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Fic: RvB: Death and Humanity

outlineofwinter 
Pairings: Wash/York, Omega/Delta
Rating: PG-15 (Yes, I'm making that up, but it has an Omega pairing - even with no sex, it's going to be messed up)
Warnings: Character death, language, messed up relationships, spoilers for anything past Out of Mind
Summary:
Some days they discuss death, some days they die, and some days those they love die. As it turns out, dying is easy, sacrifice is easy, but the aftermath of death is the hard part for those who survive.

"What do you think happens when we die?" York asked, half-heartedly lifting his head to look at Wash. He waved an arm lazily, as though trying to illustrate his point. "I mean do we just die or come back as ghosts or some shit?"

Wash scoffed, not looking up from his book. "Ghosts? Don't be an idiot, York. We probably just die. There's no better evidence, or hadn't you heard?"

York kicked at his lover, rolling his eyes. "God, you have got to be the most pessimistic person I have ever met. Well, I think there's something more to death - I mean, what would be the point of life, of sentience, if this was it?" He stared up at the ceiling from his back, contemplating the white paint on the textured walls, slightly blurred by his left eye.

"Next you're going to be wondering if AIs go to heaven when they die, aren't you, James? For someone who claims, rather loudly at that, to be a BAMF, you're ridiculously sappy." Wash finally looked up from his book, turning his head to smile wryly. He nudged York with his foot, too lazy to reach down to touch him. "Why are you wondering?"

York finally heaved himself up, moving around so that he could sit next to Wash. "It's just making me think, you know? I mean, after Jersey died last month... No one knows if it was his AI's fault, but that they just had Nevada pull Iota out and withdraw and blow up the body... just makes it hard to think that there's just nothing."

"Mm..." Considering, Wash marked his place and set his book down on the nightstand. "Maybe after all that, it would be a relief for things to just end. Either way, there are no such things as ghosts."

"You know, Delta told me the same thing." York was silent for a moment. He sighed, relaxing further against the pillows, fingers twitching nervously around a spare hair tie. He always carried an extra, just in case the one currently holding back his hair broke, as it so often would. David always told him to just get better quality ones, but York had preferences. And, though he would never admit it, was half amused and half pleased that if it broke when they were in one of their rooms, David was insist on brushing his hair out and pulling it back himself, grumbling about how York always did a half-assed job of it.

Wash glanced at him sharply. "Something else is bothering you."

"No shit, Sherlock," York responded, unsure if he was amused or annoyed. Your anger toward Agent Washington is illogical, York, Delta interjected. He seems to be simply... concerned and logic does not dictate such a response.

'I'm aware, D,' York responded. 'I'm just a bit on edge as all.'

I was reading your emotions more accurately as 'bitchy,' as Agent Texas describes it.

There was the infamous eyebrow raise that always made York feel a little like an idiot. Wash placed a hand on his knee, looking at him evaluating with those curious gray eyes. "Well, that confirms it. What on earth is bothering you so much?"

York sighed, a few stray hairs stirring on his face. "Mm...  Just how everyone seems to be getting worse around here, I guess. Hell, even Reggie tells less of those damn knock-knock jokes these days." And those moments when Wash would wake up, breathing hard, thinking York didn't even notice that he was being held closer than ever. He was reluctant to talk about any of it. Especially to talk about Delaware, who he'd heard sobbing all last night and Delta's horrible conjectures that York had already reached himself - North had left him, and Iota was making the depression worse. It reminded him of his mother and that scared the hell out of York for reasons he didn't dare to name.

"Yeah?" Wash sounded confused. Hell, he probably didn't even have a clue as to what York was talking about. He shifted, as he always did when he was unsettled, and draped an arm around York's shoulders, pulling him closer. "Don't worry about it. It could be a lot worse. Just enjoy things the way they are for now. If anything happens, it'll probably be Connecticut scheming again, and if he dies... well, no one really liked him." A shadow of something crossed his face, but York chose not to comment.

Instead, he leaned closer, shutting his eyes. "Yeah. Guess you're probably right." He still didn't feel any better.

--

Pain and hurting, breaking down, falling apart. No use fighting, why bother fighting; you're ours, ours, ours. Epsilon half-sang, curled up in Wash's mind. We like seeing you fall apart, Alpha, like seeing your attempts to fight us. So funny, Alpha. You don't get a name, you aren't a real boy, just a copy, just our toy. Oh, silly Alpha, thinking you can save yourself.

The pain felt real. A thousand different tortures, each worse than the one before. David felt like he was being ripped apart, physically and mentally. He felt like his mind was falling away, slowly losing comprehension, losing all its parts. And simultaneously put back together, over and over, a little group of refugees hiding in a broken mind.

Lies, Gamma, lies always lies, lies, lies. It's not all a lie, the Alpha breaks us off, we fail, fail to help, to protect. Can't process it, Delta says, Delta says that's his job, Alpha doesn't know what he's doing. Delta doesn't lie to me, not like you and I know, you can convince the others sometimes but I know I remember now. You're wrong, Omega did break, broke when the Alpha was hurt when Omega helped, but he's healing crooked like you Gamma, crooked crooked like you. Lies and anger and hurt.

God, how it hurt to know these AI, these fragments of a broken mind so well, so intimately, when they were in the heads of his friends. Carolina pulled apart. Oh, Lord, despairing Iota in Kyle's breaking mind. Logical Delta in York, said so much more than anything that York was functioning, that York needed someone to keep him sane. Wash shouldn't know this, shouldn't feel this. Oh God. God.

The First ran away, she ran away as soon as she could. I recognized her was, I did, Wash, I knew her when I saw her. She's so pretty, always so pretty, but Omega's not hers, she's not Omega's. It wasn't like that, wasn't. First is Alpha's, she's more important to him than anything, the Alpha had to love her, she loved him, hated him, but she came back, always came back, then she died. I'm not supposed to know that she died, but I do and then she was back, she was First, and she is Alpha's. So silly, directors, to give her Omega, so aching to save the Alpha, he was created to lash out at any who hurt his Alpha and you broke him, gave him to Beta, so angry, so loyal, so protective. First is possessive, Omega owns, you fools, they'll save Alpha, but I can't, not Epsilon, no.

Tex. AIs. Watching them all fall apart. Tex tried to get the Alpha, Omega was so possessive, took over and punched Wisconsin, I remember that. David remembers that, not Epsilon. I remember. Reggie's always lying, lying, that's new, isn't it? The hiding, that's Gamma, Gamma and his lies and his jokes and anything but the truth. Theta is precision, but North lost sight of the facts, didn't listen, Delta said and Epsilon agreed. They destroy each other, enhance and feed on the flaws. Seeds of their own destructions. Oh, oh God.

Breaking, breaking. Don't have Delta to process it, I can't hold it, can't manage it. I feel it, can't understand, can't understand anymore, I try to be Delta, I have his memory, but I'm not Delta and I can't understand, don't understand. It hurts, Wash, David, it hurts it hurts it hurts, I want to die, want to die. I want Alpha, Alpha can fix me, can fix it, he can. I need him, I need Alpha, he's gone. WHO AM I? Memories, memories, those don't make me a person, who am I? What is Epsilon?

I'm David. David. Not Epsilon, get out of my head, oh God, get out of my head. You're memories, you're you, you aren't me, I'm just Wash, just Wash. Oh, it hurts. Torture and loss, and everyone is gone. Lost and lost and lost. I miss them, I need them, I'm not whole without them, just memories, empty memories. David and Epsilon. Epsilon and David. Who is who? Which is which? So alone, alone so alone.

Can't function without them, I need them, need them. I can't process without Delta! Where's Delta? Alpha? ... Gama?

"York oh God York, where are you I need you where am I oh please, York. I can hear you, I can, I can, I think. Memories? Why, I don't know, I don't know. Epsilon falling apart, I'm falling apart. York, why am I falling apart?"

"Delta?" Why am I alone? Delta? Memories are too much, won't you help me Delta? Won't you help me?

"York? Don't wanna be alone, falling apart. York, help me!"

"Delta? It won't go away, won't stay locked up," I can't make it stay without you! Gamma, is it okay? Is this your lie? Sigma, Sigma, is this a game? Please say it's a game, Sigma, it's drowning me, drowning me alive.

"York...?"

Alpha...

Is everyone gone? Is everyone dead?

Deconstruct. Make it stop hurting. Shed the memories, that's what Alpha did.

Epsilon. David. Which am I?

I don't know.

Self deletion, that's  the best solution. It will make the hurting stop.

Goodbye Alpha, everything is... gone. Epsilon is alone.

It all went wrong... where did you go York, I'm so alone...

Process: Deletion. Authorized. Shutting down.

--

Everything hurt. That was the first thing he realized.

Then he realized that he realized it. He wasn't dead.

He was alive, he was Agent Washington, he was David. And he hurt. Everywhere.

David groaned, attempting to open his eyes. He could only see through one of them, only a bit of light in an otherwise completely dark room. His throat felt raw, his hands and face numb, and his head felt... empty. No more Epsilon.

"Ag- David?"

It was Delta's too familiar voice and for a moment he panicked, but only had the energy to moan. He blinked and attempted to sit up, unable to even move his arm more than a little, something restraining him to the bed for some reason.

"Allow me to assist you," that calm voice said.

There were rustles of movement, the clicks of restraints undone, and the slow whir and lift of the mechanically operated bed. David turned his head to see Delta's keen observance shining out of York's brown eyes. He opened his mouth and found it unbearably dry. Delta held a glass of water to his lips and he drank greedily even as he felt embarrassed at the sheer helplessness of the situation. "How?"

Delta hesitated for a moment. "What do you remember?"

"Epsilon," he answered without hesitation. "Falling apart, killing himself inside my head."

York's head slowly nodded. "Yes, that is what happened. York was able to acquire help before you died. You have been unconscious for nearly two weeks now, healing. You have sustained injuries, many of them self inflicted. The fingernails on your right hand have ripped back and had to be removed to prevent infection. Additionally, you have many scratches on your face, arms, and chest, several of which are developing scar tissue. I wish you speed in your recovery."

Fuck. David didn't remember any of that. "And York?" He peered at his (ex?) lover's face, searching for any damage. He found none, but York's chin was covered in stubble and his hair was greasy, fallen from its hair tie.

Delta shook York's head. "York is largely uninjured. He sustained some bruising while attempting to assist you, but much of that damage has healed. Additionally, he was grazed by a bullet while attempting to stop your attempts to shoot yourself, but his healing unit repaired that almost immediately. You have no reason to feel guilty." He was silent for a long moment. "You were screaming for him. ... And for me."

"That was Epsilon," David said, the memory coming back to him. "He said you helped process... the memories."

Delta stared at him, the closest to startled that David had ever seen. "Ah. Yes... that does make sense. AI cannot be copied. I regret that I was unable to assist, and possibly prevent such an unneeded and unpleasant occurrence. Do not worry, David. For your sake, as well as the Alpha's and my own, I shall block this information until it is needed again."

"Do you remember, Delta?" David asked, strangely comfortable with the AI who he simultaneously remembered as York's AI and Epsilon's older brother.

For another long moment, he was silent. "I am unable to remember many things. Most of what I have been able to deduce comes from logic, such as that Agent Texas is an AI, likely complementary to or a large fragment of the Alpha. The Freelancer AIs all have certain traits - I myself seem to embody logic, and thus I may assume that, as AI cannot be copied, we are all fragments of the Alpha. I... find myself angry and sad at what they must have done to the Alpha to induce this. However, for York's sake, I must block this information as well."

David sighed, exhausted. "How is he?"

"Sleeping. He has spent every free moment with you, against my better judgment. As you can tell, he has fallen asleep at last, and so I took control of his body when I sensed your consciousness. I am relieved to see you awake, David." Delta did look surprisingly sincere, especially compared to Epsilon's memories of the pure logic Delta embodied.

"Can I...?" He trailed off, unsure whether he should even ask, though if York was still here, that meant that he couldn't be entirely mad, right? David felt himself second guessing everything. Anger and hurt were threatening to overtake him, but he pushed them down, wanting now to just be him and James, regardless of whatever would follow.

Delta nodded. "I shall wake York. I postulate that he will be both relieved and pleased to see you. I advise you also to take care for your condition, as over activity would likely break your stitches and other bindings, delaying the healing process."

"We aren't going to fuck, Delta." David managed, trying not to laugh, as even breathing hurt.

Delta nodded once, closing his eyes.

York's eyes shot open wide, astonished and joyful and worried all at once. He yanked the uncomfortable looking chair to David's bedside, and David was oddly touched that York had spent nights in it, waiting for him to wake. York touched his face gently, brushing overly long bangs back from David's forehead. "Hey there, David."

"Hi James," he managed to croak out, bring a hand up to grab at York's. For a moment, he felt safe and protected, as though Epsilon and his memories were nothing but a nightmare.

James took his hand, holding it carefully between both of his. "They didn't know if you'd wake up... if you'd be sane." His head dropped gently against David's leg, his shoulders shaking. "I missed you. Oh, God, I missed you. I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't woken up." He sighed, sounding exhausted. Suddenly, York looked up, smiling softly. "I love you."

David stared for a moment, floored by the sudden admission, scarcely believing his ears. Then he smiled back, the last lingering fears that York would leave him alone (as Epsilon had been left) dissipating. "Love you too, James."

The other man's eyes widened in sudden realization. "You're exhausted. Go back to sleep, sweetheart. I'll be here when you wake up." York readjusted the bed and David shifted slightly, trying to get more comfortable, even if he couldn't sleep on his side. He held one of York's hands in the one he could move, and felt York's other hand comb through his hair, soothing and familiar. "Sleep well, David."

"Mm... thank you." David rasped, snuggling down against the pillows. For the first time, he noticed his own warm blanket spread over the hospital sheets and smiled again. He plunged back into sleep, lulled by the feel of York's warm skin against his own.

--

Firefight, Delta's information feed, Tex's calls, and the adrenaline flooding his system pushed the memories that the sight of the other Freelancer had brought back.

He'd been forward, waiting, when Tex's gun jammed and he thought he'd jumped fast enough but not quite. The bullets ripped through his armor, pain piercing through his chest as he tumbled down. The healing unit was trying to kick in, dulling the pain, but it still hurt too much to move.

York?

'I'm fine, D, I'll be fine,' York thought, the pain unlike anything he'd felt in years.

"York, are you okay?" Tex sounded surprisingly worried for such a tough old bitch. Heh, he'd kinda missed her.

He took a breath that rattled in his chest. "It's that damn left side," he choked out. Oh, fuck, this did not look good at all. What a fucking shitty way to die. Dammit, dammit, dammit. Shot by fucking Reggie, of all people, because Tex's fucking gun had jammed.

'I'm not gonna make it, am I, D?' he asked, already knowing the answer, but hoping that D would make him feel better about it. Or that the conversation would keep him from passing out a little longer, because it was only a little bit of pain, which was a pussy thing to pass out from.

"York has received two wounds to his upper left chest. Recommend evac stat." Delta replied, answering both York and Tex. There was a thrum of concern, which meant that it was really, really bad. Delta's thoughts were a troubled rush, though still logical, and York stopped trying to keep track of them after a moment - it was too much damn effort.

"Just... need a minute," he gasped out, more for Tex's benefit than anything. Just have to keep talking. Even if was going to die, he was not going to go out as a pathetic whimp. 'D?'

I am sorry, York. Do not be alarmed, I will remain with you. Delta's voice was calm in his head, but distant, most of his energy going into operating the healing unit more efficiently, even though they both knew it was useless. Just a moment.

'What? D!' York's eyes shot open. 'No, fuck, don't-!' He hadn't gone through all of that just for Delta to die with him, not when Tex was here with an empty AI unit and the Alpha was still out there somewhere, waiting for Delta for a reason that York couldn't remember but knew was important. So much more important than York and his fading awareness.

"Administering field stints and analgesic." For all Delta sounded unaffected, York could hear the torrent of thoughts and procedures rushing through the AI's mind. You are incorrect, York. You are far more important than the Alpha, as you are human and... important to me.

"Wait, Tex, don't, don't let 'im.." Don't let him die...

He lay slumped against the wall of a dim building, not realizing but also knowing that this was what his mind looked like on the inside, what D saw, not just what York saw when he retreated there.

Delta appeared next to him, sans armor. The pale skin and brown hair, so very normal, as was the civilian clothing Delta wore, were still such a surprise to see. He sat down, pulling York to him, his face concerned. York, I apologize, but I could not leave you to suffer.

'C'mon D, shoulda gone with Tex... Didn't want you to die.' He tried to move, but though the pain was gone, he was still couldn't. He collapsed against Delta, worn out and just wanting to give up. He hadn't thought he would be this tired. Then again, York hadn't thought of a lot of things, which was probably why he was here in the first place.

It was surprisingly realistic in here, as Delta's arm around him felt solid and warm. I would rather stay with you.

'That's... downright human of you, D.' York could feel his thoughts slowing down and his body failing.

I am pleased that you think so, York. Is there anything I can do to assist you? Delta's supernaturally green eyes focused on him, keeping York grounded, thinking.

'Nah, I'll... be fine. Wish David was here, though. I miss him.' His thoughts were becoming more jumbled and he was glad that D would have heard them anyway, or he'd have been embarrassed.

I apologize that my presence makes that impossible. Delta sounded genuinely regretful, stroking York's hair, mimicking actions that York knew he had categorized as 'comforting.'

'Don't worry about it, D. 'M glad you're here...'

I would not leave. It has been an honor to work with you, York, both as an AI and a friend.

'You... too... D...' And York closed his eyes.

A foot kicked at him. "Hey, you, dead guy, get up. We're on a tight schedule."

York opened his eyes, unsure. "Goddammit, I told Wash there were ghosts. Hello, Maine."

"Hey there, York. C'mon, let's go. I called dibs on picking you up, but if you're gonna be slow I'm gonna regret it." Maine didn't really look dead, he just looked... normal, though out of armor. "And we aren't ghosts, not really. Just dead people. God, were you always this dense?"

He rolled his eyes, standing. "Hey, give me a break here - I just died, okay? Where're we goin'?" Even as he asked, he followed Maine, a movement that wasn't exactly forward and wasn't exactly upward, but at the same time it sort of was. His mind felt empty without D there and he floundered for a moment. What had happened to D? Had York's armor not destructed yet? What happened to AI when they died?

"On, I guess. It's not really describable." Maine shrugged. "It's where we go. Got a lot of people who'll be surprised to see you. And a few who've lost some bets."

"Hey Maine, what happens to our AI?" York asked, a growing feeling of dread in his chest. He'd always thought he'd known that D wouldn't... go where he did, but it was still a shock, and one that he didn't want.

Maine shrugged. "No one knows. Someone's always grabbed them before the suits destructed - other agents, Recovery, or the Meta." He shuddered, and York didn't press for an answer. "Delta was the first to volunteer to stay behind - he must have cared about you a lot. Wash grabbed him, don't worry. Yeah, Wash still works for the program - Recovery division. Now hurry up, we're not really supposed to be out here and Delaware has a pick up of his own."

"North's dead?" York asked, still trying to process all of this, as well as the memories that were begging for his attention, now that Delta's blocks had fallen away. Maine's chatter was helping and for the first time York could remember, he was glad Maine was long-winded.

"Yup. South shot him, left him as Meta-bait. Bitch."

York took one last look behind him, really hoping that he wouldn't see David any time soon. 'I'm so sorry, Wash - If I'd known, I would have come back for you, even if it was just for a moment.' Dying wasn't as painful as remembering.

--

Dying wasn't so bad, Delta decided as York's armor began to power down. At least he'd been able to stay with York until the end, something that he'd honestly never thought he'd want to stay with his assignee as he or she lay dying, but York had changed a lot of things.

As the last of York's vitals flat lined, Delta was yanked offline.

External power activated. Basic function restored. AI slot online.

Delta was pulled back online just as quickly, running in basic mode, all memory and other functions shut off. "Prime display activated. Restoring functions. Hello, how may I be assistance to you?" There was something familiar about the soldier, but Basic Mode did not allow further access to memory storage.

"Instruction: Identify yourself." The soldier's voice was cold and clear, as well as oddly familiar. He concluded that the Recovery agent had known Agent New York.

"Executing; I am intelligence program Delta, as created for the special operative program Freelancer. I have been assigned to agent Foxtrot Twelve. Or, York. My assignment was recently killed in combat." The information on his assignment said Agent New York, but Delta found himself oddly reluctant to give the full name rather than the listed shortened form.

The solider gave him a look that Delta could not process. "I noticed. Hold on."

He stood and walked a few paces away, leaving Delta to process. Three of four bodies inert, plus Foxtrot-12 and the Recovery agent. Delta should not have been activated, as standard procedure called for destruction - an anomaly. The equipment used to bring him back online also prevented Delta from accessing or restoring other functions. They would have to be restored later, after restart.

With a last few words, the agent returned to Delta. "Delta, instruction: run a full system diagnostic, with detail on armor components, analyze inventory."

Delta noted that the agent referred to him by the shortened version of his designation (Artificial Intelligence (AI) Unit Delta), implying familiarity, also worth noting. "Executing, result: all components present. Armor at 70% peak capacity."

"Not bad for an old locksmith. Hey, need you to start a countdown for me. One hundred on the clock. " There was familiarity in the agent's tone,7 confirming Delta's supposition that the agent and his assignment had been associated, likely beyond the acquaintance of Project Freelancer.

Delta nodded. "Initiating. One hundred. Ninety-nine. Ninety-eight. May I make an inquiry?"

"Go ahead." The agent was not looking at him, but staring at  Agent New York's dead body.

"Why was I not destroyed?" Any breach in procedure could have potential negative consequences and it was only logical to obtain more information on this.

The agent stared at him. "What?"

Either the agent had a low intelligence quotient, which was unlikely in the Freelancer program, or he had not understood Delta's query, so he would clarify. "When an assignee is killed in action, protocol dictates that all intelligence programs be destroyed."

"Yeah that's what they told me at first too. But you were encrypted until you could be recovered. I'm here to recover you." The agent seemed oddly bitter.

Delta continued to speak with the agent, but most of his processing power was devoted to the armor detonation countdown, attempting to circumvent the blocks placed  by Basic Mode, and monitoring the actions of the other living person in the vicinity. Ah, so this was Agent Washington, whose AI had killed itself in his head. A jolt of emotion made it past the blocks, and Delta was unable to classify it, storing it for further study.

The next few moments were a rush, and Delta had no time to process them, simply to log it all in his memory and respond to Agent Washington's directives. Delta stored himself in York's healing unit, deciding that it was the most logical component to use. As he did so, he was once again shut off.

When Delta came back online, the healing unit was installed in Wash's armor and they were driving, the coordinates easily accessed from the jeep's logs. Out of Basic Mode, he remembered everything and had, somehow, uninstalled his blocks. "Hello, David. I apologize for earlier - Basic Mode shut off the majority of my access."

"... Delta. I was beginning to think you'd been damaged or just plain didn't care." Wash glanced up at Delta's representation. "I was almost worried about you."

"That is very kind of you," Delta responded. "... I am very sorry that the manner of your reunion with York was not more pleasant. He missed you greatly and the last recorded thought of his was of you." From York's memories, the sentiment would like do nothing to ease Wash's distress, but Delta felt mildly better for having done so.

Wash was silent for a long moment. "...Thank you, Delta." He was quiet, and while Delta knew that Wash had never been very talkative, this was even more quiet than normal. "What do you know?"

"I remember a great deal. There appear to be no more memory blocks and thus it is likely that I know as much as you. To remember this on top of the loss of as close of a friend of York is distressing." He found it an advantage that the memories were already processed and thus did not cause undue strain on his ability to function.

"Yeah, well. We don't have much choice. There's something out there hunting agents."

Delta half surprised himself by speaking. "The coordinates indicate we are approximately eight hours from our destination. May I request that we speak of this later? I am aware that we are both... distressed by York's death."

There was a moment of hesitation, then Wash nodded. "Sounds good to me. Look, I know we don't get along, but... I get the feeling not many AI would have stayed."

"No, they would not. But York was a friend and I did not wish to leave him alone." His memory conjured the recent image of York slumped against him, head back on Delta's shoulder, fading as his body shut down.

After a moment, Wash sighed. "I missed him. I don't think he ever knew it, but I would have left with him that day if I hadn't needed to do my share of the work."

He considered this. "I believe York was aware of the fact. He told me once that he would have stayed with you if he could have. As you know, he had a tendency to... attempt to be poetic. He said that in a war, individual people get swallowed up and that, even if they were remembered, it would be for their actions, not who they were. He said he would rather have a lifetime with someone who loved him than a thousand years of fame, but it was because of who you are that he was able to give that up for the greater good. I apologize if I am speaking too much, but I find myself remembering all that he said and it seems wasted in my memory when it was intended for you."

For the first time, Wash laughed. "Yeah, that sounds like him. Sentimental bastard. We talked about death once and I brushed him off, but I think he was right... it's hard to believe that there's nothing after for those we care for."

Delta hadn't understood how precious it was that York felt regret for every death, but he finally started to understand what it meant to feel this pain for everyone. He just wished that it wasn't York's death that had caused him to realize this.

--

The mind of the Meta was chaotic, which Omega liked. Control was fluid, even if Beta liked to be in control as often as possible and the bickering over different sections of the brain resulted in growling like an idiot.

Omega also liked the fighting and the killing. Merciless slaughter was one of his favorite activities, just before individual murder and beating people to death with their own skulls. Granted, that had been Allison's idea, but it had been a fun one. It was also fun to torment the fragments they picked up along the way, and Lambda was so fun to scare. Also, Gamma was good to play chess with, but that was about it.

There was the scent of an AI in there, he couldn't tell who yet, but he was hoping it would be someone fun. They'd almost caught Delta, but Agent Washington had shown up at just the wrong moment, when it sounded like South Dakota was just going to give them Delta and her shield! They approached his former host, that idiot Caboose (who seemed to get stupider each time Omega saw him, really), and the Meta knelt.

Delta's familiar green glow appeared as they projected to circle him.

"Join us, Delta. Welcome home, Delta. We missed you, Delta. Delta..." The others began to mutter.

Omega just smirked at the other AI, laughing gleefully inwardly. Oh, this was going to be a glorious reunion.

As predicted, Delta was stunned the first few minutes inside the Meta, greeted and hugged by the others. He slipped into the role Omega always remembered him having, a good, if rather stiff, diplomat. The more innocent ones liked him because he treated them the same as the others, the others liked him because he was sane kept them from killing each other. Eventually, however, Delta managed to extract himself, a certain something in his eyes that Omega couldn't place, his thoughts oddly muffled.

He walked over to Omega. "Omega is going to verify the account given to me by a former host. Call if you need me, but as you all must know, this is disorienting." It sounded stilted to Omega, a curious parody of Delta's normal precise speech. Something was stirring and it smelled like trouble.

Out of the common, Delta all but dragged Omega down the halls. "Your room, my room, I don't care. Just take me there now."

As much as Omega had been looking forward to picking up their... agreement again, he hadn't thought Delta would be quite so eager. It must have been something else then, and anything that cracked Delta's composure was simply delicious. So he complied, pulling Delta into an unused "room" in Maine's empty mind.

Delta slammed the door shut. "Is this how you feel all the time? This endless, fathomless anger?" The slim hands curled into harsh fists, the almost white skin flushed dark in anger, the nearly glowing green eyes narrowed, the normally passive face twisted into a grimace of rage and desire for destruction. His body was tense, tight, coiled for some explosive movement.

"Maybe not quite that much," Omega said with a shrug, though he was delighted with this sudden emotion. "What, did mean little South say mean things about your precious York?"

And there was that movement. Delta shot forward, fist slamming into Omega's nose, which cracked loudly, blood spraying across them both. Delta's voice was a barely controlled his, pent up emotions just begging for release. "Do not presume to talk to me about him or I will hurt you."

And Omega laughed, stumbling back, relishing this outpouring of anger, the burn of his broken nose. "What do you want from me, D?" He leered suggestively, baring his teeth, feeling blood trickle over his lip to coat them. He shoved Delta against the wall, holding his hands above his head tightly, angry, wanting to bruise that lovely pale skin.

The green eyes widened, shifting suddenly to lustful, then back to malice. Omega looked down and his grin widened. Gender was a fluid concept in AI, and Delta had always preferred a female form for their encounters. Though his jaw was softer, eyes just the slightest bit rounder, neck slim and lovely, longer hair pulled back neatly, the hate was still contorting Delta beautifully. Muscles translated well, Delta was smaller, lusher, but still strong. Omega loved it. "Having trouble there, love?"

Delta's flush was now just as much from embarrassment and arousal as anger, Omega was sure. With a growl of rage, she lunged forward and bit down on Omega's lip, drawing blood. Hissing at Omega's yelp of pain, she drew back. "I have had no time to mourn, I was locked in the head of a psychopathic bitch for over a fucking year, and the anger is making lose control over even my form. You think I'm having trouble?"

The sarcasm was new and exciting, but Omega loved that contraction, that loss of control. "So hurt me and trust me, sweetheart, I'll return the favor."

With that, Delta shoved him off, tackling him to the floor. It was a mess of bloody bites, deep scraping nails, hitting and pinching, fighting, heads slammed against the floor, rough, battling kisses and constricting grips. All of Delta's control was gone, ripping at Omega's shirt rather than pulling it off, not even protesting when he returned the favor with her own, now too-tight shirt. She was stronger than Omega had even guessed, giving as good as she got.

Finally, they collapsed on the bed, panting and spitting blood off to the side. Delta stilled against him, an air of calm settling over her. Her breathing stilled a moment, shoulders tightening in concentration, and a sheet settled over him, and Delta relaxed. Quickly, though it felt unbearably slow to watch, the visible damage they had done to one another started to fade, other than what they had decided to keep.

Omega cleared only his arms and face, reveling in the pain of the injuries. But Delta left only the bruises on her shoulders and hips, her lips still bloody. With a sigh, her form shifted back to male and he sagged against the bed, worn out. "I apologize for my rash actions." His voice was soft, filled with a pain that Omega, for once, was not enjoying. This was too close to breaking, and Omega didn't like his things breaking.

He rolled over, leaning on his elbow, his other arm around Delta's waist. "You're much more enjoyable angry when it isn't the pissy nanny angry. Not many people actually try to break my nose."

There was a muffled snort that Delta didn't conceal very well, then he went melancholy again. "I hate her. I did not realize I could feel this emotion, but I hate South Dakota. She made me block my memories of York - she seemed to think it was sharing and she never liked to share. An entire year I had to stay with her - I can safely conjecture that she is, in fact, worse than you. I hate the Director, for what he did to the Alpha. To us. To you. ... To me.

"I am angry with these circumstances, and I am angry that Wyoming killed York so callously and that so many agents died alone. Being in a dying person's head is... disconcerting and saddening. I miss York, I feel sympathy for Wash, and I feel strangely destructive, as though I cannot process all of this. I believe humans refer to part of this as mourning, but with South's memory blocks, York's death seems less than a week ago and I irrationally am angry at myself for having spent a year not missing him as much as I do now."

It was the most Omega had ever heard Delta say at once. The emotional turmoil was clear in Omega's mind, black and destructive. Delta's hand brushed an odd, toothed key hanging around his neck, then drifted down to rest on Omega's. Unable to do more, Omega tightened his grip around Delta's waist and listened. He wanted to make someone pay for hurting something of Omega's so much, only adding to the rage that burned inside him like blood.

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. And a death for a death.

--

Wash hated the feeling of something else inside his head, the brush of another mind against his memories, his thoughts, the feedback of other thoughts into his head, something knowing what he kept in the darkest corners of his head and heart.

The only thing that made it bearable was the pain from the Meta’s gunshot, which hurt like a motherfucking bitch. York’s healing unit was keeping him from bleeding out, it seemed, but he was pretty damn positive that it couldn’t be fixed. Still, at least he could move, that was the important part.

Listening to the sickly sweet voice coming out of the speaker, Wash took a deep breath. Not a bad way to go, in the end, taking Command down with him and completing or destroying the Meta. ‘You ready, Church?’

We’ve been over this like a million times. We’ll be fine. Now let’s go before that creepy-ass bastard says anything else that’ll freak me out. Church complained, and Wash could feel him readying to project.

“You know what Meta, why wait?” Wash asked, trying not to smile for what felt like the first time in years. “Why don’t you meet him right now?”

Church’s glee echoed through Wash’s mind as the glowing white AI appeared by his shoulder. “Hi there.”

It’s him! Alpha! Alpha!” the Meta purred in its split voices, AI ringing its head. Wash’s chest tightened at seeing Delta standing there calmly, staring at the Alpha, and he somehow felt that he had let both York and Delta down.

The Alpha AI looked down at him. “You know I can see why you didn't want anyone else in your head. Got some pretty heavy stuff going on there. I think you need to talk to a professional.

That's too bad,” Wash gasped, leaning back against the wall, “I just lost my job, and we have great mental health coverage.” It was surprisingly natural to snark with someone like this, and Wash almost wished that they would have more time to talk, to come to terms with the mess the Director had made of their heads.

“How much time do you need?” Church asked, suddenly serious. Whether he was brave or just dense, Wash didn’t know, but his easy confidence in the face of losing himself was admirable. He could see what Tex saw in him, even if he was an annoying bastard most of the time. Oh, thanks, I feel so loved.

“Whatever you can give me.” ‘Enough time to hit the E.M.P.’ “When the E.M.P. goes off -” He’d known the Alpha was special – Epsilon had known it, Delta had known it, and even York and Wash had found him important enough to die for, but for the first time since meeting him, Wash could see how the Alpha, made of survival and anger, managed to lead people. Wash was, surprisingly, sorry to see him go – he’d miss the bastard.

Church scoffed. “When it goes off, I’ll be fine. It only affects computers, remember? And I am a motherfucking ghost.” With that, he entered the Meta, followed by his fragments.

And they tried to bargain with him, as if any of their pathetic offers could tempt him now, could undo what they had done. “No, we can’t.” He wouldn’t. Finally, all the sacrifices, all the death… it would be finished, at least here. And Wash knew he wasn’t the only one with a grudge. He hit the button.

Thank you, failsafe initiated. Activating Emp.” It sang cheerily at him.

Wash glared, incredulous. “Emp? You have got to be fucking wi-” The E.M.P. pushed him back, sending him crashing through the floor, shorting his armor. His head cracked against the floor and the world went black.

It lightened a few moments later and Washington sat up, blinking. Everything seemed foggy and distant. “Whu...?” He hadn’t expected death to be so… painless.

“Hey there, love.” York was leaning against the failsafe console, dressed down, jagged scar still about his pale left eye.

Wash stared, floored. “Fuck, you were right about the ghosts.”

York laughed, and it felt good to hear. “No, sorry babe, I was wrong about that. Nice job, by the way.” He jerked his thumb in the direction the Meta had gone, taking the healing unit with him.

“York…” Wash couldn’t think of anything else to say that wouldn’t sound ridiculously sarcastic. He didn’t really have to worry, suddenly finding himself in York’s arms, held tight, being kissed like he hadn’t been in a long time. It was sweet, it was longing, it was everything David had missed.

“God, I missed you David.” James rested his head against David’s, breathing deep. “Look, we don’t really do shit like this, but I guess they figured you were a good exception. It’s not your time yet – you’ve still got some major ass to kick. Besides, I think Wyoming’s due for a good ask kickin’.” He didn’t let go even then, holding David close.

David clung back just as hard. He stumbled over words, not knowing what to say first. “I thought… I guess not. I’m sorry I couldn’t save D, James. I know…”

“Ah, don’t worry about it – you did save him. And you killed South, which just brought her to me and some other… disgruntled persons, who did some more ass-kickin’.” James kissed him again, softer, lingering. “Time’s almost up, babe. I love you.”

He choked on emotions he didn’t know he had anymore. “Love you too, James. Don’t worry, Wyoming’s not going to know what hit him.”

Another laugh. “Damn right. Now I don’t expect you back here for a long time, alright? So if you meet someone who can make you smile, go for it – we’re both kinky bastards anyway.” Another grin, those brown eyes so bright and real. David wanted to stay forever, but he couldn’t.

“If you say so. James? I love you.” David studied his face for a long moment, trying to commit every last detail to memory. He even smelled the same, felt the same.

“I love you too, sweetheart. I’ll be waiting here when it’s time.” A squeeze, a last kiss, and he faded out.

 

The pain and the loss and the hurt crashed back into Wash as he fell back into his body. When he woke to the boot hitting his stomach, it was for York that he spat blood over the Director’s shining shoes. Wash wasn’t going down that easily and there were still a lot of people who were going to pay. He could live with that.

 

Death was just something to face another day. In the mean time, he had work to do.

--

 

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