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    • 3 years ago

    • Inside Man (2/2)

      3 years ago


      “Quickly, this way,” hisses North from the door, and York and Tex dash across the hangar to join him. “I’ve bought you a few minutes, but I don’t know if it’s enough –”

      “It’ll have to be,” says Tex grimly, bristling with grenades. “York, you know the plan, let’s sync and –”

      “Actually,” says York, “you go, I’ll catch up in a minute –”

      “We don’t have time!”

      “I know,” says York seriously, and looks at North. “But this is important.”

      “It better be,” says Tex, and off she goes.

      Theta, says North, how’re those security protocols doing?

      Still disabled! says Theta, but there’s a strain in his voice. I think F.I.L.S.S. is getting suspicious though –

      Well, you let me know when you can’t hang on any longer.

      Will do!

      “North,” says York, and he’s standing right in front of him, hands at his sides. “Thank you for doing this.”

      “Oh, no problem,” says North. “Really.”

      York tilts his head slightly, and North wishes heartily they weren’t wearing helmets so he could see York’s face. “It’s not too late to join us,” says York. “I could use you by my side.”

      It’s…unbearably sincere, the way he says that, and North feels a deep and painful weight in his heart. “I know,” he says. “But I don’t think I can.”

      “I know,” says York, just as Delta shimmers into view.

      “Hello, Agent North,” he says. “I am also grateful for the assistance you provided us.”

      North nods his head. “Weren’t no thing.”

      There’s a flicker of red and blue and then Theta’s on his shoulder. “Delta!” he chirps. “I’m glad you’re here…”

      “I, too, am pleased to see you,” says Delta. North looks closely at him, realizes he’s posed the exact same way York is standing. When York shifts his weight, Delta mirrors the action. “I regret that we will not interact more in the future.”

      “Me too – oh, North!”

      “Yeah, buddy?”

      “I don’t think I can hold the security protocols much longer –”

      “That’s fine, you did a great job.”

      “Guess that’s our cue,” says York. “Oh, hey, before I go, one last thing – what’s your real name?”

      Smiling, North tells him.

      “Huh,” says York. “Not what I would have expected. Mine’s –” and he says it.

      “That’s… actually almost exactly what I expected,” says North.

      York chuckles, already backing towards the door. “Take care of yourself, North,” he says. “I mean it. I don’t want to hear about you getting shot or something.”

      “I’ll do my damndest.”

      And then with a salute and a turn on his heel York’s gone, just as the lights start flashing red and the alarm siren goes off. “North?” says Theta, as F.I.L.S.S. begins the intruder alert. “Are York and Tex going to rescue the Alpha?”

      “What?” says North, even though he knows, deep down, that that’s what all this is about. He hasn’t been told anything for sure – the lines of communication just hadn’t been secure enough – but that doesn’t matter. “No, they’re – they’re trying to get to the Director –”

      “I know they are,” says Theta. “Delta told me.”

      Shit. “Well, why’d you ask me, then?”

      “I wanted to know if you did.”

      York and Tex aren’t the only freelancers on the ship, and not everyone is on their side. North picks up his semiautomatics, starts walking towards the elevators. “Then yes,” he says. “I suppose they are.”

      “Do you think they’ll do it?”

      “I don’t know,” he sighs. Already he can hear distant explosions and screaming – Tex. “What about you?”

      “Hmmm,” says Theta. “I think they will.”

      Inside his suit, North is sweating, the collar tight around his neck, his palms damp, the chestpiece restricting. “North?” says Theta. “Are you afraid?”

      “Nah,” he lies, rolling his shoulders. “Just a little tense. Are you?”

      “No,” says Theta, putting a bicolored hand on North’s visor. “Not as long as I have you.”

    • Inside Man (1/2)

      3 years ago


      It is late, very late, and North is walking through the dimmed halls with a mug of tea in his hand and a restless Theta in his head. Easy, easy there, he says, trying to soothe Theta’s fretting. No need to get all worked up. You’re fine.

      But, but, the Director, and Alpha, and things are happening, and I don’t know what they are, and Sigma keeps trying to talk to me, and I don’t like it –

      Hey, hey, shhhh, says North. His boots echo dully on the metal floors, the faint white glow of after-hours lighting picking out pearly highlights on walls and doors. Don’t you worry about it. Sigma wants you, he’s going to have to get through me first.

      Theta feels marginally more reassured. Yes, but –

      Hey, no buts, says North. We’re gonna be just fine –

      Something very abruptly grabs him by the arm and shoulder and drags him into the nearest closet, North’s mug of tea clattering to the ground.

      “What the HELL –” sputters North, before he registers that it’s York who’s crammed them both in what’s approximately two feet by two feet of cleaning supply storage. North’s about to make some quip about having to buy him dinner first, but then York takes his helmet off and… wow. He looks more stressed out than North’s ever seen him, hair going every which way instead of its usual carefully coiffed spikes.

      “Hey,” says North slowly. “Everything okay?”

      “No,” says York, eyes flicking to the door and back to York. Jesus, he’s twitchy, what’s wrong – “no, it’s not – hey, you should probably turn Theta off –”

      Theta? says North. York and I just need to have a little chat, you mind napping for a bit?


      He powers down, the soft spot in the back of North’s mind suddenly lighter and cooler, and North refocuses his attention on York. “What’s up?” says North. “And why are we in here?” There’s a broom handle poking him at a very uncomfortable angle under his shoulder.

      “No surveillance,” says York, fingers drumming restlessly on his thighs. “And take off your helmet, you know they hear everything we say through those, right?”

      North obliges, a sick feeling growing in the pit of his stomach. York doesn’t get nervy like this, which means that either something’s seriously wrong with the world outside, or something’s seriously wrong with York. “All right,” he says, tucking his helmet under his arm. “Now what do you have to say that you don’t want them listening in on?”

      York looks him dead in the eyes. “They’re taking our AIs.”

      A chill spreads down North’s face, up his spine. “What?”

      “They – the Director and the Counselor – they’re taking them all out, after what happened with Wash they decided it’s too dangerous, they’re gonna cut them out and –” York swallows nervously, fingers working a frantic pattern, and he looks at North desperately – “They’re gonna take D and I can’t let that happen, I won’t, I won’t let them do it –”

      “Hey hey hey, calm down,” says North – they’re so crammed in he barely has space to lift a hand to York’s shoulder, but he manages it. “Deep breaths. You’re gonna be fine.”

      York exhales heavily, rocking from foot to foot. “Yeah,” he says, looking slightly steadier. “Yeah, yeah, I know. I just –”

      North doesn’t have anything to offer verbally; he just keeps a hand on York’s shoulder, watches him with concern. Taking another deep breath, York settles himself and smiles a tiny wry smile. “Sorry,” he says. “Just kinda freaking out about the whole thing.”

      “I understand,” says North. He does. The impact of York’s words is starting to hit him, and he’s very glad Theta’s asleep for this. He will not let them take Theta from him. He’ll rip out the throat of the first person who tries. “Where did you hear this from?”

      “Tex,” says York. Of course. She seems to be at the heart of this, after all. “Which brings me to my second point. We’re leaving, her and I.”

      “You’re… leaving? But what about Carolina –”

      “Oh, no no no, it’s nothing like that!” says York, holding his hands up. “No… Carolina…” and he looks so stricken for a moment that North pities him intensely. “No, this is… this is about protecting ourselves, protecting D. And all of you. We just – we can’t be around here any longer. Something’s going on, and we’ve got to get to the bottom of it, but not from here. It’s too dangerous.”


      York really is very close to him; even in the faint light North can see details, the ridges of his scars, the day’s worth of stubble on his jaw, thin lines of worry on his lower lip. With no one talking he’s acutely aware of their breathing, how not quiet it is –

      “Hey,” says York, softly. “Come with us. Come with me.”

      “I –” North hesitates, torn. On the one hand, Theta, and York. But on the other…

      “I can’t,” he says. “I can’t leave South, especially not now. You know how much trouble she’ll get herself into.”

      York smiles again, that quiet little hint of a smirk. “Yeah,” he says. “Yeah, I know. I figured that’s what you’d say.”

      “I’m sorry.”

      “Nah, don’t be,” says York, but there’s definite regret in his voice. He fumbles for the door handle, starts to open it. “We all got our priorities.”

      “And what’s yours?”

      York pauses, the side of his face illuminated silver from the hallway lights. “Fucked if I know,” he says, and laughs, bitter.

      “Hey,” says North, as York steps out of the closet. “If they’re watching us, isn’t it going to be a little suspicious that we were both in a random closet for no reason?”

      “You’re right,” says York, and grabs North’s face and kisses him.

      North makes a startled sound in his throat, York’s fingers pressing into the back of his neck. But before he’s had a chance to process much more than that, and that York’s lips are warm and a little rough, and he smells faintly of sweat and musk, York’s pulled away.

      It was a very thorough kiss. North stares at York, lips tingling, as York smiles his weary sideways grin and tips a two-fingered salute at North. “See you around,” he says.

      “Yeah,” manages North.

      York turns, putting on his helmet, and as he walks away down the hallway all North can think is that his reflection in the polished metal floor looks like a ghost.


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