The picture brought back memories of what seemed to be millions of years ago. Creases were permanently embedded into the once-glossy paper, the corners rounded. It had been taped together more than once. The photograph was of you and a man, both in white and red armor. You were both helmeted, and it wouldn't have been known to anyone but you and him, that you were both happy. Your eyes remained locked onto the worn picture.
Knocking at your door pulled you from your stupor, and your head whipped up. If someone needed you, you'd be commed. People rarely came to your door asking for something. Before you could answer, it slid open, and a soldier in cyan armor was in your doorway.
"Tucker." You started to fold the photograph, concealing it in your gloved hand. "What do you-"
"Came to apologize." He mumbled, his helmet directed to the floor. A flash of anger took over, and you clenched your fist shut around the photograph.
"Washington told you to." You replied icily as you unclenched your fist and set the picture down. Tucker's head whipped up, his visor staring into yours. It was a stare off. He finally broke the silence.
"Well, no, I mean- I wanted to apologize, so I'm apologizing!" You rolled your eyes, pulling your gaze away from his, and back down to your leg. His gaze followed yours, and he suddenly looked away. Shame radiated off of him. "Why am I even apologizing, I did what I had to do! You would have died from blood loss out there!" Tucker stepped into the room, and the door slid shut behind him. He sat down on the bed opposite to yours, the mattress releasing a creak as he breathed a tense sigh.
Your eyes were drawn to his form as he made a sudden movement to pull his helmet off. A few dreadlocks too short to be pulled back into his ponytail fell free as his helmet was pulled off. It landed on the floor with a clunk. He brushed the loose dreads back out of his face, and his unsettling silvery eyes peered up at you through his dark brows. You looked away, your eyebrows knitting down into an angry expression. He couldn't see your face, but there was something off about the way he'd look at you. As if even your reflective silver visor didn't stop his eyes from seeing you. It was uncomfortable. His face landed in his palms as he waited a moment longer for a response.
Tucker stood, grabbing his helmet and turning his back as he made his way to the door without another word. He paused at the controls though, and seemed to be at a loss for words. He turned, his dark face pale.
"Controls aren't working." You looked up in alarm, but your face was soon set into a scowl.
"BS, they've got to be working."
"If they were working, I'd have gotten out of here already."
"What's trying again gonna do?! The controls are fucking offline!" He threw his helmet onto the empty bed with an exasperated sigh. The sim trooper sat down with a huff of annoyance. His silver eyes rested on your armored body. "What were you doing in here? And in full armor?" You pretended you hadn't heard him, proceeding to stare at the wall by the foot of your cot. "God, we're stuck in here, might as well do something work with me here, let's try holding a conversation."
"I was doing nothing. And you're in full armor too, so lay off." You snapped in response. He shrugged, reclining back on the wall. His eyes rested on the folded photograph, and before you thought to grab it, he snatched it up, ignoring your protests.
"Tucker, put it back, now." You ordered, sitting up and readying yourself to lunge at him.
He unfolded the piece of paper delicately, his brows creasing together as his eyes ran over the photo. He looked up at you, and back down to the photo.
"Before you attack me-" he pulled out a photo from his chestplate and shoved it into your hand, "that's my kid." You regarded the picture in surprise, unsure of what to do. Thankfully Tucker broke the momentary silence.
"This you? You had red and white armor? God that's awful." There was a pause. "Boyfriend?" He asked, handing the photo back to you. You shook your head, taking the photo back. He smiled. "I have no competition." You sneered back at him, although you knew he wouldn't see.
"You've got a kid?" You asked, handling his photo gingerly.
"Well I mean, I've probably got lots of kids, but Junior's the only one I know." You looked down at the photo, it was child's basketball team. A Sangheli child stood in back.
"Unprotected sex. Attractive." You muttered dryly, unamused. "Kid on the far left yours?"
"Nope! Junior is the kid in back."
"Junior is... a Sangheli."
"Why am I not surprised?" You mumbled, handing the photo back to the blue. He took it back, pausing to look at it with pride before he tucked it away.
"So is the guy an ex? Is he a crazy ex?" Tucker asked you, seeming hell bent on bringing up topics uncomfortable for you.
Your head spun around to stare him dead on.
"He's dead." You stated matter-of-factly. Tucker suddenly shivered, his eyes stuck on your helmet. "What's your deal now?" You muttered.
"Sorry babe, it's the helmet. The meta had one just like it." Tucker glanced away.
"EVA variant." Your gaze swiveled back to your leg. Tucker nodded.
"So can you, feel? With the leg? It's pretty high tech." He asked, his eyes resting on it. You tensed and he seemed to shrink back. You forcibly relaxed yourself, it was an honest question. He meant no harm.
"No." Memories suddenly bombarded you as you gazed down at the bionic replacement.
Tucker's panicked voice as he told two soldiers to hold you down. The glow of the sword illuminating the cave and the pooling blood pouring from your nearly severed left leg. The guilt on Tucker's face as he plunged the sword into your leg, amputating the leg and cauterizing the stump. The smell of burning flesh. Your screams bouncing off of the damp stone walls.
"Hey, hey! Snap out of it! You're good! Chill!" Tucker's hands gripped the unarmored portions of your shoulders, bringing you back to the present. "You got real quiet for a moment. Looked like you were about to pass out."
Your eyes were wide and trained on his, you didn't respond.
"Hey! You pass out or something? I wouldn't mind mouth to mouth.." You realized your position, Tucker's body was dangerously close to yours. Your hands shot up to wrench his hands off of your shoulders. He stood back up from his kneeling position while rubbing his wrists. "God dammit, you've got a grip..." He muttered, sitting back down on the empty bed.
"So what do we do?" You asked, ignoring his complaints.
"Wait I guess." Tucker shrugged.
"My comms are on the fritz, I need to repair my helmet before I can contact anyone. You?"
"Church told me that if he heard my voice on the comms again he'd lock my armor 'til he felt like unlocking it." He replied, his hands going up to his ponytail to take it down. As the band was removed, his dreadlocks tumbled down, just brushing his armor plated shoulders. He pulled them back up again into the ponytail. You watched with relative disinterest. "So what were you doing in full body armor? Isn't it your night break?"
"I told you, I was doing nothing."
"So you were moping?" He asked, your head whipped around to stare him down, but you were surprised to find an amused expression on his face. Your face set into a frown nonetheless.
"I wasn't moping."
"Alright, then sleeping in your armor? Kinda strange."
"I don't sleep." Your voice was quiet, but he seemed unbothered.
"So you're kept awake?"
"By who?" Your eyes narrowed as he presented his question. This could be serious, or it could be another attempt to hit on you. You didn't reply. "Do I keep you up at night? Christ, I've got some power then. I can control a merc?" A proud smirk crossed his face and you fought back a confusing mixture of amusement and disgust.
"But what about your helmet? Even when you're alone, your helmet stays on?" You tensed, but allowed a stiff nod in response. "God, you mercs are always so weird. Is it in the job description? 'Be really fucking weird?'"
You stood, your left foot creating a metallic thud as it landed on the floor of your dorm. Tucker tensed, trying to ignore your subtle limp as you crossed the room to examine the door controls. You squatted down so the controls were at eye level.
"Tucker, I got a tool kit in that red case next to your bed." You flicked your headlight on, better illuminating the small panel. The kit was thrust into your outstretched hand. Within a few moments, the plate cover was removed, and you were met with the circuits glaring back into your eyes tauntingly. A frown settled on your face. "I have no idea what any of this is."
You sighed in frustration, pulling your helmet off with one hand. You were all too aware of Tucker behind you attempting to get a clear view of your face. You dropped the helmet, your fingers going up to pinch the bridge of your nose. You stood, attempting to ignore the lack of feeling where your leg should have been. You turned, eyes pinched shut and hands rubbing your temples.
"God I've got a headache." You pulled your hands away from your temples and opened your eyes blearily.
"Girl, you look like shit." Tucker laughed after a moment. Your eyebrows pulled down, sending your face into a disgruntled scowl. He wasn't wrong, you hadn't been able to sleep lately, deep purple bags had settled under your eyes. Your skin looked pale and sickly, which made the pink scars stretching across your face stand out more.
"Fuck you Tucker." You flopped back onto the bed, vaguely aware of Tucker's silver eyes on you. "You need something?"
"Nah. Just checking you out." You opened your eyes and gave him a side glance. He gave a shameless grin, throwing up his hands into a shrug. "Hey, I don't meet too many hot chicks in the army."
The room was silent for a few more seconds. A loud creaking interrupted the silence, and you looked accusingly to Tucker. He shook his head.
"Not me." You sat up as a moan was heard. The color drained from your face as the sounds continued. Dear god. "Thin walls." Tucker laughed. The cot in the neighboring room continued to squeak and groan in protest as its occupants moaned and grunted. Tucker laughed awkwardly. You glared at him.
"I hate you." Tucker laughed in response, and your flushed face turned away from him. A squeal erupted from the next door room, and a puzzled expression crossed his face.
"The fuck was that?" Tucker laughed again. A grin tugged at your mouth and you fought to keep your scowl.
"I don't know, I'm ready for them to stop though."
"I don't think that's going to happen. They sound like they're having some fun." You gave him an unamused face. "We could be having fun. Bow chicka bow wow."
"How about you stab me, finish the job, you know? I'd honestly prefer it."
"You dig me."
"You got me. I've got the hots for you. You're so sexy Tucker." You replied dryly in an attempt to make him shut up.
"I think we've got some chemistry."
"I never liked chemistry. Biology was my thing."
"Oh, so you did like learning about sexual reproduction?"
"God, fuck you Tucker."
"Oh please, feel free. I'll take top or bottom."
You groaned in exasperation, your hand smacking your forehead.
"Can I sleep for a few days? Anything to make you shut up. A coma maybe. Or getting off of this planet. Killing you could do the trick." Your eyes peeled open blearily to find him removing his armor plates. "What the fuck do you think you're doing."
"Gotta get some beauty sleep. This face won't stay young without it. There's no way in hell i'm sleeping with my armor on." You sighed, closing your eyes again. The sounds of armor hitting the metal floor of your dorm did little to block out the sounds of ecstasy from the dorm next door. After five more minutes of listening to your companion remove his armor, it stopped, leaving the two of you sitting in a still rather noisy room.
"Could they be any louder?" You grumbled, casting a dark glare at the shared wall.
"I don't know that they could, but we could be hella louder babe." Your icy stare shifted to the man. He laughed unabashedly. The sounds from the other room started to escalate into a frenzy, and you desperately tried to block it out as you stared for a while longer at Tucker, who'd crawled under the covers and seemingly started to doze off. The voices next door finally quieted down, and the squeaky cot slowly stopped its noisy protesting. The dorm was submerged in silence.
Tucker's back was to you, his breaths had slowed. He clearly had no issues falling asleep. Oh how you envied him. You climbed from your bed, pulling off the armor platings one by one. The human body could only survive without sleep for so long. Once you had shed your armor, you slipped into your cot, and slowly dozed off into sleep.
A sudden dread wrenched you from your dreamless doze. Something was wrong. You just couldn't tell what, until your eyes rested on the foot of your cot. A small shadowy figure sat near your feet, hunched over something, it's face looking away from yours. It was a terror that gripped you, sending you into a panic attack. Your skin felt hot, too hot underneath the thick, rubbery bodysuit. Sweat accumulated on your face, making your loose hairs stick to your face.
The thing at the end of your cot was an embodiment of evil. And yet, it was so familiar. You saw it every time you attempted to sleep.
It turned around, but it's face was unclear, it's entire body was insubstantial, without a solid form. It slowly crawled towards you, exuding malcontents. Your voice refused to work, the words were on the tip of your tongue. You couldn't move, couldn't reach out to Tucker, couldn't ask for help, couldn't ask to get away from this evil. A scream made its way to your ears, but you weren't sure who was screaming. And then it was shaking you, digging it's claws into your shoulders and it's face hovering mere inches above yours. Your words found you.
"NO! NO, GET AWAY, STOP IT! HELP! HELP!" You clenched your eyes shut, refusing to look at it, and straining against its grip.
"(Name), what the fuck!? Calm down I'm here it's ok, nothing else is here, you're safe." Tucker's voice jolted you from your stupor, and suddenly it wasn't a monster who was grabbing you by your shoulders, but Tucker. Your breathing refused to slow, but you still felt as though you didn't have enough air. "Hey- hey- hey- hey, look, you're okay. You can breathe. Deep breaths." Your breathing slowed a little, your eyes remaining wide and unmoving from his. He smiled, his white teeth flashing. "You good? What the hell was that? You started screaming bloody murder out of nowhere, woke me up."
"Night terror." You whispered hoarsely.
"Been having them for a while?"
"Ever since my partner died." You whispered, tears welling up in your glossy eyes. "I can't sleep, I'm terrified of the monster."
"You're a merc. You don't have to be afraid of anything." You sighed closing your eyes, and Tucker coughed to break the silence, releasing your shoulders and turning away back to his cot. Panic gripped you at the thought of being alone again. Your eyes opened as your hand shot out to his wrist. Tucker whipped around, panic in his silver eyes. A few of his dreads fell from his ponytail and into his face.
"Please. Don't leave me." You spoke, your voice catching. Tucker closed his mouth and nodded. You released his hand and scooched over to give him room to climb in with you. You turned your body over to face the wall as he crawled under the covers, his abdomen pressed firmly into your back and his hot breaths warming the back of your neck. His arm slung easily over your waist, pulling you closer to him. It wasn't unwelcome. "Thank you Tucker."