Notes: Thanks to both skywalker05 and Valdrada for beta-reading this one.
It was quiet here, in this blank white space that was more of a vacuum than a hospital room, and the metal table was cold against his elbows as he sat hunched over the notebook they'd given him. Write, the counselor had told him. Write whatever you want. It was supposed to be a therapeutic exercise, or something. So he picked up the pen and he started. He pressed the tip to the paper and dragged it down, starting to form the letters:
And then he stopped, stared at it, thought, No, and scribbled it out. He started again.
No, he –
Wash brought his hand to his forehead, slipped his fingers through his hair and tore at it a little, trying to pull out the right words, like they could be drawn out if he just tried hard enough – but in his mind there was only something cold and something broken and left scattered around, like when you break a glass on the kitchen floor and you don't get all the pieces and one day one of them sinks into your foot and you don't know where the blood's coming from –
He let his hand fall, picked up the pen, and tried again.
It was always the A, he kept getting stuck on the A, because –
But that wasn't him. That wasn't him. Wash closed his eyes and breathed in and out slowly. They told him to do that. The counselor told him to do that.
Maybe a different letter. A, B, C? C. There, that was something.
And then it wasn't, anymore; he couldn't grasp it, it was gone. So start again, start at the beginning.
A-G-E-N-T. That was – was that right? He looked at the white plastic medical bracelet around his wrist and compared the shapes of the letters.
Yes. That was right. Okay. He pressed the pen down again.
Agent Wash? There had been people who had called him Wash, but there had been more to his name. He checked the bracelet again. There was. There was more. He kept writing.
You could see a lot of stars in the desert, hundreds of thousands of stars. You could see a lot of stars on a space ship too, but a space ship wasn't this quiet. CT sat down cross-legged in the sand, a little ways from the base, and tilted her head back so that her neck hurt and her eyes filled up with lights. Her helmet rested beside her, face up, the dim glow of the visor coloring the sand orange at her feet. Twigs and bits of scrub went rustling past in the light wind. She watched them for a while, then picked up a dried out stick and started writing in the sand.
Dear? What was she writing, a letter to the editor? No. CT grimaced and brought her palm down hard against the word, pushing the sand aside. She tried again.
She…what? She was sorry? She was wondering was he okay? For a moment CT just stared at the letter – glared at it, really – and then it came to her.
It's really quiet here. You would like it. You'd be able to read your field manuals and nothing would bother you, except maybe the wind. And okay, maybe the aliens, but they're quieter now too. Most of the time it's just quiet and dry and hot. And I mean really hot. But you probably wouldn't mind it; you always hated when it rained anyway. It hasn't rained here yet, not since I've been here, but they told me that when it does it's going to come in these huge waves and flood everything and then everyone has to find higher ground.
She was running out of ground now, writing up against where her helmet was still solid, still stable. It would take a hell of a wind to rock it. CT took a slow breath of desert air and looked up at the stars again, then back down at her handiwork.
Anyway I just wanted to say hi. Like I said, it's really quiet here. You should come visit.
She stopped again, curling her fingers tight around the stick but stopping before it could snap. Frowning, CT swiped at the sand and erased her signature, rewriting it hastily before she could change her mind.