The sun set regularly on Chorus. Almost every time, Wash could catch one of the Blood Gulchers looking at it.
This time, he caught two of them. Tucker and Grif were sitting on opposite corners of the Warthog's hood, Tucker's feet braced against the left winch hook, Grif leaning back so far that he almost touched the bulletproof glass. Wash could still smell fuel and broken grass in the air.
As he watched, both soldiers turned away from the leaf-crowded edge of the sunset they could see above the canyon wall. Tucker just glanced at him before shifting and continuing to talk.
Dangerous, Wash thought. All three of them had their backs to a lot of empty air right now, and Wash had a feeling something was going to come charging out of it very soon if they didn't get the radio working.
Tucker said, "So I asked the ambassador whether there were any of those blue alien babes, you know like in the movies."
Tucker shook his head.
"Don't look now," Grif said.
"What, Wash? Yeah, he's been there for like ten minutes."
"That's…not entirely accurate," Wash said, and rounded the front of the Warthog. He'd have to shift these two out of here before they made sunset-watching a regular thing. "Are you enjoying yourselves?"
Tucker hopped off the hood with a clang. "Wait, wait, I've got this."
Grif said "Huh?" behind him.
"We're comparing battle strategies," Tucker said sarcastically. He was almost the same height as Wash, almost skinnier. "I told him about living in the desert, before CT, and he told me about Sarge trying to kill him in Valhalla by throwing him off a tower. It was very educational."
"No," Wash said. He had meant to say it, but not so coldly.
"No. Grif. Get back to Red Base."
"Fine," Grif said with a confused note on the end like it had just caught up to him that he was agreeing. "Stop being so scary!"
Wash said, "Tucker. Walk."
"Dude?" Tucker stalked a few feet away from him. "Why don't you give it a rest for a minute? We're not all going to die if we relax a little."
Wash knew that historically people had, but didn't feel that arguing it was productive. "You were talking about CT." It was easy to get the name out, just like it had been easy to talk about York. "And the alien ambassadors."
"Yeah. You weren't around for that."
Wash cut him off. Even though Tucker and Wash had never met at that point, and Wash had been in jail, it had started to sound like an accusation. "Don't call that soldier CT."
"What?" Tucker sounded more perplexed than aggressive, but his helmet swung around fast.
"Don't call the man in the desert CT," Wash said, hearing the sing-song tone of his own voice. He would explain this as to a child likely to use the information the next time it needed something. "That wasn't her. CT was a Freelancer, and she died somewhere else. The man in the desert took her helmet after she was killed."
Tucker stared at him. Wash could see the other man wondering why it mattered, recognizing strongly that it did. "You knew all that from looking at a helmet?"
"Carolina told me."
"Ah. And Carolina had no motive to tell you a story about your old war buddies at that point in order to stop you from siding with us. None at all."
"It wasn't about them and us, when Epsilon left."
But now he was speculating again, wondering whether Carolina might have been wrong about who exactly had died in the desert. She had wanted to kill the Director, and Wash had - wanted to step aside, like CT had done. He just hadn't found a lead like she had.
"I saw Church walk away with her. It really was." Tucker lowered his head, his shoulders, everything, then reset into his usual prickly posture. Tucker walked like a rooster, all arrogant bobbing. "I'm going back to base."
When Wash didn't tell him to stop, he turned around and walked, with an exaggerated looseness in his step. He looked back once, as an afterthought. "That dude, CT, was tough, but he really killed a Freelancer?"
"I didn't say he killed her," Wash said. Tucker shrugged and left him in the darkness.