Round 5: Decision


"Uh...do you need, um. Directions?" Nelson's eyes narrowed to slits and York shrunk away from her before she could even speak.

She spoke anyway.

"If you offer to 'escort' me one more fucking time, Agent York, I'm gonna snap off one of your arms and shove it so far up Washington's ass that you'll finally be able to trip his gag reflex," she snarled.

Washington made a horrible face and threw his arms out to either side. "What the fuck did I do??"

York only cleared his throat awkwardly and gingerly turned his companion around by the shoulders. "Let's uh. Let's just go hit the bar and. You'll join us...shortly?"

"Yeah, and I'll bring a fucking sample of my piss if you're so concerned," Nelson offered, the sarcasm dripping as effortlessly as the annoyed expression.

"Geezus, please don't," Washington mumbled as he and York continued toward the impromptu bar.

Nelson snorted and then muttered to herself while stalking in the opposite direction. "Motherfucking assholes, like I didn't scope out this fuckin' place with Tracer long before we gave it to you bastards once you stopped polishing the Director's balls...treat me like a fuckin' outsider..."

She shoved her way into the bathroom and then stormed into the nearest stall to take care of her business, grumbling away the whole time. Tracer had left her alone with these fuckwits to find her own way back to Qoppa, and the thought of getting drunk off their booze hardly put a dent in her discontent. There wasn't a goddamn thing she wanted to share with them; they'd already had the actual discussions of their numbers and supplies (or at least what they were willing to share), as well as a rundown of their recent and upcoming missions (...again, at least what they were willing to share)...which meant the only thing Tracer possibly had in mind for them to do after he left was to...socialize.

Goddamn anathema to everything Nelson stood for. She didn't see a fucking point making nice with these Freelancers. Half of the fuckers were still on the Director's strings; even if they tried to fool themselves into thinking they were functional double-agents, she knew there was no way it wouldn't catch up to them eventually. And one way or another, it would end up affecting her people, and that shit made her hackles stand on end.

She and Tracer maybe didn't often see eye-to-eye, but that's why she let him lead, no matter what he tried to insist. She was his second-in-command...always been better as a sergeant than a squad leader. And if he made a bad call, he trusted her to call him out on it and fix it before things went to shit. It was a system that worked, and it worked because even if she disagreed with plenty of his philosophies, they understood each other. She knew he would be the voice of the revolution, and he let her be its steel.

But what the fuck did she have to gain spending time with these mercenaries? At least when she'd been part of the bullshit, she fought for purpose instead of a fucking paycheck. She had nothing in common with them, yet Tracer constantly insisted they share information and spend time together. Always going on about how they'd need to work together, as if he was planning on stepping back and letting them run the ring-wide rebellion....

Her eyes widened slightly. Christ, was that the old bastard's plan? She never once imagined he'd even think of retiring, let alone have a plan for it. And yet what had he said before he'd taken the goddamn truck off on another recruit hunt? I've never wanted to be a leader. He said shit like that all the time -- she knew his favorite place to be was in the field, winning hearts and minds, training them to be fighters and using his unsettling mix of smooth speech and smoother physical presence to create a passionate army to stand against Omega and his House. He would always prefer that to being a leader...but that was just talk. The Movement wasn't his idea or his conjuration...but he'd certainly played a major role in where it was now.

Kiden and his people owed Tracer a debt for the way he spent weeks gathering a crowd of eager civilians who weren't great fighters...but who had the will and passion to make a difference. They ran through the streets in the darkness and gave others hope, offered a glimpse at a world that wasn't ruled by Omega and all his bullshit. And where would Nelson be if not for Tracer? Or every single rebel that sweated, bled and cried to make the Qoppa base so strong? And even if she was against it, what about the cliffs at Honkal? Tracer's idea, and Tracer's inspiration that encouraged them to spend their waking hours digging out frozen dirt and smoothing jagged stone.

Even these fucking Freelancers had Tracer to thank -- why else would they have defected? And who met them with a truck as they scrambled away from their headquarters, one of their own half-conscious? Sure as fuck wasn't Nelson, even if she'd been forced to meet with them a few times since they'd taken control of the abandoned facility in Lactan. Which, by the way, Tracer had also pointed them to. Didn't fucking matter that they already knew it existed -- the Movement had been the ones to keep it from being completely overgrown and left to absolute disrepair. Things were thriving in this shitty complex because of Tracer's efforts.

So where the fuck did he get off suggesting he was going to leave things to the rest of them? Nelson snarled and slammed a fist against the bathroom stall, hard enough to leave a dent, before yanking her pants up and...freezing as an amused voice floated into the room. "Aw shit, did someone order that shitty rough-ass toilet paper again? I feel that pain..."

Nelson's scowl returned immediately even as she grumbled a wordless blessing. She shoved open the stall door and promptly fired a dour glower at the Freelancer standing by the sink. "Agent Connecticut."

CT blinked and then smiled in surprise. "Holy shit, Nelson! Aw, I heard you and the old man were coming by -- you guys already get the tour? I just got back from a quick trade run with Xulod. Was hoping I'd catch you before we went our separate ways again."

Nelson felt a mote of relief even as she kept her rigid frown in place. "Hmph. Yeah, Agent Washington and his oversized guard dog took us around the base. It looks good, considering we handed it over at seventy-five percent to begin with."

CT gave her a crooked grin. "C'mon, it was barely at fifty percent. Only one of the generators was working and we spent almost three days straight just getting the ventilation system running so we didn't all fuckin' suffocate in our sleep."

"Less air might help curb Agent York's issue with overtalking," Nelson muttered as she washed her hands and shot CT a searching glance. "You joining us at the bar, then? Would be nice to have someone else who isn't either a fucking moron or an emotionless husk."

"Hey, hey -- those are my friends, y'know," CT noted mildly.

Nelson's eyes narrowed, her voice dropping as she twisted the knob to stop the stream of water. "Yeah. Some of those same 'friends' who are still fucking double-timing at Freelancer. I can't believe you're letting that shit fly -- you realize what a goddamn risk that is, right?"

CT crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow. "To them, or to us?" She gave her own pointed look and Nelson bared her teeth slightly. "Or specifically to you?"

"Fuck them, they're making their own fuckin' choice to gun for a spot in an Inquisitor's chair!" Nelson snarled, throwing an arm furiously out to one side. "And you know I'm not some self-centered bitch -- my concern is for my whole fucking branch, because all it takes is one slip-up from one of those reckless assholes, and we're all fucking burned!"

CT sighed, looking away with a pained expression. It didn't sway Nelson one bit, but she reeled her anger back in somewhat all the same. The ex-Freelancer reached out after a moment to grab a paper towel, handing it wordlessly to the massive woman. "I understand your concern, Nelson. But c'mon, give them a break. They're in way more danger than any of us...and we're the ones benefiting. We still get to have eyes on things inside Freelancer, find out what's going on, things your insider doesn't know...and all they get are more missions that could get them killed, or...yeah, getting caught and being fucking tortured and god-knows-what-else to squeeze them of everything they know before they end up an unrecognizable fucking corpse." She reached up to rub at her own neck as some painful memory whisked across her features.

Nelson's expression didn't shift, but she did still accept the disposable cloth with a growl. As she slowly dried her hands, she stared coldly at the other woman. "I have no pity for them, whether or not it's providing good information. It's an unnecessary risk to my people...and to you, and everyone you have here, too."

CT shifted her weight and then shrugged. "Wash thinks it's worth it. And I agree."

"Washington." The name was spat rather than spoken, like it was itself a curse. "I just got done listening to a bunch of bullshit from that scrawny motherfucker." Nelson glared at her own reflection for a moment before fixing CT with another dark look. "He's not fucking fit to lead these people. He isn't fucking fit to make decisions like that, period. That tiny bastard's got no right calling the shots."

CT scoffed and tilted her head. "What's this? The beast-woman Nelson judging people on their physical appearance? Just 'cause Wash isn't a giant bastard, he can't lead?" Nelson grit her teeth, her fingers clenching into the sink with enough force to make the porcelain creak. "You want York in charge?"

"You fucking know the answer to that already," Nelson seethed, her tail flicking in frustration before she threw her hands up and turned in a small circle. "Agent Washington's size is just a fucking bonus detraction on top of all his other shitty qualities." She fired a sharp look back to CT, daring her to retort.

Prepared for the reaction, CT raised both her hands and offered a faint, helpless smile. "Look, don't fuckin'...dislocate anything of mine, but...honestly?" Nelson didn't like where this was going and she stopped her pacing to paint on her most sour expression. "Wash, he...handles a lot of this like you do." Nelson bristled, every goddamn hair on her neck standing on end as her fists closed tightly. "He stays above the bullshit. He makes the tough decisions. And he does a really fucking good job not making it personal, despite the fact that those are his friends risking their lives out there, too."

Nelson clenched her jaws, trying with little success to rein in her frustration. "That's why I'm not the fucking leader!" she emphasized through her teeth as she clutched tightly into the anger and tried to force it down. "That's why he shouldn't be, either..."

...It bubbled over in spite of her efforts and she roared as she twisted to one side and slammed a fist into a stall door with enough force to shatter both hinges and send it smashing into the toilet before it clattered down to the tile in a cacophony of infuriated sounds. "Goddammit, Connie! That's why I wanted you to lead these people!" She spun back around to find CT staring at her in shock. Nelson gnashed her teeth and then stomped toward her, only to jab a finger over a shoulder and toward the rest of the base. "Those assholes out there deserve someone better! Someone who isn't like me, someone who won't leave her goddamn heart out of the decisions she makes!!"

She turned away again with a embittered snarl, whipping a fist toward the wall but slowing it at the last moment so it only smacked against it with a dull thud. "You deserve to be the face of this fucking revolution after the old bastard's moved on," she uttered in a quiet, pained tone. "Hell, he'd probably agree you deserve to be the face now. Not some spiteful cunt like me, and not some neurotic bastard like Agent-fucking-Washington...you are what these people need."

Nelson heard CT shift behind her and she closed her eyes, already anticipating the response. "That's...just not how things worked out, Nelson. It's not like we knew how it was gonna play out."

Nelson sighed, looking down at her fist before loosening it and flexing her fingers slowly. "Yeah. I'm well fuckin' aware of that. No need to remind me what a shitshow all of that was."

CT snorted a gentle laugh. "Hey...if I recall, you were the one who told me I had what it took to put my own shitshow together. Sounds like everything's falling into place, when you put it that way."

This bitch always knew where to find a silver lining, didn't she? Nelson grumbled and then turned back around to raise an eyebrow toward CT. "Yeah, but I meant for it to be your shitshow, not that fucking spastic squirrel's..."

CT gave her own sigh and took a step closer, her features painted with something between amusement and exasperation. "Come on...don't take it out on him. He did what he had to do in that insanity. I was knocked the fuck out by the time Tracer picked us up and I spent the next week in the infirmary...or I guess the room that is now the infirmary, since back then it was more like the center for raccoon orgies, I think, based on the smell..."

Nelson groaned, her annoyance outweighing her entertainment. "Don't tell me what to...goddammit, woman, I get you couldn't lead them from a fucking gurney, but --"

CT met her gaze evenly, forcing her to at least listen even if she really didn't want to. "I'm serious, it isn't fucking fair to keep holding this against him. Everything was up in the air for those first couple of days. We literally had to run, it wasn't like we could walk into the Director's office and hand in our tags and weapons. And we had so many people desperate to join us once the word was out that some Freelancers had defected, someone had to take charge." Nelson clenched her teeth again and stared past CT even as the ex-agent continued calmly. "Wash did it because no one else would...or could."

Well fuck that, Nelson had no intentions of not holding it against the little bastard, CT's friend or otherwise. She set her jaw squarely and then finally looked down at her again. "Fine. You were incapacitated. But after you got better, you should have--"

CT frowned and then scoffed. "I shoulda what? Told my best fucking friend from childhood that he's not fit to lead? That he needs to step down so I can take over, make all those years of him trying to not feel insignificant mean nothing?"

"Yes!!" Nelson all-but-shouted, throwing both arms out in disbelief. "Abso-fucking-lutely! Good for him that his life fucking sucked, good for him to try and find some fucking meaning for himself, some goddamn purpose, but who the fuck doesn't go through that same shit? That ain't fuckin' special! But christ, this is different, this isn't just the 'greater good', this is the 'greatest good' and you have every goddamn right to tell that bastard this is your show!"

CT's features hardened, and not even Nelson's most frustrated snarl could make her flinch as she slowly folded her arms. "And how, exactly, does that play into me leading with my heart, Nelson?" The disapproving face Nelson made was somewhat curbed by the bolt of guilt she felt despite her coldest intentions. "These people are all here not because of me, but because they believe in him. Because of how he's doing things. They believe in him and they trust him to do what's best..." She trailed off for a moment and Nelson looked down at her silently. "And they trust him to listen to his friends when he needs it, too."

Nelson's sigh practically shook the walls and she rubbed disconsolately at her face. "I get it," she growled, trying to ignore the way CT looked at her with a mix of gratitude and what might have been pity. She didn't need her pity -- she knew she was a giant bitch and unfortunately no number of pointed looks from CT would stop her from holding a grudge against Washington. "It doesn't mean I'm going to like it, or change my mind about him," she added in a grumble. "I regret telling you to use your heart, Connecticut."

CT smiled slightly. "There it is again. You called me 'Connie' back there, you've never done that before."

"That's because I've never been this fuckin' pissed off at you before," Nelson retorted, even as she let her arms drop to her sides while she looked down at her fellow rebel for a few seconds. "But what's done is done. And I'm clearly not gonna make you see reason, not today, at least."

CT chuckled quietly and gave an easy shrug. "Hey, you gotta make up your mind about whether you want me to be emotional or logical."

"Why can't it be both?" Nelson replied dryly. She shook her head before jerking her head toward the door. "You coming back to the bar with me so I'm not left alone with those two jackasses? Because I guarantee you, I'm not gonna say a fuckin' word to them otherwise."

CT offered her a wry smile. "Guess those two better be ready to handle the silent treatment -- sorry, Nelson, but I've gotta go help with the shit I brought back from Xulod. No rest for the wicked."

"Great, make me feel like a fuckin' saint," Nelson muttered while a tiny smile quirked her features. "Fine, then. I'll see you around, Connecticut."

"And I'll be waiting for the day when you finally calm the fuck down and use 'CT' like everyone else," CT responded with a grin, punching Nelson's arm lightly and earning a horrible glare before she winked and then headed to a stall that wasn't broken the fuck apart. "Uh, also, you owe us a new stall door."

"Put it on my tab," Nelson grumbled even as she smirked and shook her head before heading out of the bathroom and back toward the bar. At least now she could go drink herself into a stupor while safely ignoring the other two -- regardless of Tracer's intentions, the conversation with CT had to count as 'socializing', right?

Mission complete.


* * *


Almost a week and a half.

Ten days since the attack on the original Qoppa base. Since Nelson was reportedly left severely injured, perhaps even crippled. Since news of Tracer's death had been broadcast across the Movement channels.

Wash stared silently at the radio. He felt naked sitting here. Exposed without the familiar walls of the office around him. But Nelson refused to communicate over anything but encrypted shortwave, the paranoid bitch. And even if he knew York had reached out, even if he knew CT had done the same...it was his responsibility. His duty as the leader of this branch.

Ten days was far too long, but he could hardly blame himself. The initial calls from their radio teams had all been ignored, which he assumed meant they were sealing up all communication tight while they regrouped. It wasn't that dissimilar from what he would have done, if he was being honest. But then the first replies came, guarded but informative enough. Some had survived, they'd relocated. They were rebuilding.

But Wash hadn't been willing to reach out. He'd nearly ordered a complete blackout for their communications to the other group, because the last thing they needed was to draw the attention of the House, allow another attack because they'd gotten careless in the panic of having one of their branches decimated. And now...now it had been ten days.

He took a long, deep breath and then reached for the microphone. He'd accepted his position at this point. He'd accepted it long ago, to be honest. But it still didn't feel real, there were still moments where he felt like a fraud, a cheap substitute. The stand-in, waiting for the right person to come and take over.

"Honkal Base...this is L-Base." He didn't know what else to call their location. But it was a dedicated channel with little chance of interception. It wouldn't be going to the wrong place, at least. "Anyone read?"

A few seconds of silence as he closed his eyes and rubbed at his forehead before he frowned when reply came across. "We read you, L-Base."

He exhaled quietly. "This is Washington. Is. Is Nelson available?"

The radio crackled softly for much longer this time. "She'll be down in a minute or two. Please standby."

He kept his eyes closed and let his fingers drift into his messy mane. Everything about this sucked. But he couldn't back down now.

The last time they'd met with Nelson was...the last time Tracer had been alive. That meeting hadn't exactly gone swimmingly. They'd traded information, at least. Enough for Wash to know Nelson's remaining forces weren't out in the cold, at least not metaphorically. He remembered the mission to that weather station in Sampi, though -- their new location at the cliffs nearby was bound to be frigid as shit. He was sure it wasn't going to help her mood.

He sat up slightly when her signature growl broke across the receiver: "Agent Washington."

Wash gave her a moment to add an insult, but was met only with silence. He licked his lips and then replied quietly: "It's. Good you're still alive."

"Cut the shit, Washington. You ain't the fuckin' kind for condolences and I certainly ain't the kind to want 'em. Especially from you."

He felt his muzzle curling into a snarl, the way it always did when this bitch started...no. It wasn't the time. He sighed as he slumped back into the chair and pulled the microphone with him. "Fine. Then just know I'm glad you survived, because it's not like I've been given a lot of opportunities to work with anyone who'd replace you. Probably avoided a lot of miscommunication."

"I'm glad my near-death didn't inconvenience you further," she retorted dryly before she grumbled. "What do you want?"

He knew what she'd just said, but... "I'm sorry. About Tracer."

"I believed it from your fucking soft-hearted lap dog, and Connecticut might have actually meant it. It doesn't mean shit coming from you," she muttered coldly.

He narrowed his eyes, then forced himself to try and calm his nerves. He just needed to get this done with. "Doesn't matter how I felt about him. I know he meant a lot to you and your people."

"He did. And now you're free to keep his fucking name out of your mouth this point forward," she shot back. Wash grit his teeth but she continued before he could add anything further. "The only thing this means is that now I have to work with your skinny fucking ass directly. Was hoping his time out in Sampi would have just been a temporary torture, but guess that shit's permanent, now."

"Yeah. I guess so." Wash looked down at the microphone. He'd done his duty. That had been enough. Now they could get back to ignoring --

"You weren't my choice, Agent Washington."

His eyes widened slightly before he leaned over the microphone and snarled back: "Yeah, big fucking shock, Nelson!" He snorted and stared away, then lifted the microphone to his muzzle again. "Guess what, I wasn't my own fucking choice, either! I never asked for this shit!"

The silence was daunting, leaving him only with his quickened breath and the pounding of his pulse in his head, emphasizing just how good she was at pissing him off. But when she spoke again, he didn't expect the quiet tone of her gravelly voice. "None of us asked for this. But we all chose it, one way or another." Her sigh came across the radio, whether she intended it or not. "So we fucking handle this shit when it happens, and we either climb up again, or let the fuck go and drop back into the fire. I never wanted to lead these people, either, but here the fuck I am." Wash looked down and rubbed silently along his arm. "The old man never hated any of you." He scoffed and she apparently heard it all the way from Honkal, considering the way she aggressively continued. "I didn't say the same was fuckin' true for me. But he didn't harbor a bad fucking feeling for a single one of you Freelancer bastards. Hated where you came from, but not you. And even if you bitch and moan about how you don't want to do this, how you aren't right for the job -- and even if I fuckin' agree -- Tracer believed in you. I respected the man, even if I didn't agree with him on plenty. Last thing he said to us was that we need to work together."

Wash couldn't help himself, even if he felt a jab of guilt. "How do any of us know what his last thoughts were?"

A moment of quiet before she gave her short return: "I guess none of us do. But it was what he fuckin' said to us the last time we spoke, at least." He could all but hear the look of disgust on her face. "He was specific about that shit. So I don't give a fuck how you felt about him, but he apparently thought you were in the right fuckin' place. Told me to make peace with that and learn to deal with that. Deal with you."

As tempting as it was to bite back, Wash found himself...speechless. At least for a second or two. It certainly changed nothing regarding his feelings about Tracer, but to hear those words, to hear them from her, no less. "Nelson." He gave her a moment out of instinct, expecting an interruption, but there was nothing. "We're. We're never going to see eye-to-eye."

The snort she gave was almost entertained. "We might at this point, ya fuckin' half-pint." He blinked in confusion and the radio all but chortled with her wry intonation. "You'll find out eventually. Anyway we don't need to hold hands and dance around in a circle like a buncha fairies to survive this war. We just need to be on the same fuckin' page, Freelancer."

Wash shifted his weight in the chair. She wasn't wrong. Even if they never actually combined their forces for anything, it was just plain stupid to work against each other. "I...yeah. Alright. I agree." He steeled his expression and leaned closer to the microphone. "Just know this, Nelson. The people here, they come first to me."

"That's my fuckin' line, asshole," Nelson replied sharply. Wash rolled his eyes before blinking when she added calmly: "And get it right, Washington. Those people there? They aren't just people. They're your people, now." He winced and slowly rubbed the back of his head. "Don't fuck it up."

He grumbled but swallowed his vitriol, instead letting out a long breath and then lifting the microphone one more time. "Wouldn't want to disappoint you," he muttered. "We'll...we'll be in touch, then." He hesitated. "If...there's something we can do to help..."

The dry chuckle let him know any lingering hint of softness was gone. "The call was appreciated, Agent Washington. Now fuck off 'til we gotta speak again."

The line returned to gentle static and he made a horrible face before shaking his head and pushing the microphone back into place. God she was such a bitch. But what she'd said, what she'd made all too clear...it was a stark reminder. Whether he liked it or not, these were his people, and this was his job, now.

It was time to act like it.


* * *


CT glared at the undercarriage, wondering if the truck could feel her frustration. She sure as hell hoped so. "Goddammit," she muttered before booting one of the tires and then turning around to slump against the side panel with a groan. It was literally just meant to be a quick sixteen-hour trip out to a safehouse in Stigma and back to Q-Base before zero-hundred CM. But no, almost exactly eight hours in and the truck's out of fucking fuel because the tank had a leak.

Good.

The safehouse had only a beat-up car they mostly used to run errands in the nearby town, not something CT would want to ask them to drive into the middle of the Stigma badlands. Which meant she was either in for a long-ass walk, or she would just need to suck it up and call back to Qoppa and see who could help. Ugh. But she supposed dealing with that embarrassment was still better than a long-ass walk. She made a face, then rolled up her sleeve and poked at the pockcom on her wrist to bring up the radio. She took her time setting the frequency, like she perhaps hoped that a miracle would fall out of the sky and grant her the opportunity to not look like a greenhorn stuck with an empty tank in the middle of nowhere.

But nothing dropped in front of her besides her mood as she sighed and then lifted her wrist. "Ten-Point to Q-Base, someone on comms?"

A few seconds passed before the awkward reply began. "This is Q-Base. Is...everything okay? You were on schedule to arrive in another eight or nine hours."

CT grumbled to herself. "Yeah, unfortunately I've run into some, uh. Vehicle trouble. Need to know if--"

"Well that sounds just like a fuckin' merc," a rough voice interrupted across the airwaves. CT blinked and stared at her pockcom for a stunned second or two. Was that... "Probably spent too much time polishing your fuckin' steel to check your transportation properly." What the hell was she doing-- "Where the fuck are you? We'll come to you."

CT tilted her head with even further surprise. "Nelson!? What do you mean we? And no one mentioned you were coming to Qoppa, what--"

The inimitable snarl cut through again. "I asked the first goddamn question, woman!"

CT leaned away from her wrist slightly and scowled...although the nasty bitch did have a point. God, it was frustrating how good she was at that. CT gave a minute smile all the same and lifted the portable device toward her muzzle again. "You really need to join the twelfth century and upgrade your technology so I could just send you my RPS coord---"

"If you think I won't track you down using the goddamn whisper of your audacity on the fucking wind just so I can shove this ten-gauge up your ass, think again!" Nelson spat back sharply.

...CT wasn't sure whether to be impressed or mildly terrified. She was fairly certain it was a little bit of both. As she formulated the safest response, another familiar voice piped up and only added to her bewilderment. "Yooo, pay no attention to this thundercunt, it's past the old lady's nap-time! Locking in on your signal now, sassy girl, be there in a few shakes."

"God-fucking-dammit, Mills, I'm goin--" The transmission abruptly cut off and left CT in what might have been her most stunned silence since York had awkwardly announced he'd had sex with his first guy. Twice in a day. Maybe since he'd awkwardly announced he'd had sex with his best friend, though CT admitted that hadn't caught her quite off-guard as much as York bursting out of the closet. He and Wash had always been close, after all, no surprise that learning he liked dick would open York up to having a best friend with benefits.

But what the fuck was Nelson doing with Ashley? The last time she'd seen the two together, Nelson wasn't in a wheelchair but was coming off one hell of a bender a few hours after punching a bathroom stall door off its hinges. She hadn't exactly seemed to be in the most charitable state, the way she heard Ashley and her yelling at each other behind the door. It had certainly looked like Nelson was just grudgingly accepting a trade of some kind to avoid having to make the long trip back to the old Qoppa base on foot. Perhaps she'd finally gotten off her anti-mercenary pedestal and accepted that paying for assistance wasn't the end of the world.

...Yeah, right.

CT supposed she'd find out one way or another, though, and she settled for flopping against the shady side of the truck so she could waste a bit of time skimming the latest reports and updates on her pockcom. Something told her that once the two showed up, there wouldn't be much time for quiet introspection -- CT had known Ashley long enough to recognize that not even Nelson's dour existence would likely be enough to dampen the natural exuberance of the outgoing pilot. It certainly wasn't likely to be a boring trip, that was for sure...


She heard the approaching whine of turbines a few seconds before Ashley's voice spilled cheerfully out from her wrist. "I see me a lonely-lookin' fuck-bucket on the horizon! Team BLB, comin' in hot!"

CT gave a curious smile to her pockcom. What the hell did BLB stand--

"Don't fuckin' ask what that means," Nelson growled a moment later, apparently almost as much of a mind reader as her sex-based secret weapon from Sampi. "Christ, woman, that's the truck I had my people repair and send out to Q-Base -- the fuck did you all already do to break it?"

CT smirked as she replied calmly: "Since I don't want your angry ass abandoning me out here, I'll wait to give you my smart-ass response."

The gruff snort was amused despite the neutral mutter that followed. "You always were the smart bitch of the batch. You didn't manage to fuck up the winch too, right?"

CT blinked and frowned at the approaching dropship, answering slowly: "Nooo? Why?"

She didn't receive a response as Ashley's craft bore down on her location before spinning around neatly just before reaching the stranded truck. It was hard to mask her impressed expression -- she'd spent so long working with Ashley at Freelancer that she sometimes forgot just how talented the chatty woman was. The back of the dropship swung around, then smoothly lowered toward her in a skillful execution of piloting. As the thrusters twisted around to slow the ship's descent, the ramp began to unfold to reveal Nelson's scowling features, the burly rebel anchoring her wheelchair at the back of the cargo area with a single arm gripping tightly into a support bar.

"Because unlike the dumbasses who break 'em, trucks are fuckin' useful and worth recovering!" Nelson yelled over the scream of the engines as Ashley brought the ship down to a gentle landing upon the cracked, dusty earth. "Still debating whether or not the weight of your sheer fucking incompetence is gonna be over the limit for this thing!"

CT couldn't help but smile despite the insult as she shielded her eyes with one arm and studied the sight of the glowering resistance leader. She'd seen Nelson a couple of times since the devastating attack on the old Qoppa base, and credit was due where it was owed. Considering all that had happened to her people, all that had happened to her, all she'd lost...it hadn't taken long for her old attitude and raw determination to resurface. Wheelchair or otherwise, the first time CT met with Nelson after the HADES raid showed her the same ruthless drive and indomitable confidence she'd come to appreciate from the beast of a woman.

Nelson looked even stronger, now. Her weakened legs hardly took away from the daunting form of her upper body, still rippling with the same awe-inspiring musculature -- hell, she might have bulked up even further. It wouldn't have surprised CT, considering the way Nelson had a sort of obsession with ensuring every alternative was as strong as the primary option. She still wore the flat-colored button-up shirts she'd sported before the wheelchair, though the dark aviator-style sunglasses were a new touch. CT kinda liked them; she wasn't ashamed to admit they added a point or two to the aura of 'terrifying badass' Nelson so effortlessly maintained.

There was something oddly soothing about seeing that sour expression, perhaps a reminder to CT that no matter how jagged the lines were between their factions, their allies were just as goddamn hard to kill as they themselves were. Even if Nelson and Wash hated and distrusted each other's goddamn guts...at least Nelson and her people were formidable. There would never be a need to babysit or fret over their survival. If anything, they'd been through even more hardship than the branch led by the ex-Freelancers. Nelson knew better than most just how cruel fate could be. CT hoped that maybe, maybe, it would help the angry woman start coming to terms with the fact that Wash was the leader of the other branch, no matter how many years she'd been holding that goddamn grudge.

Sometimes you just had to roll with the punches.

CT strode forward as the turbines began to spin down, waving the clouds of dust away from her face as she grinned up at Nelson. "Still a grumpy, cranky bitch, huh?" CT called out, feeling the way Nelson's eyes narrowed despite being hidden behind the dark sunglasses.

"Don't forget 'old'!" Ashley added as she trotted back from the cockpit with her own toothy grin as a near-matching pair of reflective sunglasses glinted upon her muzzle. "You know the bitch is too proud to color them grey hairs starting to come in!"

Nelson twisted her head around to snarl over a shoulder at the pilot, though Ashley hardly seemed to care as she simply tossed a playful wink at the massive woman. CT couldn't help peering at Nelson, though, and she smiled a bit when she indeed spotted the fringe of greying roots at the base of Nelson's cropped mane. "Not all of us are proud of being young, uppity whelps," Nelson fired back before turning her muzzle back to glare at CT when she approached the bottom of the ramp. "And I thought you were goddamn smarter than this, Connecticut -- I'd expect the lap dog or the midget to be stranded in the middle of the goddamn wastelands, not you."

"Gotta keep you on your toes, old lady," CT replied, trying not to grin. "No pun intended."

Nelson's eyes might have burned a hole through CT if not for the protective eyewear while Ashley guffawed loudly and strode up to the side of the wheelchair. "Aw, goddamn, it's fuckin' nice to see you again, CT -- you're such a fuckin' breath of fresh air compared to those other two dorks!"

"Hey, those two dorks are still my friends," CT protested even as she laughed. "Good to see you too, though, Ashe -- business been good?" She paused and then stepped awkwardly out of the way when Nelson rolled past her on the ramp with a grunt. "And, uh. Good to see you too, Nelson."

"The pleasure is all yours," Nelson muttered as her wheelchair bounced off the ramp and onto the hard-packed earth before she rolled toward the front of the truck with the same displeased expression. "It doesn't look fucked up. Doesn't smell that way, either -- the fuck happened?"

CT glanced at Ashley with a chuckle before turning around with her hands on her hips. "Hey, give me some credit. The damn thing had a fuel leak, it wasn't even my fault!"

"Aw shit, you shoulda made up somethin' else," Ashley whispered loudly as Nelson groaned from the corner of the truck.

CT tilted her head before wincing when Nelson barked: "You fuckin' kidding me, Connecticut?!? You didn't notice or smell it or anything? I swear to fuckin' god, you Freelancer assholes are so goddamn helpless when you don't get everything just fuckin' laid out in your goddamn laps..."

She continued muttering darkly as she slammed a fist against the clutch of the winch to unlock the spool before she hooked the line into the back of her chair, then grabbed the wheels to start shoving herself back up the ramp with a grunt of effort. CT realized she probably should have taken some offense from Nelson's tirade...but she was also used to her attitude by now, and the combination of respect and understanding she had for the sharp-tongued rebel made it easier to take her acidic remarks into stride. CT took an awkward step toward Nelson while the muscular chupa snarled and continued to force her wheelchair upward, dragging the heavy tow-line along. "Uh...you want me to...uh..."

Without missing a beat, Nelson glowered up at CT as she steadily heaved herself past. "Does it look like I need a fuckin' hand?!"

Ashley was quick to grin and nudge CT's hip with her own. "Aww, don't mind her, CT!" She winked and then swooped forward to pluck the winch hook off of Nelson's chair before the larger woman could stop her. "She just ain't used to dealin' with people so soon after a good squirtin'!"

CT's jaw dropped as a blank expression fell into place. Ashley continued her cheerful grinning as she skipped into the hold with the steel cable while Nelson widened her eyes and clutched into the wheels of her chair hard enough to make them squeal. "Fucking CHRIST, Mills!"

"Oh, like she wouldn't have figured it out on her own!" Ashley retorted, tossing another carefree wink toward them as CT continued her speechless gawking between the two. "She's a smart chick -- she was the one who led the charge out the fuckin' door of Freelancer, after all!" The pilot secured the tow line around a sturdy hook on the front wall before heading back for the ramp.

"That doesn't mean you need to fuckin' tell her about private fuckin' matters!" Nelson roared while Ashley pranced past her with a cackle. "Fuckin' hell, I knew this detour was a bad fuckin' idea!" she snarled before immediately turning her glare on CT again, her sunglasses doing little to mask her fury...and what might have been an actual touch of fluster. "You say one goddamn word, Freelancer..."

"I...I don't even know what words to say..." CT muttered as she ran a hand slowly through her mane. She couldn't stop herself from asking stupidly: "I didn't think you even had sex." The enraged snort from Nelson could have brought down a small tree. "Like...like even before the wheelchair."

"Oh, the woman doesn't have sex!" Ashley called out brightly as she attached the control for the winch and grinned up at them from beside the truck. "She fucks!"

"MILLS, I will fucking end your life!" Nelson thundered as she wheeled around fast enough to leave rubber lines on the steel flooring. Ashley only giggled jovially as she activated the winch so the truck began to slowly pull itself forward and onto the ramp of the dropship, clearly unaffected by the murderous looks Nelson was leveling at her.

...York and Samael, York and Wash, Samael and Andee...these revelations were chickenshit compared to this. Holy shit. CT worked her muzzle open and shut a few times before she blinked and then pressed against the side of the hold as the truck rolled steadily forward into the ship. Ashley leaped nimbly onto the hood with her hand still gripping the winch remote while Nelson kept glowering at the pilot like she might be able to use some latent mental ability to set her aflame.

The loud grinding of the winch was enough to temporarily drown out the awkward silence, but the poisonous looks Nelson was firing from the other side of the truck might as well have been shouted threats. As soon as the truck pulled itself completely into the hold and the winch motor fell quiet, CT raised both her hands before Nelson could inform her of the grievous bodily harm she would unleash. "Geezus, I'm not gonna talk, I'm not gonna talk, not like anyone would fuckin' believe me, anyway!"

"Heh, not sure why, this she-beast fuckin' exudes that sexy-ass vibe," Ashley commented as she hopped down from the hood of the truck and shimmied easily past Nelson's chair to reach the controls for the ramp. "Guess I shouldn't complain, everyone else so terrified of the big bad bitch that I get her all to myself!"

Nelson pursed her muzzle but CT swore she saw the hint of a smile on the weathered features of the older woman. "You really need to learn to keep that fuckin' mouth shut, Mills, before I end up just breakin' your goddamn jaw..."

Ashley chuckled and waited for the ramp to seal securely against the back of the ship before she shuffled past CT on the other end of the truck, whispering loudly as she passed: "She won't, she likes what this 'goddamn jaw' can do way too much..."

"Woman, I will snap your fucking arm in half, I know you can fly with just one hand," Nelson growled from the opposite side of the truck as she rolled toward the front.

"All I need to get you off, too," Ashley replied coolly as she smirked across the hood at the rebel. CT followed behind her, still trying to parse whatever the fuck this all was. Of all the people she never imagined with Nelson, because she'd never imagined anyone with Nelson, Ashley wouldn't have even been a distant glimmer in the distant fields of unlucky souls. But she didn't mistake the genuinely delighted expression on the pilot's face when she ran her claws briefly across Nelson's broad shoulders before sliding forward into the cockpit to take her spot behind the controls. And even Nelson's gruff scowl could only do so much to hide the faint embarrassment, which was an emotion CT didn't think Nelson had even heard of. Yeah, this was real.

"How...how long have you...two..."

Nelson glared through the sunglasses at CT as she anchored herself into place in the entrance to the cockpit, leaving the ex-Freelancer to awkwardly plop down in a jump-seat just in front of the truck taking up the majority of the cargo area. "Long enough for me to regret ever meeting this loud-mouthed bitch," Nelson muttered as Ashley snickered and rapidly went through the take-off procedures for the dropship. "We're not here to talk about that shit."

Ashley gave a winning smile back into the hold, peering at CT over the top of her own aviators. "But just so you know I'm not only dating her for her snazzy ride, we totally boned before she turned into a pissy torso."

"Goddammit, Mills," Nelson snarled through clenched teeth. "I'm gonna feed you to your fucking orphans."

Ashley was all grins as the thrusters burst back to life. "Yeah, yeah, I hear that at least twice a fuckin' week," she remarked while easing the dropship off the ground and into the air, the frame shuddering a bit with the weight of the truck in its hold. "Ayyyy, that's my girl, you got this! Heh, it's a good thing you ran outta fuel, otherwise I don't think this big bitch would be able to haul us all back." She winked over a shoulder. "Already had to install a hydraulic counterbalance system just for this old hag's crazy-ass wheelchair -- that fucker weighs 'bout as much as she does, considering all the fuckin' hardware and gadgets she's got on the bitch!"

Nelson grumbled something under her breath, though it didn't seem to be a denial. Considering some of the things CT had seen her produce from thin air, she wouldn't have been surprised if that was true. She cleared her throat and then reached out and lightly patted the bumper of the truck. "I, uh. Yeah, I wasn't expecting you to fly this back, too, I appreciate it."

"Oh, don't fuckin' worry, if we would have only had room for one, your ass would be sitting on the fucking roof," Nelson replied drolly. "It was my fuckin' parts and labor that got this piece of shit patched up and road-worthy again after Agents-fucking-Lap-Dog-and-Spastic limped it back from that fuckin' mission in Sampi that almost rid the world of two more goddamn mercenary assholes."

CT did her best to keep her expression neutral. She'd heard from both Wash and York about that mission. She'd heard all the details, from both perspectives and with varying levels of inebriation involved. She knew exactly how things had gone, both the fact they'd been knocking on death's door as well as the, ah...particular way they'd decided to try and stave off hypothermia. And now it felt a little weird that she knew about all these secret relationships she wasn't supposed to talk about. Christ being the voice of reason and emotional stability was goddamn overrated.

"Uh, oh. Yeah, that mission," CT replied slowly. "Those two almost bit it out there...how the fuck do Sammy's people live in that mess?"

"All the inbreeding," Nelson grumbled before she reached up and removed her sunglasses so she could fix her piercing green gaze on CT. "Those two jackasses wouldn't have been so close to making my dreams come true if they'd just fucking said something before getting fucked up in my own goddamn backyard..."

CT frowned and then wrinkled her muzzle. "C'mon, you don't really mean that." The response from Nelson was a neutral glower. "You're telling me you'd seriously be celebrating if either of them died?" She glanced up at Ashley, who gave a slight smile over a shoulder but otherwise kept uncharacteristically quiet. "Nelson, really?"

Nelson squared her jaw and then slowly exhaled with a roll of her eyes. "Christ, you fucking emotional saps. No, I don't want either of them dead." She put the sunglasses back on as she turned her gaze back through the windshield while Ashley steered the ship toward the distant Qoppa mountains. "Washington has gotten himself caught up in too many fucking shady deals for his death to be anything but a fucking nightmare for the rest of us, and if that goddamn lap dog gets his werewolf ass put in the dirt, I'll have to deal with a fucking broken redneck too busy crying to get out into the field, and that is the last thing I need now that we're ramping up missions more than ever."

...Her reasoning wasn't exactly steeped with concern, but CT knew Nelson well enough. She wouldn't have even bothered to come up with a reply if she didn't harbor some sort of emotion, even if it was plain and simple camaraderie pounded into her from her many years with the Red Army. CT also knew better than to push it and so she settled for leaning against the entrance to the cockpit while twisting around in her jump-seat to face the other two. "Hey, you weren't so upset that you didn't give the boys a bit of hospitality when they showed up, at least."

Nelson snorted dismissively. "Don't fuckin' put that crown on me, that was all thanks to my own fucking fairy princess of a puppy."

Ashley grinned back for a moment. "Hey, give that midget some credit! What's-His-Name almost got his ass shot off on that mission in Wortistan for that party! And he brought back your precious little techno-kid."

CT blinked at the influx of information before squinting at the pilot. "Wait...Ashe, do you not know Sammy's name?"

"Fuckin'...this rigid bitch just uses last names, how the fuck am I supposed to keep track of that shit?" Ashley complained as she threw a hand up, making the dropship pitch slightly to the right. "All I know is he's short, he's stocky and he sucks a mean dick, according to his Mama." She paused as Nelson gave her a flat look, while CT just looked confused. "Y'know, it's kinda weird that he calls you that and then you turn around and encourage him to gobble dong in exchange for information and shit. Like, are you his mother or are you his pimp?"

Nelson crossed her arms and gave a noncommittal shrug. "Part of my job is knowing what my people excel at. Wurlitz happens to be talented at manipulating his targets."

"Yeah, manipulating their dicks into his mouth," Ashley provided with a cackle before she gestured with a hand again to make the ship rock. "Anyway, point is that he agreed to go on a shitty mission to give Wash 'n York a nice li'l party. Give the kid a break."

"Never," Nelson grumbled moodily. "Wurlitz is a fucking moron who doesn't know how to devote himself to a single fucking cause, especially if there's a hint of having someone's dick shoved up his ass. And those two fucked up my favorite boat, so don't expect a goddamn sniff of pity from me."

Ashley stifled her snicker but immediately grinned back at CT inquisitively. And it was then that CT realized she wasn't quite the sole proprietor of the secret between her two friends. She blinked a few times and then cleared her throat loudly. "Wait, so. Uh. So you...know..."

"Like the two haven't been fucking wanting to play grab-ass together for years," Nelson replied soberly, even as a tiny smirk twitched at the corner of her maw. "I'll be more fucking impressed when that red-headed bitch finds out, if she doesn't already know."

Ashley cackled and drummed on the yoke cheerfully. "Oh don't worry, if Tex don't know yet, I'm sure we'll get to see some good-ass drama at that Xulod party comin' up!"

CT raised her eyebrows a bit. Right. That was a thing. "Oh shit, I almost forgot about that." She paused and then smiled between the two. "So...you're both gonna be there, right?"

Nelson could not have looked any more grumpy, a colossal statue of displeasure perched on a wheelchair that did precisely nothing to lessen the degree of irritation. "I would have just sent this spastic bitch," she muttered while jerking a thumb toward Ashley. "But my cock-mongering cave demon has been talking nonstop about that bullshit since he and his goddamn fuck-bat have been helping to organize this clusterfuck, so I'd have to deal with his shitty pouting if I don't make an appearance." She glanced back at CT, who was smiling at the familiar acid from the scowling resistance leader. "I take it that means you and the oversized support dog will be dragging Agent Washington out, as well?"

"You know it!" CT chortled as she gripped into the safety restraints that were loosely wrapped around her body. Wash and York's little...adventure had made CT consider a lot of things lately. She didn't know if anything more would unfold between them, but she sure as hell knew it hadn't just been some fling, no matter how Wash might have tried to play it off as such. He could fool himself, but not her. The way he'd talked about it, even in his shrinking, awkward way, had showed her that he cared more than he wanted to. After all, he never spoke about Tex that way, even if the two were still...'together'. Whatever the fuck that meant, considering the fucked up arrangement they seemed to have. Whether Wash was oblivious to it or not didn't matter -- he apparently didn't have a problem just performing on demand for Tex whenever she asked for it, and he clearly thought it was a perfectly normal way to have a relationship.

And it was very clear that it meant something more to York, too. God, he'd been stricken while talking to her about it. How had he put it -- he was pining, something he hadn't done since she was still alive. Even his tumultuous experience with Samael hadn't left him so star-crossed. He had it bad, and it left the two on shaky ground...but lord, CT wanted this to mean something, to maybe hint at something that might be healthier for Wash, even if he was too goddamn blind to see it, himself.

...And then CT was reminded why she both respected and feared Nelson when the older woman's gravelly voice practically enunciated her thoughts.

"Be honest with me, Connecticut. Did that shit mean something to both those fruitcakes? Or just the giant fucking puppy?"

CT shifted her weight on the uncomfortable seat. Normally she'd never talk about the personal relationships of her friends with anyone else. But...something about this, something about Nelson was different. She frowned quietly and then glanced up to see Nelson gazing at her with unexpected patience. "I. I don't know. I guess I hope so. But I don't see why that matters..."

Nelson snorted a short, mirthless laugh. "I'll tell you why it matters. It matters because whether we like it or not, we are all in this shit with personal ties. Even if we didn't start that way, every fucking one of us is doing this with someone else in mind." There was a near-imperceptible glance toward Ashley before Nelson's eyes gleamed through the sunglasses toward CT again. "Our relationships affect us, whether or not we want them to. And I'll be fucking straightforward as I can be -- Washington's bullshit with Texas is just that. Absolute fucking bullshit." She took in a long, slow breath. "But if that jackass starts spending some time with someone other than her, with someone who maybe has a fucking non-selfish bone in their body, then maybe it'd be fucking good for him. And maybe he'd pay more attention to his fucking friends, so he could maybe do a less-shitty job at doing what was supposed to be someone else's role..."

CT didn't like hearing bad things said about her friends, as used to Nelson's insults against Wash as she was. But she took a moment to respond all the same, rubbing the back of her head for a few seconds. Nelson wasn't wrong. "I...I don't disagree, Nelson. But you know he's the leader, we've been over--"

"We have. I know we have, I've had my goddamn cunt of a fuss over it already, I'm well fuckin' aware," Nelson interrupted with a snarl before she forced out another violent exhalation of air. She twitched when Ashley gave her a sideways look, glowering back at the pilot and then looking to CT once again. "You promised me back then he was the leader your people needed. That he would do the job well, because he wouldn't get emotionally involved, and because he would listen to his friends." CT glanced down, feeling a bolt of guilt. She'd meant those words, but she was also aware that Wash hadn't exactly done as much of that as she'd hoped when things began to escalate in their fight against the War, against the Director, against Omega. "I trusted you then -- and I trust you now -- because you are a fucking respectable woman, who has more integrity and discipline in her little fucking finger than most of us have in our entire bodies," Nelson added in a low voice. "And you need to know this, Connie."

CT froze up -- Nelson hadn't used her name since that day in the bathroom all those quarters ago. She swallowed but forced herself to meet Nelson's eyes as the older chupa removed her sunglasses again. "If anything happens to him, or to me." There was a pause as Ashley glanced over her shoulder at Nelson -- Nelson couldn't see it, but it was obvious she felt it. "You are the only one I fuckin' trust to take over. You. Not York, not O'Neill, none of our people on either fucking side. It's you."

CT finally tore her gaze away as she sighed softly. "Nelson, you know I'm not big on this...mortality angle. It does us no favors."

"Tough shit," Nelson retorted even as her voice grew oddly gentle. "We still have to face it, woman, because that is the goddamn simple truth of the lives we lead." She put the sunglasses back into place and turned back to look through the front of the ship. CT caught a small movement and saw one of Ashley's hands sliding down to grip silently into Nelson's. Nelson didn't bother to pull away. "We've long crested the big fuckin' hill -- there's no stopping the trip down, now. We're fuckin' stuck with what we got. It is what it is, and we'll make fuckin' do." She paused to grumble under her breath as her enormous shoulders hunched slightly. "Washington hasn't fucked it all up yet, but you better fuckin' be there for that scrawny asshole, because it's just a matter of goddamn time."

CT licked her lips and then let her hands fall into her lap, staring at the front of the truck resting a few feet away from her for a moment. "I...I get you don't like him, or like that he's the leader, but that doesn't mean he's--"

"I say that," Nelson interjected coldly, even as CT heard the waver in her voice. "I say that because as much as it fucking pains me to admit this, I know what it's like to be in a position you didn't ask for. And I know what it's like to fuck up and make stupid mistakes and lose people." CT slowly turned her head back to the cockpit, seeing Ashley tightening her fingers around Nelson's as the older woman glared ahead with a hardened expression. "It's going to happen to him, too. And even though I go the extra fucking mile to distance myself from you fucking ex-Freelancers...the old man was always right." CT looked down at her hands. Tracer's death still felt fresh, still felt impossible. It was hard to accept, since it suddenly made everything else feel strangely...mortal. "We work together, or we die apart. That goes for all of us."

CT understood the emphasis. She watched silently for a few seconds as Nelson grumbled and eventually pulled her hand away from Ashley, even as she gave a brief look of gratitude to the strangely silent pilot. She knew that had taken every goddamn bit of Nelson's self-control to get through, and she knew even the thought of working together rankled the paranoid, self-sufficient rebel leader. And she knew out of every person on this goddamn ring, Nelson was the one who would never say something purely for the sound of it. When she spoke something, she spoke it from her core and always meant every goddamn word.

"It's never gonna be easy, Nelson," CT finally murmured. She earned a snort, but Nelson was otherwise quiet, allowing her to continue slowly. "But I still trust Wash. And even if things didn't work out the way any of us thought they would, we're in this together. And...and you have my word." She took a deep breath as Nelson glanced back at her, devoid of any emotion other than a quiet look of expectation. "I'll be there for him. I'll be there for you, too. We all decided to do this for our own reasons, and. And one of mine was to make things right. Not just for me, or my friends, or the people we've lost." CT rubbed a hand along her own thigh as she nodded slowly. "But for all of Sirca. And so long as something's still wrong...whether it's with the whole world, or with a single goddamn friend, I'm not gonna stop doing what I do."

Nelson grunted quietly and relaxed somewhat in her chair. CT twisted around to glance forward again; the familiar peaks of the Qoppa mountains were just ahead. They'd be arriving soon, and she'd be able to mark this off as another strangely intimate conversation with the woman most of the rest of the Movement feared and loathed. She didn't blame them, although perhaps she pitied them for missing out on all the depth Nelson so stupidly kept to herself. "I'm glad to hear it, Connecticut," the woman herself muttered, once again back to her usual, jagged presence. "Because when the shit hits the fan -- and it's gonna -- we'll need someone who can keep this busted-ass ride together."

Ashley gave a crooked smile back to them both before she began to descend toward the hidden entrance of their base. "And god knows it ain't this old-ass bitch, she can't even stand on her own two fuckin' feet."

Nelson only smirked as she crossed her arms again while CT felt a small smile crease her own stoic features. "You know...I never asked for this, either," she replied mildly. When Nelson glanced over at her, CT winked and reached out to briefly squeeze the monstrous woman's shoulder. "But fuck it. Too late to get off the ride now." She nodded once as she set her sights on the horizon. "And I'm right where I need to be."