Grif watches the transports take off, keeps staring until they’re blips in the distance. Sits down near the water, stares at the sun until it disappears behind the mountains across the lake. Has bright spots on his vision afterward. Doesn’t really care.
Not gonna be much to look at here anymore, anyway. No reason to keep his guard up.
He closes his eyes and lays his hands flat on the rock, feels its heat burn him. He doesn’t move, though. It’s not a big deal.
He can’t sleep, which is bullshit. There’s nothing to do here but sleep now. He loves sleeping. Why the fuck can’t he sleep? He buries his face in the pillow and reflects. Come to think of it, it’s been years since he’s tried to sleep somewhere this quiet. There’s nobody shouting, no gunfire, no windows rattling from mortar shell testing. They fucking took his ability to sleep in regular human conditions, on top of everything else, the bastards.
He gives up on sleep, checks the fridge. Only thing left is Simmons’ meth-meth couscous. Son of a bitch didn’t even throw it away. What, was he planning to finish it?
He tosses the couscous out the nearest hole in the base wall and doesn’t think any more about Simmons. Eats ketchup out of the squeeze bottle, because there’s no one to stop him now. He’s all-powerful.
He eats too much ketchup and pukes. Decides not to eat ketchup by itself anymore, but not because other people would care.
Throwing up tires him out and he goes back to bed. He turns a fan on as loud as it goes and crawls under the sheets. Hopefully the droning will be enough for him to pass out.
He wakes up--late? Looks like the sun’s been up a while, but he doesn’t care to check his alarm clock. Thinks twice. Unplugs it. Goes back to sleep. When he wakes up again, it’s dark. Goes back to sleep. Still dark next time he wakes up. Goes back to sleep. Wakes up. The faintest pink light is starting to come through the window. Gets up and pulls the blinds shut. Goes back to sleep.
Turns out sleeping for more than a day makes you really fucking hungry. He’s almost excited about it. Been a long time since he’s slept this long. There’s not much to choose from, mostly ration bars and MREs. Same old pre-Chorus shit. Donut just had to fuck up all the fresh food that Kimball sent them, didn’t he? Motherfucker.
He finally finds instant pancake mix, and on a whim decides to mix in some coffee grounds. Maybe he’ll wake up a little. The coffee makes the pancakes a hideous color and the smell like death, but he eats them anyway, with his hands because like hell is he doing any dishes today. They’re bad. He considers if adding ketchup would make them worse or better. Decides against ketchup when his stomach reminds him with a sickly gurgle what happened a few days ago. So he just deals.
Sometimes they had eggs back at Blood Gulch. On lucky days he’d get to fry them up, supposedly for the entire base. But Lopez can’t eat and Donut is always watching his waist and Sarge says he only eats meat and Yoo-Hoos and Simmons hates runny eggs and fuck you, Simmons, he’s making his imaginary eggs so runny right now, you couldn’t eat them even if you were here.
He misses eggs, is what he misses.
Donut was right. The park’s gone, but the water’s still there. He doesn’t have a bathing suit, but there’s no one around to say shit, so he goes in naked. Sits at the bottom of the pool and closes his eyes. He’s a good swimmer. Had to be, growing up on the oceanside with a little sister who liked to get caught in undertows. He can hold his breath a long time.
He holds his breath. Keeps holding it. Keeps holding it. Keeps holding...
He’s never had a problem rewatching Battlestar before, but all he can think about now is how much Simmons hated Starbuck. What kind of shithead hates Starbuck? The kind that’s scared of women, that’s who. Every time she’s on screen he can hear Simmons’ bitching. And she’s on screen a lot. Once he hears the whining so clearly that he snarks back out loud without thinking.
After that he snaps the DVD in half. He’ll watch Donut’s romances or Lopez’s novelas instead.
He wakes up on the floor covered in developing bruises, yelling his fucking head off. Another dream about the old base, before Blood Gulch. His old squadron. It’s like he can still smell the blood. These have been happening a lot lately, more than they used to. For a second he wishes he wasn’t alone here, that he could tell someone about it. Simmons, maybe. But no, never mind. He woke up screaming a few times when he first got to Blood Gulch and all he got for it was shot by Sarge. Nobody ever asked why.
He picks himself up off the ground and goes to sit in the kitchen like he’s always done. No one teases him for midnight snacking. No one comes out to comfort him, either, but that’s not new.
He plugs in all the stupid Christmas lights they used to communicate with Caboose when he plane-shifted (and seriously, fuck Blue Team and everything they do). Watches them flicker. Tries very hard not to read what they might be spelling out. Fails. Gives in and starts keeping track. He gets to AGNDIIVW before he decides it’s complete gibberish. There definitely aren’t any ghosts trying to communicate with him. He thinks if there was one, it’d probably be Church asking for more fucking favors. He rips the plug out of the wall and the lights go dark.
Day Forty-one, maybe.
Today he realizes that Blue Team had their own stash of Oreos hidden in Caboose’s room. And Grif’s supposed to be the selfish one? Fuck you, Tucker, he’ll show you selfish. He takes the pillows from every single bed in both bases and throws them on the floor, drops onto them as hard as he can. They’re all his now. He is the pillow dictator.
Actually the pillows smell kind of terrible by themselves and worse together. It’s awful but he can tell which one belonged to which idiot just by smelling. Donut’s is floral and overpowering. Throws that one out of the pile. The one that must be Tucker’s is fucking unspeakable. He wraps his hand in several layers of paper towel to pick it up and toss it too. Motor oil, aftershave, whatever weird organic shampoo Carolina uses, fucking bubblegum scent from Caboose (complete with the actual bubblegum stuck on the corners, the guy is a goddamn animal)…. They all fail inspection and get chucked. Eventually he’s left with just two. His own, and….
The smell isn’t unpleasant but he still wants to puke. He throws Simmons’ pillow across the room. Fuck it, he’ll stick with his own.
Day Fifty(? Fifty-one? Fifty-two?)
He settles down on top of the base (the wreckage of the base, Donut can fuck himself, he’s so glad Donut’s gone) with his guitar and an amp. Plays a little. He can’t quite get the tuning right. Might be the humidity out here.
Finally gets all the strings in tune. It sounds weird anyway. Maybe he’d just gotten used to Carolina’s caterwauling. “You can’t sing for shit,” he says out loud, because he never could say it out loud to her before. Doesn’t feel scared saying it, or thinking it, for once. He feels a little mean, though. She wasn’t that bad. Not compared to everyone else in the group. He wonders if she ever sings now, on her Freelancer adventure bullshit with Wash, or if it was something she only did when she was around the Reds and Blues. He hopes she does sing, a lot. Wash deserves it.
It’s beautiful today, and that pisses him off. Makes it hard for him to stay inside and do nothing, which is all he wants to do most days. But on a whim he hops in the Puma—because he can call it that now, god dammit, and not get shot in the face for it—and takes off.
In his head, he goes a long way, takes a trip past the dinosaur-robot warzone, up the mountains to the east of their bases, into the plains. It’s a nice mental trip he has laid out. But the Puma shits itself an hour away from the base and he can’t get it started again for the life of him. Et tu, Puma? he thinks, and kicks the treads. So. Great. He’s stranded out here now, and it’s not like there’s anyone to come pick his ass up. Not that they probably would anyway, unless they needed the vehicle. But whatever. This is where he dies, apparently.
…Or not, because when he wanders into the shade of a nearby thicket to die in comfort, he stumbles upon more meth-meth mushrooms. With these he can probably run all the way back to the base. Or his heart might stop. Either way, at least he won’t starve to death.
They taste like shit but he feels fucking incredible. His heart might be exploding right now but who cares he is running so fast he is the fastest person on the planet and that would be true even if he wasn’t the only person on the planet can he run on water right now? he can probably run on water right now oh hey look it’s the base woops he passed it but might as well keep running anyway and maybe he’ll set a new record for how far one person can run he’s probably already set a record because he’s so, so fast and Sarge will be so mad that Grif’s the best at something and oh huh maybe he’s not going so fast anymore maybe it’s starting to wear off and oh, god dammit, he’s coming down, he hurts everywhere and now he’s an hour away from the base in the other direction. Fuck.
It takes him hours to recover, and the better half of a day to walk all the way back. He feels fuzzy for a couple days afterward but he’s pretty sure he’s not dying. Probably. But it doesn’t worry him too much.
He’d figured they’d call, eventually. They must have found the source of the stupid message by now, right? It’s been weeks. Months maybe. He’s pretty sure all the analogue calendars burned with the bases and his HUD’s been fucked since before they left. But it can’t take them that long. The fucking reporter seemed pretty singleminded about her investigation, and she’s smarter than the rest of them put together, so she at least must have found Church by now. And he’d thought that once the others found Church they’d come back, or send a message, or something. Apologizing for everything—no, no way. Yelling at him more for not wanting to deal with Blue Team problems, more likely. Something.
He’d figured they’d call.
He wakes up from another nightmare. It’s been so long that he doesn’t remember the faces of his old squadron, but it doesn’t matter, because tonight they’ve been replaced by newer people. Faces he doesn’t want to see here on this planet right now, yelling at him or smirking or thinking things they know nothing about. But not faces he wants to see dead either. Not that.
He breaks his E string while playing and suddenly wants to smash the guitar so bad he can hear the wood of the neck creaking under his fingers. He doesn’t do it. Smashes Tucker’s bass instead. Smashes it to tiny pieces against the wall of their practice space. He wishes he felt like Pete Townshend while doing it, but he just feels tired. He sits down amongst the shattered chunks of wood and plastic and breathes hard for a long time.
They’re not going to call.
He sits by the lake, the same spot where he watched their ships leave orbit, and thinks of Kai. Wonders what she’s doing right now. If she’s in as much of a mess as he is. If she thinks about him, most days, the way he thinks about her. If he’s even a blip on her radar. If not, he doesn’t blame her. She’s always had her own life, which is exactly how he wanted it. It scares the shit out of him, every time she disappears, but he fought like hell to give her a chance to do whatever dumb shit she wants to do. And honestly, if that means she forgets about him sometimes, whatever. She knows he loves her, and she loves him back, in her own freakish way. That’s how their family has always worked.
“You gave up a lot for her,” Simmons told him once, when they were back in Blood Gulch and shitfaced and Kai had just showed up and he’d had to explain their whole deal. Grif had shrugged, because it’s just how life worked for them. It wasn’t a big deal, was it? He was never going to be a great success anyway, it wasn’t like working a shitty job or dropping out of school really hurt him any. He wasn’t giving up much.
Now he’s years older and a millennium more tired and he’s so, so angry. Not at Kai, because she doesn’t know what he did for her, and never will, because if she did she’d feel bad and he doesn’t want that. No, he’s angry at Simmons, and Sarge, and every single person he ever even thought of as something resembling a friend. They all chose the military, they all chose this, and he didn’t get a choice. None of this was ever his choice. That’s nothing new. That’s been his life since the day he got drafted. And okay, maybe he could deal with that, because that’s how his life has always been.
But he never wanted any of this, those fuckers never noticed. They never asked. They never cared.
None of them cared at all, god dammit, they just called him lazy or stupid or fat and maybe all those things are true but why would he be anything else if he hasn’t had something worth choosing or living for since he stopped being Dexter and started being Private Grif of the fucking Red Army? Why would he bother being a complex person when nobody around gave a shit about him either way? Why trust people with his private shit when nobody wants to hear it? Why care about them, after all this time he spent fighting with them and watching their backs and taking bullets for them, when the first time he tells them he can’t do this anymore, they leave him behind? Why invest a fucking second of his time in them when they’ve never asked anything about him, never wondered why he might not want to fight anymore, never questioned why he sleeps all the time and eats all the time and does his best not to care about anything?
Because that’s the problem. He’s tried so hard not to care, and he’s spent years failing, and they don’t know because what he feels doesn’t mean anything to them.
“Grif cares about his friends,” the reporter said. Yeah, no shit. They just don’t care about him.