffled noise in her hair – coming from Emile. She said nothing, reacted with no disbelief, even though she really couldn't believe it – Emile, rough and unrepentant Emile was shedding tears into her hair. But he did love his job, didn't he? Killing Covenant… to protect Humanity. Maybe he didn't care about winning the war, but he did kill the aliens to protect something, not just as a hobby. He fought because there was honor in it, because he was usually the victor… because he didn't want others to die? A life for a life, maybe. An alien for a human. The Covenant races for Humanity.
It sounded uncharacteristic, but she hadn't exactly plumbed the depths of his personality in the few half-days that she had served with him. He had honored Jorge, had expressed pleasure at serving with Carter. So he did care for his team members, to some degree.
Ten minutes and the sobbing faded, twenty as they sat in silent comradeship, his arms around her frame as they stood in the middle of the afterlife. Thirty, and she finally remembered something that had been bothering her.
I'm ready! How 'bout you?
She mumbled the words into him and then lifted her head, repeated them, and looked at him questioningly.
Emile shrugged. Noble Six shrugged in return.
"Do you think we'll find anyone else? The rest of our team?" He shrugged again.
"Let's walk, and find out." His usual manner diminished; the incessant bloodlust dissipated and was replaced with sad weariness.
They walked. And walked – for years and miles, neither knew. They talked occasionally, though not often; they found that silence was better in each other's company. They also became something like friends, as much as two Spartans can become. They told each other what they liked in the other's fighting style. For Six, it was that Emile never had to run behind something; he was always out in front taking the hits with his trusty shotgun. For Emile, it was that B312 attempted to maul everything to death – she had a preference for beating things with her fists and weapons when she could.
They mused about the other team members – where they were, what they were doing. If any of them found each other like Noble Four and Six did. And occasionally they talked about Reach. Those were quiet, somber conversations and usually drifted into sad silence.
Finally, they stopped. They just stopped, in the middle of nothing and faced each other.
Noble Six nodded at him, for she was very weary, her normal energy seemingly drained away. Emile sat on the ground; she followed suit.
"Perhaps we should sleep?" The real question in Six's inquiry was if they should give up. Walking was getting them nowhere, they never needed to eat, they never needed to sleep or drink or take a break. This place was endless and was eating away at their determination – true peace was the only thing they wanted.
Emile shrugged his acceptance and reclined in the gray ground, staring up at the equally gray sky. B312 laid close to him, more for comfort than warmth, for she had grown to like him greatly.
They drifted, their existence ended, they were placed gently like feathers into oblivion. Their minds became nothing, their bodies were far away on Reach, decomposing. Their souls remained – bound to each other and the rest of Noble Team – and it was by this remainder of spirit that slowly they came.
Kat and Carter came together, Jorge followed, and finally Emile and Six. They greeted like old friends, all in the flannel white clothing, all comrades bound by an unexplainable and eternal bond. For they fought together – and even though they died in different fractions of a second, they died together, for they died on Reach. None of them knew what happened to Jun; when he found them again it would be joyous, because he lived the war through, he knew that Humanity won, that Reach was rejuvenated and Humanity was rebuilding. He told them of Master Chief and the Ark and the Halo Array and the Flood. He told them of the victory and the joy. They smiled and laughed under an unknown sun, warm for the first time since death.
For they knew, in the end, that they had not died in vain.
End Notes: -