Red vs Blue fic: Midnight in the Garden of Our Past Lives
1440 words | [PG-13]
It’s late, and Wash can’t sleep. But he’s not the only one. Maybe what him and Carolina really need is someone to talk them through the dark night. Cuddling also works.
Wash isn’t sleeping anyway when he hears Carolina call out from the room across the hall. He stares blankly at the gray ceiling trying to ignore the sobs—she would hate to know he was listening. But the sound is a knife through his heart in more than one way. Still, he doesn’t move because she’d probably kick him in the balls if he tried to play the half-assed hero with her. Carolina is no damsel in distress.
But when the noise from her room fades, he silently slips from his bed. Wash is the only one that knows the code to her lock, and the soft click of it disengaging sounds abnormally loud in the late night. He waits for Carolina to throw open the door, gun in hand. Or something equally dramatic, but it’s quiet. He’s not sure if that’s a good thing or bad.
He finds her sitting in bed, knees to her chest, staring into the dark. “Hey,” she says without looking at him like she knew he’d come. He has no idea why she would think that. He’s never done this before. Well, not the breaking and entering part—he can’t count the number of times he’s listened to her cry from outside her door, though. He needs to know she’s okay.
Carolina scoots over so he can join her on the bed but says nothing else. Wash sits, legs stretched out, feet dangling off the side. Her blankets are a twisted mess and the sheets soaked with sweat. The only light in the room comes from the digital display of her old-fashioned alarm clock. He watches her out of the corner of his eye, not sure what to say or do except be there for her.
Eventually, she leans her head on his shoulder. “I couldn’t beat her,” she whispers.
“Tex?” Wash frowns. “That’s who you were dreaming about?”
Carolina scoffs. “I know, right? How pathetic is that? Even after all these years, she still gives me nightmares.”
He snorts. “Well, she was pretty scary.” He says it almost fondly because there are so many versions of Tex in his head—all hated and loved by the many other people stuck in there as well. Sometimes it’s hard to sort out which ones are his real feelings. He’s pretty sure he had no problem with Tex personally. At least not until he tried to kill her. Then she was all up in his business. And that was fucking terrifying.
“It’s stupid,” she says after a moment, wiping at her eyes. “God.”
Wash takes a chance, sliding his arm around her and pulling her close. She doesn’t resist. In fact, she buries her face in the crook of his neck, making herself comfortable. He’s not sure what to do with that. He suddenly feels sixteen and completely unready for Angie Beckett climbing through his window that one night. He blushes at the thought. Thankfully, it’s too dark for Carolina to see. He takes a deep breath, pushing away the awkward memories and lays his cheek against the top of her head.
Carolina plays with the chain of his dog tags. “Why was I never good enough?”
Is she drunk? Wash shakes his head. “I don’t-”
“I couldn’t beat her.”
He wonders how much she actually knows. And that leads to what the fuck do I tell her? He takes a deep breath deciding to just go with the truth because he’s too tired to keep dancing around shit. “You know she was an AI, right? The fact that you stayed number two is impressive.”
Carolina jerks away and Wash sighs.
“I’m just saying—it’s not exactly easy for a human brain to compete with an AI-”
She punches him in the arm. Hard. “Whose side are you on?”
He puts his hands up. “I’m not on anyone’s side.” Her growl is unmistakable. “Your side. I’m on your side,” he says, trying not to laugh. “Always your side.”
He doesn’t know why he adds the last part, but she melts against him again, and he decides he likes that. A lot. And there are those awkward feelings again. He closes his eyes, breathing slow. His brain is working overtime to sort out the memories and feelings.
“You think I could beat her now?”
Why is she torturing herself? Why is she torturing me? “No,” he tells her honestly, risking life and limb, “but that doesn’t mean she wins. Just because Tex was on the top of the leaderboard doesn’t mean anything. She had an unfair advantage-”
“She was his favorite,” she mumbles.
Wash has had enough. He grabs her by the shoulders. “I’m not doing this with you, Carolina, and I’m only saying this once so listen.”
She blinks up at him–a little confused and a lot of hurt in her eyes.
He’s pretty sure this conversation is a mistake, but he takes a deep breath anyway. It needs to be said. “The Director—he was a rat bastard, but-” He swallows hard, finishing softly. “But your father loved you.” She tries to pull away, but he doesn’t let go. “He loved you, Carolina, even if he didn’t show it. Didn’t know how to. He was as fucked up as the rest of us.”
“I can’t believe you’re defending him. You of all people.”
Wash glares at her. “I think I’m the only one in any position to defend him. And that’s not what I’m doing. I’m just stating a fact. Leonard Church was an asshole in any incarnation, but he loved exactly two people in his life-”
“And he loved her more.”
Wash drops his arms and gets up. “Maybe you’re right. And I’m pretty sure nothing I can say will ever change your mind anyway. Good night, Carolina.” Sometimes he wonders why he even tries.
He’s barely back in his room when her door bangs open. She stomps after him, and in the dim light from his desk lamp, he can see the dark circles under her red-rimmed eyes. “I miss him,” she shouts, slamming his door behind her.
Tears slide down her cheeks as she looks away. “Epsilon.”
Oh. That makes more sense. He doesn’t know what to say so he just waits.
“He was-” She sniffles. She can’t seem to elaborate, wrapping her arms around herself.
Wash pulls her close. “He loved you too.”
She huffs. “You have that floating around in your head, too?”
He laughs. “No. His actions said everything.”
“Whatever. He was a jerk.”
“Yeah.” He hugs her tighter. “But he was our jerk.”
She glances up at him. He forces himself to keep eye contact because it’s the most intimate he’s been with anyone in a long time, and it’s the closest he’s come to actually talking about what happened, and it’s the first time he’s admitted that he actually misses Epsilon. Carolina smiles. Then laughs, leaning her head on his shoulder. “He was a jerk, and I miss him. He was-”
She still can’t seem to say the words so Wash fills them in. “He was like your father. The one you remember.”
“Your childhood must have been-” He bites back a grin. “Interesting.”
Carolina pinches his side. “Shut up.”
Wash pins her hands to her back then leans his forehead against hers. “You gonna be okay?”
She lets out a long breath. “You gonna get some sleep?”
She doesn’t answer his question—not that he expected her to—but the way she looks at him with a mixture of weary sadness and tender affection takes his breath away. Without really thinking, he walks them over to the bed, falling onto it when his knees bump the edge. He looks up hesitantly and with not a little bit of that terror he felt with Angie then slides over to the wall—an invitation. He’s not sure how crushed he’ll be if she walks out the door, but she surprises him with a soft smile, climbing in. He tucks her against his chest and tugs the blanket over them.
“I’ll sleep if you sleep,” he mumbles into her neck.
She tangles her fingers with his. “If you promise to tell me how you’re really doing with all this.”
Wash sucks in a long breath then exhales slowly. “Tomorrow, promise.” He means it completely.
“Deal,” Carolina murmurs with a yawn, snuggling closer.
Wash decides having her pressed against him—listening to her breaths even out—isn’t as scary as he thought, and as he drifts off, he thinks that maybe, just maybe, they can find some peace tonight. Together.