Gunshots. Aiming at them as they ran, holding firmly to the objective. Trying to get out alive. This mission wasn’t supposed to be this hard, but the voices…
Quick, go left!
No, we need to go right!
Carolina tried to turn halfway between steps and crashed onto the hard concrete ground. She blinked dizzily, trying to clear her mind and get her AI to just shut up for a minute. An armored hand reached down and tugged her up gently, resting in the small of her back as he steadied her.
“Keep going!” The tan freelancer yelled as he pushed her along. Carolina rushed toward their rendezvous, just trying to keep count of her own footsteps and not think about anything, because at the moment thinking hurt and it was messy and confusing and muddled and broken and-
“On your left! Look out!” Someone, maybe North, called out as the enemy- insurrectionist, right?- lashed out at her, seeming coming from nowhere. Carolina dodged the attacker a spilt second later than she should have and struck him back, sending a round of bullets through his chest.
Blood. The adrenalin pumping through her veins thrilling her and scaring her at the same time. No. She didn’t want to kill anyone. It wasn’t supposed to feel good
But it quieted the voices.
She kept running, almost there. More enemies blocked her. More gunshots. More noise.
Six targets on the left.
Not targets. People. Enemies. Not targets.
Three more on the right. Get them first.
No, these are more important. They have more ammo.
“Shut up.” Carolina growled under her breath, taking out five more insurrectionists. Or at least that’s what she thought they were called. It was a large word. Too many letters that bounced around her mind. She didn’t have time for it.
More. There were more of them. Surrounding her. Her team.
Take evasive maneuvers!
No! You can beat them!
Carolina stood frozen as the voices warred internally. Everything was getting blurry again so she didn’t notice the command to fire until the bullets began to ricochet around her feet and blur past her. She wanted to run, but she didn’t know where to go. Someone pushed her out of the way. They smashed into the pavement behind another building. Shelter.
“Are you okay?” that voice. She knew that voice. York. He hovered above her protectively, shielding her form with his own. “I’m fine.” Carolina replied tightly. She was shaking as she tried to stand, but York forced her back down. “Stay here.” He ordered her, his voice gentle but firm. “I said I was fine.” She insisted as she tried to push back up, but he kept her sheltered.
“You are not fine.” He was close enough that she could see his mismatched eyes staring at her through his visor. “Stay. Here.” He repeated more forcefully. “Stay here and stay safe. I don’t need you to get hurt.” He ran off, fighting through the ins-the enemies- and trying to wave down their transport.
Carolina slumped against the wall, York’s words reverberating in her mind.
Days later Carolina stormed into the common room, her fist clenched as she glared at every one of them, causing Wash to squirm uncomfortably and C.T. to glance at the door nervously. “Which one of you was it?” she demanded. “What do you mean? I d-” Carolina cut off North’s question with a sharp outburst. “Who requested that I be taken off the next mission?!” she shrieked.
The room was silent. Everyone shrank back into their chairs as Carolina’s stare burned flames into their guilty souls. “I-I don’t know.” Wash squeaked fearfully. “Oh really? You don’t?” She took a threating step toward him, the look in her eyes paralyzing.
“I did.” A soft voice admitted behind her. Carolina wiped around to face the culprit, her eyes filling with anger and betrayal as she stared into his own mismatched ones. York stared back evenly, calmly taking in her disheveled hair and the bags forming underneath her eyes. “Wh-why?” Carolina stuttered.
“I don’t want you out there.” He explained calmly. “I don’t know exactly what’s going on in your head, but I can see you’re not ready for combat yet.” Carolina’s hands shook with wrath. “I-I told you I’m fine. They’re just still adjusting.” “Then give them time to adjust.” York spoke adamantly. “I can’t let you go on this mission and risk someone getting hurt because you’re not in your right mind.”
Carolina stood still and silent before lowering her voice. “Who is going on the mission instead?” She asked softly, dangerously. “It doesn’t matter Carolina.” York tried to convince her, but she stood her ground, barely contained fury strained in her voice. “Who is it?” He hesitated before sighing and dropping his gaze.
“Agent Texas.” York confessed quietly.
Carolina turned sharply on her heel and strode out. Her cheeks were flushed and she could hear York calling after her, but she didn’t look back. Just kept walking, trying to even out her breathing. Footsteps echoed behind her and she broke into a run, angry tears stinging her eyes and blurring her vision. She had almost reached her door when two strong arms wrapped around her middle.
“Stop it Carolina.” York breathed against her. “Talk to me.”
She tried, dammit she tried, but her knees had gone week and the voices were babbling too many things at once now and she just couldn’t form the words. Silently, York lifted her into his arms and carried her into her room, using his foot to close the door behind him and sliding down the wall, turning her to face him.
“Talk to me Carolina. What’s wrong?” he rocked her back and forth gently, his fingers trailing through her hair. “You’re choosing her over me.” Carolina murmured finally, her voice broken. “She’s going on the mission because she’s better than me. Because I’m weak now. Because-” “Because I can’t stand to lose you.” York finished, cupping her face in his hands.
Carolina shook her head. “It’s a war York. We’re supposed to lose people.” “Not you. I’m not losing you.” He told her. “Listen to me. I saw you out there, you weren’t…. right. I know you’re not okay. Just tell me.” She rested her head on his shoulder, her eyes distant. York ran a hand in calming circles around her lower back.
“Why do you care so much?” She whispered, “Because you’re amazing and beautiful and I want to always be around you and I know it might be selfish but…” York lifted her chin so he could see her, make her understand. “I think I lo-”
He was cut off by Carolina pressing her lips against his desperately. He pulled her into him as she tangled her hands in his hair. Somehow they managed to make it to the bed without letting go and York pushed her into the sheets, kissing her anywhere he could.
Carolina stopped thinking. She just focused on the sensations and whispers. York’s skin against hers. The moan that escaped her as his lips grazed her collarbone. Just repeating his name over and over in her head. She pushed away all the doubts and terrors and let him in.
Moments later they lay together breathing heavily, York’s arm wrapped protectively across Carolina’s lower back as she buried her face into his warm chest. And with him holding her inside her little sanctuary, one word echoed in her mind.
It was only four letters, so simple, but so complex. Confusing. Messy. Frightening. Broken. Carolina knew it wasn’t safe, she knew they could both get hurt…
But it made the voices go away.