Rila: Broadening my horizons - I don't just watch TCW, y'know. :D Plus I fell in love with Naomi and Vaz's dynamic - it isn't romantic - it's a bit like Rex and Ahsoka's - the connection between two soldiers that could become something else. :) May be a bit OOC, but I think that it's within character because Naomi really does trust Vaz more than anyone else on that ship.

Disclaimer: Vasily Beloi and Naomi-Zero-One-Zero belong to Karen Traviss, characters soley in the Halo novels: Glasslands, The Thursday War.

Word Count: 983

Chapter Description: She trusted him to tell her the truth, and now he wished that he hadn't.

"I want you to tell me if I should read my file." It had been posed in a way that gave him a choice, and he had found that he couldn't refuse. Not when she had a right to know the truth. And so he had agreed. What he had read had not been pretty.

"I told you this would just make you angry," BB had told him, though the AI's words did little to pacify the anger that had boiled in his veins, his teeth grinding together. What sort of person — no, what sort of monster — did that to someone? Much less six year olds?

Vaz hadn't had much of an opinion on Doctor Catherine Halsey before this — only that she was someone who wasn't held in favor with Parangosky or Osman. But this erased whatever doubts he'd had, whatever grain of salt he'd taken with the things he'd heard. He could not view her as someone to be pitied now.

She's a monster.

And she was the woman that, for all extensive purposes as she'd grown up, Naomi had viewed as a mother. But Halsey wasn't fit to be anyone's mother — she was, in Vaz's own opinion, a bitch.

But, no matter how much he wanted to give her what she deserved — which was a one-way ticket to Hell —, he could not. It wasn't out of worry for his milital status — they could shove that right up their asses now that he knew what went on behind the curtain — but for Naomi.

"Just go find Naomi. Go on." BB had been adamant, and he'd stalked out of the room, still seeing red. It was disgusting that someone could take six year olds from their parents and replace them with a clone — one that died not long after.

Vaz was certain there was a special place in Hell for people like Doctor Catherine Halsey. He'd leashed his anger by the time he found Naomi, and all the words he had meant to say had died an early death when she'd looked at him. Despite her status as a Spartan, there had been something decidedly childish in her gaze, anxiety and curiosity clashing as she'd watched him, waiting. "Well?"

He'd swallowed the lump in his throat, braced himself — and let the words fall. Naomi had been stoic throughout the tale, no anger, no sorrow — just blank. And that was what frightened him most, he later realized, after she'd asked him to leave in an eerily calm tone. A part of him wanted to identify it as shock — and he couldn't blame her. He'd known his parents for more than six years. He hadn't had a clone, hadn't gone through what she had.

It had to be terrible. And, from what he had seen before he'd left, she'd simply boxed it away. Pushed it into some dark compartment in her mind, locked away. Maybe that was the Spartan way of dealing with things. Whatever it was, however, Vaz knew it wasn't healthy.

Why do I care so much? It was a question that he asked himself, and he gave himself the same answer he had done with BB. "She's me mate," he answered aloud, a sad mimicry of Mal's accent. A companion in this crazy ride, a comrade — a friend.

And ODSTs did not abandon friends.

It was why he found himself outside her cabin, fist raised to knock. "It's open," came the quiet response before he could do so, and he stepped forward as the door slid open. Military to the bone just as he and Mal were, Naomi's belongings were few in number and organized, though the woman herself was perched on her bed, staring down at a datapad. "I had BB transfer my file."

Vaz swallowed. There it was again; the eerie, mild tone that warned that something could break at any point. He approached and after a moment, sat down next to her and reached over, tugging the pad out of her hands. She looked up, and Vaz steeled his nerves. "Naomi," he began, fully aware of his lack of experience in comforting someone, "You know that you can talk to me, right?"

Naomi stared, and Vaz cringed internally. Maybe this was why Chrissie had dumped him — he'd never been very good at talking to girls. Way to go, Vasily.

"I know." Naomi turned away, and for a moment, Vaz thought she was angry at him after all. And then he caught it, the slight shudder of her frame as she inhaled and shifted, still looking away from him. She lifted a hand to her face, and he said nothing about the glimmer of tears as she wiped at them. "Spartans don't cry," she told him, making another pass at her eyes.

Vaz reached for her other hand with one of his own, gripping it. It's okay didn't feel right to say, and so he said nothing. The fingers closing around his in return, however, said that she understood.