A/N: I would count this as one of the "CT talks to everyone" series, except that it doesn't meet the criteria of 1.) being a single continuous scene, 2.) doing something interesting with point of view, and 3.) not being romantic.
"Do you ever think they're together because they're the top of the board?"
Connie could hear York and Carolina a room away, affectionately bickering over her choice of movie. York was not yet cool enough to accept that Carolina liked watching movies involving unicorns. Wash sat beside Connie and idly attempted to push half of her hair over to the left side to make her symmetrical. She had been perfectly content with his serene puzzlement and careful attention to his task until she had heard the laughter from the other room.
"What do you mean?" Wash said casually.
She shifted closer to him, enjoying the feeling his his fingers against her scalp. "They're number one and number two. It's like they're together because they think the other one deserves it."
Wash's hands stopped moving, and he tipped his head to look at her. "Do you not think we deserve it?"
"That's not what I mean. We care about each other because we're imperfect. We're good for one another, not for…everybody. Not for an audience." She lay her forehead against his chest, but he didn't seem to know what to do with his hands any more.
He paused on the way to patting her on the back. "You think York's perfect for everyone?"
"No! I…That's not what I mean. I know saying 'he's better' won't help, but…."
It's right there on the board. You understand. You're logical, like I am.
Wash drew away; Connie got the hint and sat up.
He said, "No, it doesn't."
"Just…give me a second to catch up."
Look." She pushed her hands against his chest, then plucked at his gray shirt. Once she had started she had trouble not touching him. They hadn't been together long. Later she would think that it was a sort of grace that meant there was a short period of about a week between their confused, passionate, initial relationship and the desperation with which she clung to him even as she was setting up meetings with Insurrectionists. It kept things interesting. "I like you because you're honest and regimented and a little nervous around girls. Not because you're cocky or red-haired or top of the board. That's why we work."
He took one of her hands, to stop the plucking. "Um, something's not working. I think maybe there was a compliment in there but I can't find it. Also, York and Carolina work because….I don't know, but it's not because she's got red hair." He tipped his head further.
The noise from the other room changed, the music on the television taking over from the human voices. The unicorn was just a filly at the beginning, running away.
Connie began to sense Wash's distress and drew farther away, leaving a small no-man's-land rectangle of couch between them. She felt the unbalanced weight of her hair flop against the left side of her neck. "I like that you're not obsessed with competition."
"But….you'd rather be…with York?"
She said it so loud that it was likely to have carried to the other room. Connie felt herself shrink, her head and shoulders drooping. Her hands refused to wring, settling instead on a palms-up, arms-out gesture of defiance. Then she became aware of that too and combed her fingers through her hair, pushing the strands back into their usual wing-shaped style on the right side as best she could. Wash leaned forward and tried to continue arranging it as before. Their fingers bumped clumsily, tamely against one another.
He said, "I like it symmetrical."
She said, "I like it sideways. It makes me look tough."
That night he went to her room out of habit. Before their relationship had been named (everyone else knew it before they did), they had begun to wait for one another there if the other was away. Wash would lay down and close his eyes and wait for her to touch his face or his hand or his hair. He thought of nothing but which it would be until he fell asleep.
Today she stopped in the middle of the room, and he woke when he heard her kit bag hit the floor. She was coming back from a mission out on the great plains of the world.
She said, "You don't have to be here."
He opened his eyes.
"I don't need consoling."
He bowed his head and hid his mouth under the blanket, confused.
"This isn't working." She wouldn't meet his eyes. Instead she opened her locker and stuffed the bag inside, then stood there with her hands on it like she was trying to find something to pretend to be doing. "I talked to York. He said I should come to my own senses."
Wash thought about how York helped everyone: he had even been known to have actual conversations with the Director. Wash unburied his face and said, "We can't get couples counseling from York if he's part of the problem."
"He's not. I mean, I'm not interested in York."
"But you mentioned him."
"I know. It's like…" She turned her back to him, and he untangled himself from the blankets and got to his feet. She said, "I want to be him. I can aspire to acting like York, and being that confident. I can't aspire to Carolina. I don't know why, and I don't like it."
Wash said, "I don't want you to be either of them."
"I know, Wash."
But with his departure from her bed they both seemed to lose any vulnerability they had gained. She unpacked her bag, and after a few minutes of standing and looking at her, he left.
He had a vicious side, and usually she only saw it when he was fighting. He never stopped on the field, always up and shooting as soon as his feet hit the ground He deliberated beforehand. He worried beforehand, and somehow, in the battle, all that was gone.
She realized how he did it as she got more suspicious and more tied up in the Insurrection. He just stopped thinking. It wasn't natural for either of them. But they learned it, tortured and contorted their own personalities into compliance, and got good at landing on their feet. When Wash threw himself to the wind his caution went too. She started seeing more of his fighting side in their everyday interactions: more stiffened shoulders, more movements so careful that he must be trying to make them seem effortless. Wash was not effortless naturally unless he was killing, and although CT did not go on missions with him often, she had seen him kill enough to know that he did it with a laziness that did not match the rest of his persona.
She had never killed anyone - at least, not directly. She was a hacker, not a marksman like Wash. Her affect was as different from his as their helmets were different from one another. Her fighting spirit came out in paranoia and fear, small snide things she couldn't help from emerging out of her mouth. Maybe it would explain to him how hard he would have to fight to get her to open up again.
Perfecting her secrets and wanting his ferocity, she pinned her hair up every morning and left her room as soon as she could.
She didn't trust the coffee so she stayed away, shying like a horse all skinny ankles and fetlocks, supposed to be out on the great plain but she stayed here easing into the embrace of the couch. He took that as an excuse, really, but he had always been a place for her to retreat to so when he offered wiry arms and shoulders around her she pushed her forehead against his chest and breathed out one warm breath. It all came down to geography, one country folding in half and meeting at the edges, cracking the middle mountains into rubble, and she said:"I'm sorry."
"Hnuh?" He looked down at her, offense forgotten, and she saw the range of scars across his nose and cheeks.
She said, "I'm sorry."
There was no better way to say it. It would out cliche unless she just— told him—and she couldn't, because he had found out all ready. He read the transmissions. "No matter what happens."
He pulled back to look at her, all bright blue eyes swimming in their whites and the scars tapering across his cheek. She remembered him brushing her hair out of her eyes, holding the strands like a solid thing, like data chips in his hands. She remembered him very shyly, very firmly running running his hands across her hips. She remembered all of them, all seven or eight Freelancers playing cards at a shaky metal table, and she bowed her head and curled closer against him.
He combed one hand through her hair and bumped his forehead against hers. He said, "You'll be okay," and because she was Connie and she knew how he fought when he was cornered she wondered, before she gave in and kissed him, whether that was a threat.